READING TIME: 8 min.
As part of a continuing series with industry leaders, we are delighted to bring the following interview with Adrienne Albert, the CEO of Marketing Directors. It would be difficult to find a residential real estate marketing and advisory firm with the depth and knowledge of the “Gold Coast” and North Jersey luxury market than Marketing Directors. And it’s impossible to discuss the development of the Gold Coast as one of the country’s premier luxury residential markets without adding Marketing Directors and its CEO, Adrienne Albert, in the discussion. Marketing Directors and an “A” list of New Jersey developers created a stunning urban comeback story along a once-blighted old industrial corridor that defined Hudson waterfront in the 1970s. So, it was only natural for us to reach out to the Adrienne Albert for her insight into the current state of the luxury residential market and how she sees the market post-COVID-19.
Grid Bits: Can you provide some context of the market before Covid-19 closedown.
Adrienne Albert: Yes, for context, both the rental and for-sale markets were excellent before the pandemic hit. We were averaging 40-50 rentals per month, per site in an ascending market. Since the pandemic lockdown, we are doing about 50% of that now, using virtual technology. Sales were also strong, although it took longer for some projects to “catch fire”. Overall the market was strong and although NYC had been struggling and producing its fair share of tough news, Jersey City was doing well.
Grid Bits: Not surprising, the market has changed with Covid-19. What do you see now?
Adrienne Albert: We are doing better than we thought we would be doing. In Jersey City rentals are moving forward at the rate of about 50% of the velocity they were experiencing before the pandemic hit. We added virtual tours to our sites starting in mid-March. Some sites are more hands-on than others.
We just opened a major new rental building, Hamilton Cove, and had over 15 leases our first week! We believe the personal touch of our staff is what makes the program so successful. If we left it to virtual alone, we don’t believe we would be achieving these results. Our rental and sales teams work with prospects just as if we were with them in person, but we are using on-screen presentations, building value, overcoming objections, and helping the prospect to know if this is the right move for them to make. You can’t just rely on virtual alone. It’s just an additional tool. You still need a sales team to work with prospects to get full value from the technology. In the end, people still want to see the product to understand it, feel what it is like to live in such spaces, see and touch the finishes, experience the amenity spaces first-hand.
Sales are much slower. Although there is interest, prospects are less likely to move forward in today’s environment. There is too much uncertainty about the future, about “their” future. Our sales after lockdown were mostly to those who had visited the site before the lockdown occurred. They had the benefit of seeing the product and now just had to be sold (or closed, if you will) to move forward.
”“However, we are building a pipeline for sales through our virtual efforts and we believe we will come out of the box very strong as this pandemic subsides.”Adrienne AlbertCEO of Marketing Directors
However, we are building a pipeline for sales through our virtual efforts and we believe we will come out of the box very strong as this pandemic subsides. We are actively building relationships with potential buyers and encouraging them to move forward today. And there is real interest! Here are a few ways we are continuing to reach buyers today during the “lock-down”. Recently, we conducted a virtual seminar on mortgages and 27 potential buyers attended. Also, we are holding a wine tasting seminar, distributing lists of what wines to buy in order to participate in the tasting and learn from home. And we held a virtual open house at 99 Hudson which was attended by over 30 prospects.
We are “teeing” people up to be ready for the resurgence of the market when we can do business again in person, and virtually. Additionally, we find people are closing on the homes they bought before the lockdown. At 75 Park, over 30 homes have closed since the pandemic started in Mid-March.
”“For sale product, we believe there will be a “Run to Real Estate” as both an investment strategy and a Lifestyle Strategy. Given the interest rates, it is an ideal time to buy.”Adrienne AlbertCEO of Marketing Directors
Post-Pandemic Design Issues
by Adrienne Albert
a. Interior finishes
We believe there will be an increased demand for health and wellness sensitivity for the next two to three years. So: anti-microbial countertops, anti-microbial paint, easy to sanitize flooring, white kitchens to more easily see and capture dirt. Additional features we see being used will be, filtered air supply and circadian lighting. We are even seeing something called a vitamin C shower, where Vitamin C tablets are dispersed into the shower water cleansing and sanitizing your skin
b. Amenity spaces
We think co-working spaces will continue to have value to the customer, but there may need to be more distance between work stations. Also, gyms may need to have more spacing between the machines and in activity areas. We are recommending sanitizing wipes be readily available in all gyms and hand sanitizers in other areas like package pickup, before you enter the elevator, at electric car charging stations, pet bag dispensers, and “public” bathrooms”.
There may be less emphasis on hot tubs and saunas, group exercise areas will need to be much larger to accommodate distance between people. There will need to be room to allow people to social-distance because there may be waves of this virus even once we are open and actively reinventing our lives until they find a cure and a vaccine.
We believe there will be more emphasis on electronic door locks that can be opened with your phone, elevators that are programmed before you enter them as with office building elevators (no buttons), more electronic access for friends visiting either through your cell phone or theirs. Doorknobs may return to levers as they can be opened with an elbow instead of round knobs usually found today.
While certain design elements may shift long-term, we see the primary challenges being in the short term, and as recovery occurs, we don’t believe certain concerns will last. Younger generations will still want “sociability” and are not as concerned about the danger.
Grid Bits: How quickly will demand come back?
Adrienne Albert: We believe there is tremendous pent-up demand in the rental marketplace. People want to get on with their lives, get their jobs back, get back to work, and move into their new homes to start life fresh and clean.
For sale products, we believe there will be a “Run to Real Estate” as both an Investment Strategy and a Lifestyle Strategy. Given the interest rates, it is an ideal time to buy. As soon as there is a comfort that people can control their personal and financial lives again, people will come back into the market.
Grid Bits: Are you concerned about the full pipeline we now have under construction?
Adrienne Albert: Let me put it in perspective. Years ago, there was a tremendous concern that Jersey City would not be able to support the level of buildings planned.
In 2008, we opened Grove Point(KRE) and 50 Columbus(Ironstate/Panepinto) at the same time. They were both quickly absorbed and set the stage for the next wave of Jersey City Projects. We believe the same thing will happen now. Jersey City has become a destination residential location. People want to live in Jersey City. Moreover, much of the pipeline not under construction today might never get built or it might get delayed past the next two years. There is a window of opportunity for those developments that can be open in the next two years to soak up this demand.
This golden window is for the next 24-36 months. In newer neighborhoods for new construction, affordability will drive the success of those projects.
”“There is a window of opportunity for those developments that can be open in the next two years to soak up this demand. This “golden window” is for the next 24-36 months.”Adrienne AlbertCEO of Marketing Directors
Grid Bits: What are you seeing outside of Jersey City and the Gold Coast?
Adrienne Albert: For those areas not in Jersey City or the Gold Coast, we are pleasantly surprised. With jobs like Centurion Union, Vermella Union, and the Mint each averaged 30 leases over the last 6 week period all with virtual tour presentations and no traditional presentations. Now, can we depend upon virtual presentations solely in the future? We believe not. It is the personal touch that makes the difference. However, virtual is here to stay as part of our repertoire of sales aids. In addition, web traffic is up everywhere. People are becoming accustomed to doing business in a new way. It is obvious to us that all products that are well-conceived and presented will do well in the coming years.
”“Can we depend upon virtual presentations solely in the future? We believe not. It is the personal touch that makes the difference. However, virtual is here to stay as part of our repertoire of sales aids.”Adrienne AlbertCEO of Marketing Directors