Many brokers pointed out that when it comes to publicity, the Internet has changed everything. As soon as a listing goes online, it’s there for the world to see anyway, so why not try to control the message? Property transfers, including co-ops, can now be found online and both buyers and looky-loos can peruse detailed histories and photo galleries on StreetEasy.
“When we first started we were met with a lot of resistance from brokers who were angry that we were showing price changes and time on the market,” said Sofia Song, the vice president of research at StreetEasy. “The real estate industry in New York used to be so opaque, especially because we don’t have an MLS,” she added, referring to a multiple listing service.
But these days, Ms. Song said that brokers will often call if they cut the prices on their listings and don’t see it reflected on the site immediately.
Brokers emphasized, however, that while trophy condos may have embraced a new existence in the public eye, co-op deals are still conducted in the same way they always have been. A prime example is the multi-floor co-op at 2 East 70th Street that belonged to the estate of the late private equity billionaire Teddy Fortsmann. When it came on the market in March, it had no online photos, no public listing and no entry in the broker database.
“With a property of that stature, we thought less was more, and that frankly, a big PR campaign and intense marketing would be sort of gilding the lily,” said Meredyth Smith, who co-brokered the sale with her Sotheby’s colleague Serena Boardman. The property sold almost immediately, for $4 million above the $36 million ask.
Word, as it always does, did get out—the New York Post featured a gossipy item on both the listing and the contract—the key distinction was that neither Ms. Smith nor Ms. Boardman returned the Post’s calls and they certainly didn’t invite the newspaper in for a tour.
Ms. Smith likened top co-op sales to a very successful IPO, with a first round of very quiet showings for a small number of potential buyers.
“With co-ops there is the feeling that too much drum beating can be counterproductive,” she said. “For the very sophisticated buyer who is the target audience for these apartments, their point of entry into the market is not through advertising, but through word of mouth. They’re in the inner circle already.”
And regardless of whether a trophy hunting billionaire is looking to land an apartment in the most exclusive co-op or the shiniest new condo tower rising on the horizon, advertising can only do so much.
“Publicity gets people to the properties, but it has to be a good product,” said Douglas Elliman’s CEO and President Dottie Herman.“The publicity alone wouldn’t do it if the property was in Hoboken.”