As mezzo-soprano Anna Tonna launched into the final few notes of Handel’s sweeping “Ombra Mai Fu,” accompanied by the Figaro Quartet, a cluster of audience members stood in one corner discussing the condition of the herringbone floors. Anywhere else—Lincoln Center, perhaps, or Town Hall, where Tonna has performed before—this behavior would’ve been inexcusable. But this was no ordinary show; this was “Figaro on Fifth,” where the bait was a recital but the prize was Tonna’s performance space, an eight-room Fifth Avenue co-op on the market for $4.8 million. “It was a way to showcase the space,” says Corcoran’s Deanna Kory, who has the listing.
When it comes to high-end properties, fancy brochures, newspaper ads, and a flowery description on a Website may not always be enough. When a broker wants to nab the attention of colleagues, he has to go to greater lengths to stand out—and that can mean a stunt. “You have to discover what’s best about the apartment and have an event there that accentuates its strengths,” says Kathy Sloane of Brown Harris Stevens. It’s even more important now that “the market over $5 million has slowed down a bit” and properties are staying on the market longer than before, says Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy’s Patrick Lilly. Consider: For a listing on Central Park West, Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Vickey Barron brought in a chef to conduct cooking classes and a designer to suggest ways the place might be redecorated; Corcoran’s Wendy Maitland once hosted a trunk show for a hip designer in a $20 million downtown penthouse. Elliman’s Toni Haber recruited Jack Klugman for a book signing at a $7.5 million condominium on East 78th Street in September. (Apparently, nobody was fazed by the prospect of Oscar Madison tracking mud across the kitchen floor.)
But does it work? It depends on the event, says powerhouse broker Dolly Lenz, who recently launched the sale of a $31.5 million penthouse at 502 Park Avenue by throwing a party for Yves Saint Laurent designer Stefano Pilati (Plum Sykes and Donald Trump were in attendance). “If it’s not done on a truly big scale, you can’t get the people you’re targeting to come,” says Lenz. “You have to host something spectacular.” Or, at least, memorable. Kory says she received many calls after “Figaro on Fifth” from agents congratulating her on the event. So has it sold? Not yet.
Usher Keeps Searching; Love Waits
R&B artist Usher should up his house-hunting budget. Sources say he’s shopping seriously for a Tribeca penthouse with outdoor space but wants to spend only about $7 million. Downtown brokers say nothing comes close to his requirements for that price and that he’ll need to come up with at least $10 million for the kind of sexy pad he wants. Usher could not be reached for comment. If he’s interested in scaling back his request a bit, Courtney Love’s 4,123-square-foot loft at 30 Crosby, the same building where Lenny Kravitz’s apartment still awaits a purchaser, is back on the market. The colorful Seattlite had a serious buyer in contract—at her original asking price of $5.5 million—but problems with the building’s certificate of occupancy squelched the deal. (Apparently the temporary document issued when the building was constructed had lapsed, and the permanent one hadn’t been issued yet.) All’s well with the paperwork now, says her broker, Corcoran’s Wilbur Gonzalez, and it’s available again—now with the price dropped to $5.25 million.
Same Space, Different Place
The Price of Buzz
Never mind that the more expensive of these two Williamsburg condominiums is 83 square feet bigger. That alone can’t explain the $134,000 difference—more than 21 percent—in price, says David Maundrell, CEO of aptsandlofts.com, which markets both properties.The layouts are fairly similar, as are the finishes. So why is Manhattan Park significantly more expensive? Credit the buzz associated with a fancy new building that has, like so many others, a name designer (in this case, hip modernist Andrés Escobar), attached. (The building at 170 Broadway went up two years ago and has a much lower profile.) “[Manhattan Park] is one of those buildings that everyone talks about, and that’s why the prices are higher,” explains Maundrell.
170 Broadway, Apartment 3A
The facts: Two-bedroom, 805-square-foot condo.
Asking Price: $625,000.
Charges and Taxes: $497.13 per month (after tax abatement).
Broker: Alex Saltalamacchia, aptsandlofts.com.
297 Driggs Avenue, Apartment 3A
The Facts: Two-bedroom, 888-square-foot condo.
Asking Price: $759,000.
Charges and Taxes: $575.36 per month (after tax abatement).
Broker: David Maundrell, aptsandlofts.com.