During the past six years, rental demand and pricing has steadily risen in Manhattan, adding even more pressure on the outer boroughs such as Brooklyn, Queens and even Jersey City, N.J. With growing demand, developers continue to explore new neighborhoods, without compromising on quality or price point.
The Alexander, a 27‐story, 312-home rental community owned by Alexander’s Inc. and developed by Vornado Realty Trust, began leasing homes in July 2015. It competed against more established neighborhoods such as Long Island City, Jersey City and Brooklyn. Rego Park is one of the area’s largest “melting pot” neighborhoods, dominated by brick apartment buildings from the 1920s and 1930s.
Because The Alexander is the highest-priced rental building in the area, its sales team of marketing directors—Kelly Klingman, Jessica St. John and Henry Urgo—focused on developing a winning strategy: one that would eventually help them close deals on 253 of the homes.
That achievement was a big reason why they won The Nationals 2017 Gold Award of “Sales Team of the Year.”
The leasing team’s biggest challenge was location, above a mall with retail stores such as TJ Max, Toys“R”Us, Kohls and Costco. Its immediate neighbor is one of the largest housing project developments in the city and residents share parking with the overcrowded mall garage. The building was on a local train line that takes more time to reach key commuter destinations than its competition—a similar community located on an express train line, adjacent to a bustling street with hip restaurants and shops.
However, the price was out of range for many of the prospective residents. At opening, over 30% of all traffic was unqualified. The amenity package, while comprehensive, was not competitive with other luxury communities. For instance, it did not have a golf simulator, screening room, or an outdoor pool. And the amenity floor did not have a view of the Manhattan skyline. Furthermore, the studio homes did not come with a washer and dryer.
The team learned very early on that the demographic came mostly from large pre‐war apartments and did not have furniture that would fit in a smaller-sized high‐rise home. The program of the building was challenging and there were too many two-bedroom homes in relation to the much more desirable one-bedroom and studio mix.
While competitors offered generous packages of incentives to stay competitive, including waived application fees, waived pet fees, free parking, and two months of free rent, The Alexander offered one free month (on a twelve month lease) for the first half of the leasing program and then added free parking and waived the amenity fee for the second half of the program. They added the additional incentives while increasing pricing.
“We knew the product, neighborhood, and competition inside out,” the team said in its Nationals Awards entry statement. “We spent every day collaborating on creative ways to reposition ourselves and overcome the challenges. We added model homes that were staged with larger furniture [to better align] with the Queens market, and we changed the listed pricing strategy on our website to fully feature listings [and] garner more qualified traffic.”
The team also worked together to discover niche markets to target, and did corporate outreach that produced impressive results.
“Our building was positioned in-between excellent city teaching hospitals and Manhattan,” they said. “We worked with chief residents at all the surrounding hospitals, lobbying to be included in their packages to residents and interns. We worked with Mount Sinai and Long Island Jewish Hospital HR departments, encouraging them to reach out to medical professionals at their city hospitals.”
They also collaborated with the property management staff to create a sense of community so residents did not feel as though they needed a trendy neighborhood for socializing. The hosted ice cream socials, movies on the lawn, resident BBQ’s, wine tastings, and get‐togethers around popular sporting events.
These efforts paid off, as many residents described their experience on local blogs and media outlets, emphasizing how The Alexander surpassed their expectations.
Before opening the leasing office, the team members were determined to know the product inside and out to best pitch the specific advantages of each unit. They walked through every home, measured each layout, and noted any differences such as views, kitchen layouts and closet configurations.
“The overall happiness of our residents was the predominant focus of the team,” they said. “Building community, building on referrals, and getting the word out that Rego Park, NY was a viable (and thriving) place to live, in a city that is constantly changing and redefining itself, was our ‘North Star.’”
This article originally appeared in Sales + Marketing Ideas magazine. Sales + Marketing Ideas magazine is now available to download on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android. Search “NAHB” and look for the gray Sales + Marketing Ideas icon.