or Login

Buyers Declare Open Season on Open Houses

The economy is on the rebound, Wall Street bonuses are back, interest rates are still low and there is a serious lack of apartment inventory. That means open houses these days can be as crowded as a hot New York nightclub.

On a recent Sunday, JC DeNiro & Associates had an open house for the original Thomas's English Muffin home at 337 West 20th Street in Chelsea, where the muffin got its start in the 1880s. The co-op board was notified in advance that there would be a line outside the carriage house. To deal with the 250 to 300 people waiting patiently in a line that stretched halfway down the block, three agents were stationed at strategic points - the front door, the apartment itself and one agent to escort four to seven people at one time to the apartment and back.

"Since January 5th, the market has gone crazy," says Christopher Mathieson, managing partner and co-owner of JC DeNiro, which has two offices downtown. "People are realizing this is their last chance to get into the market before it goes really crazy." Mathieson says he's seen brokers pricing properties based on how the market was three months ago, but "you don't want 20 offers coming in. You want it at the right price with four or five offers coming in. Having 20 offers means you didn't price it right. Prices are changing in a week. We have increased prices on properties that haven't even come on the market."

"You cannot believe how crowded they are. There hasn't been one that I have been at where the agent has not run out of materials," says Linda Cohen Wassong, a broker at Douglas Elliman. She says the good news today is that prospective buyers often give the name of the broker that referred them and that fewer people go without referrals.

Many brokers agree that even on incredibly cold days the turnout has been unbelievably high. "On a Sunday with sleet, snow and rain all in the same day, over 70 people came to an apartment in the $700,000 range," says Jacky Teplitzky, an executive vice president at Douglas Elliman. "They were all drenched and I had to keep a mop available for the walk-through. If someone is willing to go out in those conditions with infants in strollers, they are seriously looking."

"There is a psychological effect when a potential buyer comes and sees so many people at an open house. They start to think if everybody else wants it, I want it," says Teplitzky. "The adrenaline and competitiveness gets going so sometimes it's not really related to whether they really like the apartment."

Mathieson of JC DeNiro agrees. "The thinking is if there are 100 people here, the apartment must be fantastic. They wait patiently, maybe because it's Sunday and not a work day. Job security is back; a lot more people are doing open houses on the weekends instead of private appointments during the week since they can't get off work. That may be another component of why open houses are so active right now."

"It's just been flooded beyond belief with people, on average we have 30 people or as much as 100." says Lisa Stobing, sales manager for Bellmarc's Gramercy/Chelsea office. "A lot of people are anxious to buy, but there's not enough to go around. I can't even tell you how many bidding wars I've heard about," she says.

Often people don't know how high to go when giving their final and best bid. "How much should I ask my client to bid, brokers ask. They are trying to outsmart the next bidder. Do you do $1,000 or 2,000 or 10,000 or 10,001?" Strobing says.

A lot of times it comes down to who has the best financials. "Buyers are at the mercy of sellers," says Strobing. "Sellers have so many offers to choose from. I remember when the sellers thought they had gold when they didn't, and now they do. Buyers get angry because they think the sellers are pigs but the sellers are turning around and having to buy in the same situation. Getting that extra bedroom is costing more and more."

At Fillmore Real Estate in Brooklyn, president John Reinhardt says that visitors to open houses have increased to one and a half times the usual amount in just the last three weeks. "My managers say they've been getting an average of 30 to 35 people per open house, and at a brokers-only open house recently we had 42 agents," he says.

To gain maximum exposure for their properties, firms like JC DeNiro said they come up with extensive marketing plans and treat open houses like a business launch."We look at it like it's an opening night. That's where you get tons of offers," says Mathieson. He says the company recently had open houses for two listings in the same building, on one of the most photographed streets in the West Village, and had a great turnout. "If you have a line of 200 people for an apartment, then people know that they have to act fast," he says.

With technology advancing, there are also an increasing number of ways to let buyers know about open houses. Information can be downloaded to Palm Pilots or sent via text messaging to handhelds and cell phones. Potential buyers can also weed out the apartments they are not interested in by visiting sites with virtual tours.

But old-fashioned print advertising is still the first choice. "We do full-page, and a page- and-a-half of advertising for open houses in all the local Brooklyn papers," says Reinhardt. "I see people walk in with those torn out. When you have 20, 40, 60 or 80 happening, they feel if they are out of the house, they might as well go see more."

Teplitzky likes to try several routes at once. "You are reaching a broader audience with more choices to get information, so what I do is send a flyer to all the other brokerage firms and emails within our company and other companies to get the maximum number of buyers," she says.



« Go back to the news



At Douglas Elliman Real Estate

575 Madison Ave

New York, NY 10022

Office: 212.891.7263

Mobile: 917.697.5457


1111 Lincoln Rd #805

Miami Beach, FL 33139

Office: 786.300.6334




Email us »

Download vCard »


or Login