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Brokers Say Spring Selling Season Has Its Groove Back

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Spring: the best time of year for baseball fans and real estate brokers. But for the past couple of years, the peak season for apartment sales has been a bust for our broker friends, pretty much like all the other seasons. Is 2010 different? Former Timesman and new WSJ real estate scribe Josh Barbanel takes the pulse of the market, and finds that the busy season might be just that for the first time in a while. Higher-ups within the major brokerages say sales are way up, but a 7 always looks better when compared to a 4 instead of a 10, and the last couple of springs were no Swedish bikini models.

To get a real read on the state of the market, it's all about the anecdotal evidence! Barbanel notes that a buyer forfeited a $1.4 million deposit on an apartment at Superior Ink because he didn't want to pay the $7.2 million price during the downturn. Last month the apartment was put back on the market, and now it's contract for an even higher price of $7.9 million. But that's not all the good news for the industry: Brokers are partying again!

At Fifth on the Park, a 28-story condominium project overlooking Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, the developers held two parties for brokers a few weeks ago, where they announced a cut in prices on unsold units. They gave away five Apple iPads to attract brokers to the event. Now Carole Griffin, a broker for the development said four deals are "under negotiations" with serious buyers and traffic has picked up at open houses. At the Rushmore, a new condominium on Riverside Boulevard, more than a hundred brokers gathered to sample h'orderves of rolled lamb and eggplant, and go on a treasure hunt for door prizes, including private golf lessons at Chelsea Piers, a sail on the Hudson, a weekend getaway in Connecticut, private cooking classes and a day at a spa at Chelsea Piers.

Kelly Mack, president of Corcoran Sunshine Marketing, said that sales at the Rushmore had surged in the last month "like a light switch turned on," and the lower priced units, under $2 million, had nearly sold out.

Lamb and treasure hunts? It's like 2007 all over again, with the knowledge that, hey, the bottom can't fall out twice in such a short period of time, right? Well, market expert Jonathan Miller tells Barbanel that the wave of hope could become a riptide of despair if interest rates rise and sellers flood the market with new inventory. So maybe only order one bottle of champagne with lunch today, brokers.
· Spring Is Blooming for Manhattan Property [WSJ]