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'Fully customizable condos' help real estate firm beat sluggish market

September 01, 2008 |
Buyers at the 1040 East New York Avenue condo project in Brooklyn can specify virtually any configuration and architectural design for their space. Decisions about everything from floors to countertops to sinks to bathtubs—even the walls—are made entirely by the purchaser.
W ith the U.S. housing market in a tailspin, developers are starting to think outside the box in order to attract more customers. HQ Marketing Partners, a real estate and marketing firm out of New York, thinks it has a creative idea to lure buyers—fully customizable luxury condominiums.

Originally planned as a run-of-the-mill luxury condominium project in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, the 1040 East New York Avenue development went back to the drawing board once the market started to slow, said Max Ribitzky, HQ's VP of marketing.

Floor plan depicts a demo unit with optional walls to separate the living spaces and create a bonus room and foyer.

“Because of the slowdown of the market we needed to come up with something creative,” says Ribitzky, adding that HQ looked at survey results from past customers to develop an innovative idea. “We saw that number one for customers has been price, number two has been location, but number three was a surprise for us: it was the ability to customize. The ability to control your space.”

The process of purchasing one of the customizable condos begins with the customer choosing either one unit of floor space or two. The floor space includes designated space and utility hookups for a bathroom, but otherwise includes no other amenities. Decisions about everything from floors to countertops to sinks to bathtubs—even the walls—are made entirely by the purchaser.

“If they wanted to buy two spaces and put one kitchen, (even) two or three, or put a sauna in the middle of the unit, like one of our customers is doing, that's possible,” says Ribitzky. “The customer gets the unit raw.”

To help customers deck out their condo space, HQ provides a construction manager who introduces a selection of designers to the buyer. The CM has partnered with several local designers who, because they have a chance to sell to several units, offer discount prices to 1040 buyers. The final decision on the designer, however, is up to the customer.

HQ teamed with owner Plaza LLC Development Group on the 1040 project, but they needed to do some persuading to get Plaza to work with the fully customizable plan.

“This is really out of the box, and there has been some kind of element of fear with this, with our developers,” says Ribitzky. “However, the developer, all they do is put in a shell for the building, with electricity and everything else installed … they do not have the headache of hiring interior designers, etc. The savings from the developer are transferred to the customer. That's the creative essence of this idea that HQ marketing partners have come up with.”

Ribitzky claims that 1040 customers could save as much as 15-25% compared to market rates. The 64-unit 1040 project, which is expected to be completed by the beginning of November, is the first of its kind in the country, he says.

“The brand here, the whole concept of 1040, is total freedom,” says Ribitzky. “Build your dream home with 100% choice.”

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