Here's a piece about incentives that appeared in December Capital Comment:
The days of condo hunters’ scrambling for overpriced housing are gone. An online scan through Craigslist’s “real estate for sale” reveals a very different market. Not only are prices dropping, but sellers are offering interesting toss-ins to attract buyers: a week at a resort in the Cayman Islands, a set of golf clubs, use of a moving truck, a washer and dryer, or a gym membership, to name a few.
William Rich at real-estate research firm Delta Associates estimates that more than half of condo sellers now are offering concessions. While many offer help with closing costs or a period without condo fees, buyers can also find some fun freebies.
The Mica, a development of 150 condos in downtown Silver Spring, offers up to $20,000 toward closing and up to 18 months without condo fees. During certain “weekend specials,” the Mica will throw in extras like a 42-inch plasma television or an upgrade to hardwood floors.
The most eye-catching incentive? A few months ago Legato Corner, a condo complex in Fairfax, offered a free two-year lease on a BMW Z4 Roadster or 325i for buyers of two- or three-bedroom units.
The trend is not limited to condos. During a fall promotion, luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers offered bonuses like a finished basement or an upgraded kitchen—features that typically cost more than $10,000—for $1. The developer will also send a home stager to prep a buyer’s old house for sale by rearranging furniture and removing clutter.
Earle Horton, owner of the development company Blue Sky Housing, says buyers have power in this market: “It’s not only about what sellers are offering. As long as your offer is reasonable, the developer or owner will consider it.” One real-estate agent recalls a sale in which the buyer, a restaurant owner, threw in his own incentive: In exchange for accepting a particularly low bid, he offered the sellers three free dinners at his restaurant. They accepted.
Even those not house hunting can take advantage. At the Lillian Court Condominium in Tysons Corner, dropping by during a recent weekend open house netted a chance to win an iPod from one real-estate agent. And at 555 Mass, a 14-story condo building near DC’s Mount Vernon Square, all prospective buyers who tour the complex leave with a free Starbucks gift card.