Fact: Master-planned community marketing programs vanish when developers leave.
This is a huge problem for property owners in private residential club communities because less marketing means lower demand for their homes and club memberships.
To keep both property and club membership values strong in a competitive environment – a community needs effective marketing. That takes time, money and a strategy.
Here’s One Solution
The Landings on Skidaway Island in Savannah, Georgia kept its marketing muscle long after the developer exited. Homeowners don’t pay a penny to keep aggressive and sophisticated marketing programs in place at this amenity-rich, coastal Georgia community.
In fact, The Landings Company completed 250 transactions last year for total sales of $106.5 million. Talk about an effective solution.
Here are six ways The Landings on Skidaway Island makes community marketing work.
#1 Fund Community Marketing
In the late 1990s, the Board of Directors for The Landings Association (HOA) spotted value in the developer’s marketing machine. The HOA took over the sales and marketing function from the developer, along with its institutional knowledge and marketing history.
The HOA formed, and owns, The Landings Company – a self-sustained real estate marketing company with top-notch leadership. Its only goal is to generate revenue for community marketing and sales efforts. Commissions derived from The Landings Company real estate transactions fund what is now a million-dollar annual marketing budget.
When residents list their homes “in house” with The Landings Company, they are funding the community’s future, and there’s a lot of pride associated with that.
#2 Talk with Developer Before Transition
Residents of HOAs should start a conversation about marketing prior to transition, just as The Landings did.
Which advertising drives the most sales? Where are buyers coming from? What are the best feeder markets? What demographic profiles are the best prospects for this community? How are leads best nurtured and converted to sales? Where is the database of prospects that have been generated for this community? Who owns the community logo and URLs? Can you share your line item marketing & sales budgets? These questions, and many more, must be discussed with the developer and his/her marketing team before they leave the community.
Continuity in marketing is as important, if not more, than continuity in other community association management processes, like training HOA Board members, maintaining the facilities/grounds and enforcing protective covenants.
#3 Build Consensus at HOA Level – All Your Residents are In the Real Estate Business
If other HOAs want to mirror the success of The Landings on Skidaway Island, The Landings Company President Raoul Rushin explains they must find consensus among Board members to set aside money for community marketing.
“You need perpetual marketing to sustain your community,” Mr. Rushin explains.
“Local general brokerage real estate agents usually market houses, not communities. A lifestyle destination needs to be marketed. The housing decision is a close second at places like ours, but it is second.”
Adding marketing to the agenda or challenging an HOA Board to consider what will happen with marketing after a developer leaves is the first step toward building consensus and allocating appropriate resources.
#4 Form a Club Marketing Committee
The Board of Directors of The Landings Club – a third entity, separate from both The Landings Company and The Landings Association – hand-picks 6 to 8 marketing-savvy residents to make recommendations about marketing and branding at the Club.
The appointed Marketing Committee helps to direct membership sales efforts. It also keeps marketing at top-of-mind and “on the agenda” by working closely with The Landings Company management team since membership sales are directly linked to home sales.
#5 Hire a Complete and Effective Team
The fact that The Landings Company has a management team and employees in the first place, demonstrates a real commitment on the part of the community to make sales and marketing a top priority.
As noted, the operation was taken over from the developer nearly 20 years ago and several of the original development staff have enjoyed long-term employment with the company. Here’s how the team is structured:
- A seasoned President at the helm, responsible for its success
- An experienced Vice President of Sales and 30 real estate agents who help new buyers through the discovery and contract process
- Seven full-time administrative staffers that include internal marketing coordinators who update the community website and conduct a host of marketing duties from events to media buying
- Several weekend staffers are residents who live at The Landings and chip in by manning the reception areas to greet potential new residents
- An outside marketing firm is retained for web design, branding support and expert counsel
#6 Reach Out-of-Area Buyers
The Landings Association, The Landings Club and The Landings Company all share the same drive to attract new buyers and members in order to avoid a glut of unsold homes, unpaid HOA, club dues, and, ultimately, maintain property values.
A coastal Georgia location near tourist-friendly Savannah is central to its appeal, but Rushin knows The Landings can’t count on tourists to buy enough property to sustain the community. Every community has attrition as residents age or their circumstances change.
Outrunning attrition and competing with increasing area real estate offerings is a challenge, but it’s a challenge better met with a focused effort and substantial budget instead of empty coffers.
With 4,500 acres of land and more than 4,000 homes, the community makes concerted efforts to reach out-of-area prospects who are first introduced to The Landings through national media or online.
With a one to five year decision/purchase cycle, getting in front of real estate prospects early on, when they are beginning their search, is critical to building a pipeline of prospective buyers for the community. With a good lead nurturing program, the community remains top-of-mind until prospects are ready to make commitments.
“We have about 10 percent turnover in our community each year,” Mr. Rushin explains. “So that means we need significant sales activity to keep property turning at an appropriate pace.”
The Landings at Skidaway Island sits in an enviable position. The Landings Club is debt-free and so is The Landings Association. The Landings Company is also debt-free and is self-sustaining.
Mr. Rushin notes that this year’s budget included extensive funding for investments in marketing research, market analysis and re-branding. All to make sure buyers will be landing on Skidaway Island for years to come.