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Closed Houses

Open houses sell apartments, especially if you put on a good show.  Such is the advice of John Herlihy a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman, who recently took on a near death listing at 210 East 63rd Street, and revived it by turning the outdoor space into a happening, complete  with chilled buckets of ice, bottled drinks, plates of cookies and balloons that floated heavenward.  The apartment sold the same day.

Still some buildings have closed their doors on open houses and keep them slammed shut even in this market. One co-op on the Upper East Side put the kaboosh on open houses because the resident broker who lived in the building used the lobby as his living room, entertaining as many as twenty would-be buyers at a time, according to a competing real estate agent.  Finally, the board had enough and imposed an open house fatwa, making clients wait outside in the chill or heat, just like the folks at Veselka make you brave the elements, but there you’re only going to buy a bowl of borscht, not a million dollar apartment.  Sellers weren’t happy.

Open houses are also off limits at 160 Riverside Drive, a handsome beige-brick building built as a cooperative in 1929, decades before the dawn of conversions.  It was a matter of security, both the prior and current property managers explained the ban. People in the building didn’t want strangers walking around.  Yet, according to at least one broker, it’s more a soft ban than hard core, and selling residents have been known to flout it. 

101 Warren Street, the 35-story mixed used condo/rental with the fenestrated facade that opened its doors in 2007, closed its houses.  One broker who sells there explained, such a ban isn’t that uncommon in buildings of this size. Even though there are lots of security cameras, it’s hard to keep track of so many people coming and going.  And, yes, people expect to be able to go to an open house on Sunday, but they get used to it

The Level Club, at 253 West 73rd Street is another condo with closed houses.  Built in 1925 as a King Solomon-sized hotel welcoming Masons from round the world, it was reborn as a 160-unit closed door condominium in 1984. 

”The board asked what I thought,” explained a resident broker, who was also the first person to buy an apartment when the building was converted. “Even though open houses are good for business, I put the building first, and people come with cups of coffee and make a mess in the hallway.”

Still things have eased up.  It used to be you couldn’t even show an apartment past 6 P.M., but that restriction was abolished, at least by one account, about the time a board member went to sell.

So can your board slam the door shut on open houses which is probably what you want to know? The answer is, “Yes.”  All it takes is a majority of its members to pass a house rule.  There are less draconian measures, like limiting the number of open houses that can be held at any one time, a restriction that some brokers say  is misguided because it brings more traffic as buyers who would have made one trip, now have to return for multiple visits.

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