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Bonus Season’s Greetings

Those end-of-year payouts make lovely down payments, and developers aren’t shy about asking.

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As ad campaigns go, the one unveiled weeks ago by 200 Chambers Street, a 258-unit Tribeca building, is fairly modest. No pricey TV commercials, no radio airtime—just posters on phone kiosks in the financial district. But there’s nothing low-key about its message. Pictured beneath a nighttime shot of a glittering condo along the West Side Highway is a blissed-out, tie-clad guy reclining, eyes cast heavenward, and the copy reads: YOU ALWAYS TELL YOUR CLIENTS NOT TO SIT ON THEIR MONEY. NOW ABOUT THAT BONUS . . .

Yes, brokers and developers are hoping that December’s bonus season will turn out to be the most wonderful time of the year. With a market diagnosis still in question—some say it’s going along at a nice clip, others say it’s freezing up—Wall Streeters are even more welcome than usual. And why shouldn’t they be? According to Stribling’s Kirk Henckels, who tracks the luxury market, many of them choose to use their end-of-the-year windfall as down payments, which can help keep the market aloft. That’s especially true when payouts are big. (Press reports indicate this year’s will top 2005’s $21.5 billion.) “Bonus money is wonderful money … It will be the saving grace of this market,” he predicts.

Already, brokers say they’re seeing an upswing in activity. “Usually, the weekend before Thanksgiving is slow. People are more worried about cooking or getting out of town,” reports Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Jacky Teplitzky. Yet this year, she’s quite busy with showings, and has had double the usual traffic at two of her open houses. “Four weeks ago, [bonus buyers] were just looking around. Now they’re more comfortable about pulling the trigger,” she adds. Her peers seem eager to embrace this hopeful scenario. Teplitzky says 300 have already signed up for a “gearing up for bonus season” seminar she’s hosting soon, with 150 more on a wait-list.


All of this hoping may amount to nothing more than empty optimism, but Dennis Brady, a managing director for Jack Resnick & Sons, which built 200 Chambers, says running the ad was a no-brainer. “It’s money well spent,” he says. “We’re two blocks north of the new Goldman Sachs headquarters and walking distance to Wall Street. If we sell one apartment because of this, it’s more than paid for.” He adds that they’re looking into expanding the ad buy into midtown—specifically, right around the UBS and Lehman Brothers buildings.


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