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This article first appeared in the PB March 2010 issue of Pro Builder.
12 Tips for Marketing Your Homes

Every year, NAHB’s National Sales and Marketing Council recognizes creativity, excellence and innovation across several disciplines, including advertising, marketing, model merchandising and design. The awards, known simply as The Nationals, are the most prestigious honor in the business. As much as we wish we could feature all the winners, it’s impossible with 63 categories. This year, Professional Builder zeroed in on four categories that represent the central tools of every builder’s sales and marketing efforts — the sales center, Web site, model merchandising and advertising.

Best Sales Center

Crystal Point, Jersey City, N.J.

Builder: Fisher Development Associates, Purchase, N.Y.

Marketing director: Adrienne Albert, The Marketing Directors, New York

Sales office: The Marketing Directors; Sherman Advertising; Kim Depole Design

Crystal Point sales center

The team in charge of presales for Crystal Point knew they had a phenomenal product to offer. Too bad the sales center was in a trailer blocks inland, where the only view was of a main thoroughfare.

“The whole key to the building was the views,” says builder Brian Fisher. “Every room has a view of the water. It’s a very unique thing. We wanted the sales office to convey that to people who came in.”

The team’s solution for the sales center was to wrap the entire building in a photo mural of the view from Crystal Point. “Using the sales center itself as signage was one of the things that distinguished it,” says Adrienne Albert, president of The Marketing Directors, which handled sales for the project.

Inside, buyers could experience a fully furnished model of a two-bedroom unit, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows with photos of the actual views. “We took an entire wall and did a panoramic view of Manhattan,” Albert says.

WHY IT WON: Judge Dottie Paek says the sales center captured the feel of the waterfront location. “It was a terrific representation of lifestyle.”

YOUR TAKE: Few builders will have the killer views of Crystal Point, but every community has a story to tell and the sales center needs to capture that story as vividly as possible. Whenever possible, use photographs from your site and your homes instead of generic stock images.

Best Web Site for a Builder

Builder: TF Cornerstone, New York

Web site designer: Silver Creative Group, Norwalk, Conn.

Marketing director: Paul Zullo, Silver Creative Group

TF Cornerstone web site

The approach for TF Cornerstone was a bit different from most builder sites because, while the client is a developer/builder, the site is primarily geared to renters. With a goal of getting people to rent directly from the site, the key question was how to get people to inquire and lease as quickly as possible. To do that, Silver Creative marketing director Paul Zullo painted a picture of “a reputable company that is safe and secure.”

Zullo decided to minimize the gee-whiz design elements that can get in the way of a Web site’s message. “People are so inundated with advertising and marketing messages, they’ve become desensitized,” he says. “Get all the puffery out of the way. Give me a headline with five words. Give me reality.”

WHY IT WON: Judge Dottie Paek says the judges were impressed by the site’s crisp, clear presentation and message. “It was very clean, easy to navigate and not too confusing or overloaded with too many details,” she says.

YOUR TAKE: If you provide as much information as possible about the property on the Web site, then the on-site sales agents can spend less time playing tour guide and more time selling the units, says Zullo.

Best Print Campaign

The Apthorp, New York

Ad Agency: Sherman Advertising Associates, New York

Ads for the Apthorp

While many New Yorkers had seen the exterior of the iconic Apthorp building, few had seen the interior. As a result, the ad team wanted to bring prospects inside by featuring photography of the interiors and the courtyard. The print ad campaign — targeted at Wall Street executives, affluent families and celebrities — leveraged the building’s history, architecture and spacious residences.

WHY IT WON: Judge Dottie Paek says the ads were “gorgeous” and squarely hit their target buyer. “They captured their audience — the Ivana Trumps of the world.”

YOUR TAKE: The decision to include print in an overall campaign needs to be made strategically after analyzing your potential audiences. The Apthorp buyer, the team decided, would best be reached in a highly visual campaign in newspapers and magazines that target luxury consumers.

Best Interior Merchandising of a Model Under $500,000

Mariner at Love Creek, Lewes, Del.

Builder: Schell Brothers, Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Interior designer: Joni Hitchens, Echelon Interiors, Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Mariner at Love Creek model home

With a client base that’s half year-round residents and half vacation-home owners, interior designer Joni Hitchens had to present an aesthetic that looked like a vacation getaway, but felt like home. She did it by blending traditional pieces in vibrant blues and greens, which were inspired by the community’s beach location.

“Most of my clients are bringing some pieces from home,” she explains. “They’ll use what they have, and maybe get a new sofa. We wanted them to be able to visualize their antique table if they put lime-green chairs with it.”

WHY IT WON: “It was more reminiscent of a home-y feel than an artificial model feel,” judge Dottie Paek says.

YOUR TAKE: Designers can over-merchandise to the point that customers can’t visualize how their own pieces would look in a home. If it doesn’t feel lived in, people get turned off.

12 Tips for Marketing Your Homes

Web sites

1. Have plenty of photos on your site. Photo galleries are always the most-visited pages. Provide elevations and floor plans.

2. Include a registration button on every page. Make it simple for prospective buyers to sign up for an interest list.

3. Shoot video testimonials for your site. Create a YouTube channel for them.

Model merchandising

4. Don’t forget to add some color. Color can create a very emotional memory point, and is the cheapest accessory out there.

5. Pay attention to outside living areas. They’re popular, yet many builders don’t merchandise front porches or back yards.

6. Make the bed the focal point in bedrooms. It has to feel comfortable, warm and inviting.

Sales centers

7. Build what you are selling. The look and feel of the sales center should replicate what you’re selling as closely as possible.

8. Put your sales team in charge of traffic flow. Keep people from walking past the reception desk to the presentation area.

9. Have the closing offices visible to prospects. The offices need doors for privacy, but should have windows so prospects can see activity.

Print campaigns

10. The bigger the ad, the better the impact. For fractional ads, request the upper right-hand position, where the eye goes first.

11. Don’t try to tell your entire story in one ad. Use your Web site to fill in the details.

12. Create a sense of urgency. For example, the Apthorp’s ads emphasized the rare opportunity to buy a historic home.