FOR better and worse, the mentality that helped propel the city’s real estate prices into lunar altitudes is gone. Not only are there fewer buyers today, but they are also more apt to have a yard-sale attitude, demanding sharp discounts on top of reduced prices — Poggenpohl kitchen and last year’s comps be damned.
Racing to keep up with a down-market mindset, many real estate brokers say they have been experimenting with a new paradigm in advertising, spinning their ads like roulette wheels in the hope of landing in the sweet spot of the parsimonious post-Lehman buyer.
The model is shaping up like this: The new propriety frowns at luxury, lifestyle and the fetishistic focus on designer brands and architects. Instead, brokers say they are trying to recast their listings in terms of responsible spending, comfort and, most especially, value.
“Three or four years ago, value was something that was uncomfortable even to talk about,” said Bruce Ehrmann, an associate broker at Stribling & Associates. “Value suggested thrift, and thrift meant you couldn’t keep up.”
But now value has another ring and thrift has a nice kind of sound. “People are not buying emotionally or lustily — they’re buying in a calculated manner the likes of which we haven’t seen in 15 years, except briefly after 9/11,” Mr. Ehrmann said. “The draw tends to be location, price and value before glory, glamour, Valcucine kitchens and Waterworks baths.”
An attractive price is the most direct way to convey value, preferably set off by some variation of the formerly taboo “reduced.”
“We never used to say ‘reduced’ in a very strong market because we felt people would think of it as tainted goods,” said Deanna Kory, a senior vice president at Corcoran. “But now if you don’t, people don’t think the seller is serious, especially if it’s been on the market any length of time. And people today feel cheated if they don’t get a deal.”
This is especially true, she added, in “certain categories that are more saturated, like one-bedroom co-ops and downtown lofts from $3 million to $6 million.”
Still, brokers were divided on the proper lingua franca for conveying price reductions and incipient seller desperation.
“We’re seeing a lot of ‘best price in the building,’ ‘unbelievable value,’ ‘won’t last,’ ‘only XYZ per square foot,’ ‘20 percent below market value,’ ‘must be seen to be believed,’ ” said Jorden Tepper, the executive director of sales at Century 21 NY Metro. “We’re trying to give buyers a reason to buy now and not wait for the inevitable price declines they’re hearing about to come to fruition.”
Maggie Ocampo, a sales manager at Time Equities, says she tries to avoid using “must sell.”
“I don’t think it helps move an apartment,” she said. “I don’t even use ‘price reduced’ because they’re all over the place. I might say ‘priced well’ or ‘good value.’ ”
Demonstrating that an apartment is worth its sticker price is the next challenge. Today’s aggressively frugal buyer is thought to be more drawn to good building financials and low carrying charges than to luxury, lifestyle and amenities.
“Sensitivity is definitely the watchword now in selling luxury goods in general,” Ms. Kory said. “Co-ops are no exception. The former message, ‘We are the best and have the best of everything,’ is now a bit more subtle.”
Mr. Ehrmann recalled another agent’s recent pitch for a downtown loft. “It was advertised as a ‘trophy’ loft, which was commonplace five years ago,” he said. “It was actually shocking in the current environment. It was quickly changed.”