Salesmanship in D Minor: The Real Estate Party Returns, In a Way

Seal in '06. Those were the days.

Gregory Spock is used to performing librettos before rapt audiences in concert halls from Hartford to Florence. Recently, the 26-year-old has found more intimate venues within the exposed-brick walls of New York townhouses. A Roland keyboard or a baby grand to his right, a pink bow tie around his neck, a songbook in his hands—Verdi always wows `em—Mr. Spock delivers bursts of baroque beauty, all for salesmanship.

Mr. Spock joined Manhattan brokerage Rubicon Property four months ago, after receiving his broker’s license in the winter. He said his new boss liked him for his creativity, which means saving money on those showings.

“A lot of people have food or wine now, but the entertainment isn’t thought out.”

Because who isn’t lulled into signing a multi-million dollar contract by the plaintive moans of Aida?

During last decade’s real estate boom, the real estate party, usually in a newly built condo tower, was a staple of the industry. After the recession hit, nobody could much afford them. Now they seem to be hobbling back, along with the real estate market.

“In some ways, it’s just kind of a relief,” said the blogger-turned-flogger Joey Arak. Mr. Arak spent years penning “Hangover Reports” while he was senior editor of Curbed New York, and now he is helping to throw them. “During the downturn, there was a feeling that it was wrong to celebrate, wrong to spend money, wrong to buy real estate. Now it’s such a relief that we don’t have to worry about that anymore and can just enjoy ourselves.”

Mr. Arak said the turning point was a party last summer at Williamsburg development 58 Metropolitan, a hulking faux warehouse loft number near the waterfront. It was not very fancy, just fried chicken from Pies ‘n’ Thighs and a few kegs from Brooklyn Brewery. “But it was the first party anyone had invited us to in ages, and people were celebrating and enjoying themselves, and it was nice to know you could do that again.”

When people who know speak of real estate soirees, a blustery night on March 2, 2006 almost inevitably comes up. That was when developers Gary Barnett and Shaya Boymelgreen threw dueling parties at their respective projects—the Aldyn, then still a vacant lot on Riverside South, and 20 Pine: The Collection, one of so many odes to FiDi debauchery from that era. Uptown, Seal performed. Downtown, John Legend.

These days, revelers are more likely to find a decent cheese plate and some cocktails from hip speakeasy PDT or a food demonstration by one of Danny Meyer’s chefs and an assortment of quaffable wine. “If you’re lucky, there’s Champagne and it’s good,” said Leonard Steinberg, a top broker at Douglas Elliman. One of the big differences between the parties of today and those of yore is that in the past there were bachanals. Now we have box socials.

“I remember when the go-go dancers came out at the William Beaver House,” Mr. Steinberg said. The ugly yellow obelisk of condos was erected in the FiDi by Andre Balazs and Tamir Sapir. It fell into foreclosure last year and was converted into chintzy rentals. “When the go-go dancers come out, you know the party is over.”

Salesmanship in D Minor: The Real Estate Party Returns, In a Way