The Washington Star
Real Estate

Lew Sichelman

‘Action Selling’ Moves Ocean City Condos

It may be hard to believe, but there actually are several success stories – if you can call them that – coming out of Ocean City, where the overbuilt and sagging condominium market has put a number of developers out of business.
The 170-unit Pyramid is sold out now, and so is the 164-unit building known as 9400 Ocean Highway. Tiburon on the bay side of Ocean Highway fared well this season, and Sea Watch sold reasonably well, too.

In all, nearly 1,000 units were moved in the resort town this summer, estimates John Whaley of the Caliban Corp., one of the first building firms to cash in on the once booming condo market at the beach. His luck ran out, however, when poor sales forced his lender to foreclose on the Pyramid.

UNDER THE circumstances – high interest rates, higher prices, a depressed economy and overdevelopment – Whaley finds this a “staggering” sales total. He credits drastic price reductions pus reduced interest rates with improved terms for the upturn.
At the Pyramid, for instance, prices were cut as much as $15,000 and, because the lender now owns the project, financing over a 30-year term was arranged to lure the customers back. Sea Watch also was taken back by the lenders, which promptly cut prices and down payments and eliminated ground rents. Lenders at other projects dropped interest rates to as low as 6 percent.

Whaley believes the market never left Ocean City. Instead, he says, “buyers have been sitting back and waiting. They always intended to buy, but they saw the squeeze coming. When it finally came, the buyers came forward.”

But then Whaley is a professional who did much to start the condo fever on the Maryland-Delaware coast. He knew the buyers were there, he just didn’t have the resources to wait them out.

JACK STUDNICKY, on the other hand, is not a licensed real estate broker. He’s not really familiar with the Ocean City market. Maybe he didn’t know any better.

Who’s Jack Studnicky? Why, he’s the guy the Chase Manhattan Mortgage Realty Trust credits for selling out 9400 Ocean Highway, which Chase Manhattan took back from Anderson-Stokes, Inc., after it registered only 11 sales in three years.
Chase Manhattan says Studnicky performed nothing short of a miracle in selling out 9400, which is not to be confused with the Pyramid or a number of other Ocean City condominiums in architectural style or grace.
Virginia Mortgage & Investments co, Inc., is proud of Studnicky, too. VMI had 20 “hard-to-sell” units on its hands at the Sandy Lanes condominium in Ocean City that it had been trying to peddle for two years. Studnicky sold them in eight days.

A 30-ISH West Coast management consultant, Studnicky espouses a marketing technique known as “action selling.” Problem properties have been his forte for 11 years, and he’s made enough believers out of skeptics to form his own cult. Sun Myung Moon would be proud.
Those who have seen him in action attest to his talent in motivating a sales staff. It is said that he has the ability to create an atmosphere in which the natural thing for the prospect to do is buy right there on the spot
Studnicky admits, however, that the Ocean City situation requires more than salesmanship. “Other factors have to be favorable, too,” he says, “The price has to be right. The timing is crucial, and the promotion has to be effective. The world won’t beat a path to your door unless they know where you are.”
In the case of 9400, a saturation advertising campaign produced the public: the apartment prices were reduced sufficiently to impress buyers that if they didn’t take a unit, someone else would, and the timing was right. Mid to late summer is the psychological time for a “close-out.”

“STILL, THERE have been other summers and other sales. But not with the same results, Action selling,” says Studnicky. Create prospects, develop desire and urgency, communicate value and demand a decision without high pressure.

Studnicky says he feels he’s failed if a customer says he wants to think about a purchase. He turns lookers into buyers. “I try to communicate the fact that now is the time to accept an offering. It won’t be here later.”
The old hard sell? “Not really,” troubleshooter Studnicky argues, “I’m not interested in forcing sales on people who don’t want to buy. But I am interested in getting those who till now haven’t made up their minds.”
He adds that most people want to buy, “but negative conditioning” keeps them from making a positive decision. “I try my best to get them over the ‘ditch of indecision’ that most people are stuck in.”
A false atmosphere of excitement? “I work hard in motivating a sales staff and instilling in them a positive attitude.” he says. “Often sales people lose confidence in a hard-to-sell project. This negative attitude, this sense of failure can be infectious. It’s communicated even to very good prospects, and sales are lost.”

HIS FIRST JOB, then, is to turn around the thinking of his sales staff. “I get them excited and confident in what they’re doing,” Studnicky explains. “This is what I want to be contagious. Then they can communicate this to customers.”
Next, the sales presentation must be improved. A tour of 9400, for example, ended at the front door, leaving the potential buyer no choice but to leave. “It was almost as if he was being pushed out the door and discouraged from buying.” Studnicky recalls.
He changed the tour route so it ended in the sales office, where lookers could see others making purchases. This, he explains showed them that, yes, there really were sales being made, and if they wanted to own an apartment there, it would be wise to buy now.

STUDNICKY’S success has brought him offers of other problems to sell, enough to cause him to move permanently from his native California to Arlington. He came here three years ago for the R&B Development Co., a Los Angeles-based firm that was building the Oakwood apartment complex primarily for singles in Alexandria.
R&B was about $1 million over budget at Oakwood and having “all sorts of problems” with contractors, he says. “I was out here to deliver a lecture when they contacted me.” He was named manager of the $30 million project, which he turned into a success.
Studnicky also has worked his magic in Florida and the Virgin Islands and on shopping center, industrial park and primary home projects as well as second home sites. Now he’s done what many thought was next to impossible. He has sold out in Ocean City.