Sellers of homes going to new lengths online
MySpace pages, craigslist and blogs being used to lure buyers to housing developments


By Antoinette Martin
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Sunday, January 20, 2008

A condominium building under construction in Brooklyn has its own MySpace page. ("Scorpio" structure seeks "great people from the Metro area, and beyond, that want to live in a thriving community.")
Some garden apartment rentals in New Jersey and a condo complex in Orange County, N.Y., have their own blogs.
In Stamford, Conn., the developer of a super-high-end condo tower is eschewing use of free classified-ad listings on craigslist.com to lure buyers, since "every mom-and-pop building these days is doing it." But the company is putting big money into a virtual tour for its project Web site.
"A lot of people do all their home shopping online, start to finish," said Kelly Marzullo of Core Marketing Group, which is using the Web to promote various Manhattan buildings and the Peninsula at City Place in Edgewater, N.J.
"People like to know everything about a building before they come in, or at least have a taste and a feel," Marzullo said. Her Manhattan-based company does advertise properties on craigslist, building in links to Web pages that might include photographs, digital drawings, video, floor plans and the range of asking prices.
In New Jersey, Marzullo said, she sees digital marketing appealing mainly to the young and Web-smart people who might pull up to a building on a motorcycle, with a BlackBerry in their pocket, she said.

But Jason and Bobby Schlesinger, principals of Ceebraid-Signal, which is putting up the Highgrove condo in Stamford, Conn., where the starting price is $1.4 million, beg to differ. "One might make the mistake that the empty-nester clientele is not Internet-savvy," said Jason Schlesinger, "but we find more and more of our mature buyers come in with highly specific questions, having already done their research online."
The Schlesingers said they were shelling out well over $100,000 on a 2.5-minute-long video to be posted on the Highgrove Web site — and perhaps also distributed as a DVD inserted in Connecticut newspapers.
They are keeping their budget for print ads, they said, because the primary ways people first hear about a project continue to be traditional: signs, newspapers and home magazines.

So are other developers in the tristate area; these include Savanna Partners, which is building 125 N. 10th St., a complex in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, being promoted on MySpace, and the Robert Martin Co., which is converting an old pencil factory in Jersey City into the Residences at Dixon Mills.
Nationally, however, real estate companies are spending 26 percent more on online advertising this year, even as total real estate ad spending declined 3 percent, according to Borrell Associates, a research company.
Bobby Schlesinger of Ceebraid-Signal says the main point of creating the online video of the Highgrove is to showcase its exterior design and amenities. The building, set in downtown Stamford, was designed by Yale University's dean of architecture, Robert A.M. Stern, and will offer fitness facilities, a wine cellar and tasting rooms, and an indoor pool with a retractable roof.
Once people sample the wares online, a contract can follow amazingly fast, according to both developers and shoppers.
A handful of large developers, WCI and Lennar among them, are even starting to offer Web-trolling buyers instantaneous "live chats" with sales agents 24 hours a day.
WCI, which has developments of all sizes, types and price ranges around the Northeastern United States and Florida, strives to make a captivating "first impression" with its interactive site, said Gabe Pasquale, its chief marketing officer. The image of a senior company official, Mike Curtin, becomes animated with a single click. Curtin stretches his limbs, thanks the clicker for allowing him to emerge from a frozen pose, and begins talking about the condition of the residential market.
Users who proceed to click on developments in a particular state, or of a specific type, view an online brochure, and then can click to chat, ask questions, or be hooked up with a sales agent.
"We're selling a lifestyle with each project," Pasquale said, "and people want specifics before they invest any significant amount of time."

Original Austin American-Statesman article may be seen at
http://www.statesman.com/search/content/business/stories/realestate/
01/20/0120onlinehomes.html
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