There is a veritable geyser of data tracking housing today. From existing-home sales, to house prices, to new-home permits, to starts—housing metrics abound.
How to Monopolize Your Market
The home building game is not unlike America's favorite board game:
Target the Passive Buyer
Barbara Stowers, vice president of sales and marketing for Taylor Woodrow in Irvine, Calif., has a new community advertising campaign to run in the financial section of the newspaper rather than the new home section. The goal: Align buying a Taylor Woodrow home with other smart investments.
Already paying off is a one-time "topper" ad - a four-color, multipage spread ad that wraps around a newspaper - in the Los Angeles Times. Taylor Woodrow co-opted the ad with upscale home product retailers at The Shops at Mission Viejo. With three lines of homes appealing to the executive-level families whom the stores target, Stowers ran an ad that would "saturate this specific market and let people know we’re building right in their back yards, and tell them about specific communities." Highlighting several communities at once amortized the $12,000 cost over several projects.
Seek Out Lost 'A' Prospects
"A" prospects say they want to buy in 30 to 60 days, says Bill Probert, vice president of sales and marketing at Newport Beach, Calif.-based John Laing Homes. When an "A" prospect doesn't buy, Laing goes the extra mile to learn why.
"In a follow-up phone interview we learn a lot," Probert says."Their responses give us a clear indication of which direction to take our marketing. These buyers are doing value comparisons, comparing the position of each of the communities in the marketplace, weighing the features of each. They know a lot."
Through this ongoing interview process, Laing learns marketplace trends that might result in subtle tweaks in market positioning and also tools to help salespeople find new ways to head off issues that might lie beneath the surface for individual buyers.
"'A' prospects know more about us than anyone, even our salespeople, because they're so intimately involved in the purchase," Probert says. "We listen when they talk."
|An entry-level product in a sought-after urban master plan grabs young, hip buyers' attention with color and cheekiness.|
Damn That's an Effective Ad
Legacy Development Group directed real estate marketing agency Taylor Johnson Associates to create advertisements for the condominium terrace units at Lakeside on the Park in Chicago.
"Lakeside offers generous outdoor space, and they wanted to show that space in a fun and different way," says Taylor Johnson vice president Emily Johnson. "The typical buyer can't visualize what kind of space it is - they're first-time or first move-up buyers," probably coming from a place in the city with little or no outdoor space.
Legacy and Taylor Johnson hit the market dead-on with two tongue-in-cheek, edgy newspaper ads. The first, focusing on the terrace, uses four color pictures of a van, an elephant, a triceratops and a school bus, each with its real-world length marked below it. Next is a floor plan of the Lakeside condo with its private terrace, which at 52x12 feet measures 12 feet longer than the school bus. The tag line "Damn that's a Big Terrace!" is hard to miss.
The other ad again features a floor plan with a headline in red above it: "2-Bedrooms from $219,900 in the best location along the lake." Below the plan it says, "Damn that's a Great Value!" The ad counts on the fact that young entry-level buyers might not have imagined they could afford to be in the prestigious Central Station area.
Terrie Whittaker, Legacy's sales and marketing agent, attests to the ads' effectiveness. Doors opened Oct. 1, 2002, with Legacy predicting an 18-month sellout. Units are 65% sold to date, about six months ahead of schedule.
The best people to sell your product, says Kimberly Ouimet, sales manager for Oakmonte at Silvercreek in Oakland Township, Mich., are those who already have purchased. Everybody knows that, but few builders create an opportunity for those referrals as well and as inexpensively as Ouimet.
Every season Moceri Development throws a party for residents and their guests at the lifestyle condominium community, which is part of Moceri's $75 million Silvercreek development. Ouimet's party expenses aren't much - her last one, for Valentine's Day, cost $600 for food, beverages and prizes. She doesn't serve alcohol, which drastically reduces costs, and holds the get-togethers for 100 to 200-plus people at Oakmonte's clubhouse or on the grounds, which include a pool and sun deck and an all-sports court that becomes a skating rink in winter.
Her small investment nets remarkable returns. Ouimet says she sees a spike of four to six sales during the week after a party - pretty significant in a condo community that sells about 10 homes a month.
Partner With Television Stations
In mid-January one of Denver's largest builders, Village Homes, embarked on a unique relationship with the local NBC affiliate that meant a big branding push for very little money, says marketing director Jennifer Lambert. Village ran 30-second commercials encouraging viewers to "log on and help Village Homes build the perfect home."
Each week of the interactive, 18-week campaign, viewers went to KUSA’s Web site to see and pick from the three choices for the featured selection that week of the Distinctive Choice Home. The selection of the week was announced in a 15-second commercial that ran during the news as well as on the Village Homes section of the site. Viewers got to pick everything from the floor plan and siding colors to cabinets and faucets, with the knowledge that this dream home actually would be built and sold, with the profit going to a local charity.
Lambert said the deal was cheaper than 30-second commercials during prime time, and some costs were defrayed by Village's partnership with suppliers - rather than just choosing faucets, viewers chose their favorite Delta faucet, and in the garage they voted on three configurations of Whirlpool’s Gladiator Garage Works.
The Web page had 26,062 impressions in March, and its success has led Village Homes to open the house as a vignetted model for six months "to further leverage the awareness with additional TV ads," says Lambert.