SAN FRANCISCO (TheStreet) -- While the real estate market has been climbing its way out of the cellar, it still takes more to sell a home than an open house on a Sunday afternoon. Sellers, agents and developers are relying on some innovative approaches to close a sale. Here are a few:
Throw in a celebrity chef. The sleek Web site of the FP3 condominium complex by Boston developer Berkeley Investments features the usual categories: "residences," "neighborhood" and "building." However, one stands out from the others: "Barbara Lynch."
When FP3 was in its planning stages, Berkeley invited Lynch, a renowned chef and restaurateur, to open a bar, a casual eatery and a fine-dining restaurant on the ground floor. The first two, Drink and Sportello, have become gourmand hot spots. The fine dining restaurant was put on hold because of the recession, but is due to open late fall. The condo stresses that "preferred treatment is expected" for diners who live in the building.
"Clearly when Barbara's name comes up, people become very excited about being in the building with her," says Mark Barer, a senior project manager at Berkeley investments. "She has that rock star status."
The celebrity chef tie-in has taken off in San Francisco too. Millennium Partners' new Millennium Tower is home to RN74, a restaurant headed by two-star Michelin chef Michael Mina, who owns a condo in the building. You've probably seen Mina on an episode of "Top Chef " on General Electric's (GE) (Stock Quote: GE) Bravo network. RN74 also offers a private dining room exclusively for tower residents, with special menu items.
"It gave us instant five-star credibility," Baument says. "We've closed, in a difficult environment, in excess of $130 million in the last four months." Each sale averages $2 million.
Real estate investment firm JMA Ventures recently began offering a kick-the-tire program for prospective buyers at Fairmont Heritage Place, a complex of private residences and hotel rooms in San Francisco. Prospective buyers can pay hotel rates for up to 30 days, but if they decide to buy, they get a full refund. While it's not free unless they commit, the program has helped sway fence-sitting home shoppers, says Todd Chapman, managing partner at JMA Ventures.
"Maybe on a Thursday evening we'll have a twilight tour," says Eamonn O'Callaghan, an agent at Zephyr Real Estate in San Francisco. "They'll want to see the view at night or get a sense of the neighborhood in the evening."
When the market is slow, many builders will throw in a year's worth of home owners' association fees to tempt buyers, O'Callaghan says.
"We do a lot of scented sticks in bathrooms in bedrooms," says Linda Premick, who owns the home staging company Linda Premick Design. "Some agents will play classical music in high-priced houses."
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