Why Realtors Are Bringing Back Over-the-Top Parties to Sell Condos

By Beth Kormanik February 13, 2013, 1:19 PM EST

The launch party for the South Florida development 400 Sunny Isles drew 1,000 people to the waterfront, with a luxury yacht as a backdrop.


Guests could be forgiven for thinking it was 2007. Models strutted in sailor rompers, cocktails flowed, and a Ferretti yacht provided the backdrop to a 1,000-person waterfront party. The purpose: to drive sales for a new luxury condominium development.

Following years of dismal sales that halted new developments and pushed others into foreclosure, the luxury condominium market is returning, and along with it, over-the-top sales parties. Developer Key International’s bash for its 400 Sunny Isles project in South Florida had a theme of the lavish yachting lifestyle. Key International’s marketing department planned the December event, which took place in a tent alongside a tiki-torch-lined dock. There was Balinese-style decor, grilled seafood, and a swimwear fashion show from Saks Fifth Avenue. The company raffled off sea kayaks, paddle boards, and mountain bikes.

“Our party is showcasing the lifestyle that 400 Sunny Isles has,” says Inigo Ardid, vice president of Key International. “What a party does is it showcases your product to a lot of people and starts creating the buzz that we're open.” The idea was to play up the waterfront location—the development boasts a marina with a slip for each unit, a pool, and a restaurant on the bay.

“We’re telling the community that we're here and open for business,” Ardid says. “Our brokers and buyers get to see the product and what we're selling.”

Successful sales events develop the theme around the property’s style and location, says Matt Dietsch, project director at the San Francisco real estate firm the Mark Company. That way, he says, events become extensions of the brand.

When sales launched for Spire, a high-rise in Denver, the Mark Company planned a 500-person event to reach a wide audience and get the community talking about the project. Now, with sales well under way, the company recently hosted a more refined event to reach a different kind of buyer for the top-floor units. Partnering with a local art gallery, the affair included a panel on how to grow an art collection. There was also artwork on the unit walls, and the food and wine was of a higher quality—all to reach a more established buyer.

“In a good market or bad, we’re very bullish on these events,” Dietsch says.

The Related Group launched its 50-unit South Beach development One Ocean during Art Basel, a time when many potential buyers came to town. The private dinner from the show’s main sponsor, UBS, was held at the sales center. Guests spent time both indoors and outdoors and could enjoy canapés by Karla Conceptual Event Experiences, Veuve Clicquot bubbly, and an art exhibition by Jose Bedia.

Ocean House, an 18-unit South Beach development, also hosted an Art Basel event, an exhibition from Italian artist Marcello Jori. Earlier in the year, Ocean House hosted a “housewarming” party that offered the 450 guests spa treatments, beachside grilling, music from DJ Irie, and a tequila bar. Activities were set up throughout the beachfront condominium to encourage guests to explore the property.

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