Each year, communities across the Sunshine State share best practices in Florida community living with the hope of being recognized as a Florida Community of Excellence.
While it’s good to be recognized, it’s also a smart way for communities (both built-out and currently under development) to raise awareness and boost long-term interest in their master-planned community and their well-run Homeowner Associations (HOAs).
What better than a pipeline of people interested in sharing your address?
Categories include Safety and Security, Financial Management Innovation and Green (water conservation inside and outside the home). Here are some highlights from this year’s crop of master-planned community winners.
• Property owners in friendly Summerfield, Florida’s Stonecrest community also showed they could be friendly to Florida’s water supply by creating a five-year plan for landscaping and water conservation. The Del Webb-designed community for active adults 55 and better took home honors at Community of the Year in the HOA category and was given “Trendsetter” honors for Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams.
• Evergrene (Palm Beach Gardens) was honored for resident and board volunteerism
leading to Florida-Friendly Landscaping. As a result, metered irrigation costs were reduced by $81,000 from 2012 to 2013. Evergrene cut water use another 10 percent in 2014.
• Despite the economic downturn, the self-managed HOA at St. George Plantation in Florida’s Panhandle reviewed its interest rate options and community reserve fund to find they could pay off a loan on their clubhouse and save about $800,000 in interest. The HOA has also gone paperless. This will likely free-up some dollars for marketing.
• With its HOA managed by FirstService Residential, K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons at Delray Beach undertook efforts to fund specific charities through its own lifestyle programming. Rather than simply plan events that were enjoyable for residents, a stronger sense of community was built by making the events fundraisers for cancer research and toys for hospitalized children.
For a complete list of 2015 Florida Communities of Excellence award winners, click here.
NAHB’s top economist David Crowe offered reserved projections for a better year in 2015. He expects single-family housing starts to climb 26% from 2014’s total to 804,000 starts in 2015, an increase although still much lower compared to a decade ago.
Speaking in Las Vegas to the International Builders’ Show (IBS) in January, Dr. Crowe cited several reasons 2015 would be slightly better for builders:
- A Better Economic Outlook. The U.S. economy is gaining 250,000 jobs per month, which is expected to continue in addition to the 4% economic growth experienced during the final six months of 2014. Consumer confidence is also back above where it was before the recession.
- Income and Equity. Increasing income as well as more equity in the homes currently held by U.S. households is a key driver of consumer home buying power. For three years now, home equity levels have risen.
- Debt Lower, Savings Greater. Household debt has been paid down considerably. The average U.S. household now owes one year’s worth of income on their current mortgage. Dr. Crowe also mentioned that mortgage availability was slightly better for those seeking them. Savings rates have grown to 4.5% of income, also a good sign that buyers will be more inclined to make a buying decision in 2015.
“People were still nervous last year,” Dr. Crowe said. “We postponed 7 million existing home sales during the downturn. Consumers feel better about where they are.”
In the 1980s, the then developer of Deer Meadows Golf Course in rural Lincoln County, Wash. marketed golf course community living to attract buyers the same way thousands of other booming master-planned communities across America did.
Golf demand has shifted in many states, and in 2009, the losing golf operation at Deer Meadows was shut down. The current developer wants to convert the golf course to sell new homes, but a group of community residents has taken them to court to prevent that.
The marketing position of a master-planned community is bound to change over years and decades. Vanishing community amenities like shuffleboard courts and the emergence of fitness centers are two such examples of changing buyer tastes and interests
The escalating legal battle in Washington has significant implications for master-planned community sales and marketing because the ultimate decision may set a legal precedent for how much control developers can exercise over land use in the face of changing community resident preferences.
Although golf was not profitable at this community, it was promised as a community feature. Now the courts will determine who takes the driver’s seat when communities change.
Prospects in the ‘research‘ phase are not ready to be transactional. Therefore, a smart strategy for top of funnel leads includes being non-transactional at the outset and having a long term lead nurturing program in place.
These individuals may generally know where they want to live (states and regions), but variables can pop up and quickly change their plans or put them on hold for awhile:
- Shifting investment portfolios
- Re-sale market conditions in their primary home location
- Time or travel costs associated with touring communities
- Unusual weather events like floods or hurricanes
Top of funnel leads require special handling, so make sure you give your sales team the ideas and tools that gently advance them through the pipeline.
Let them breathe. Ask if they need more information about your community’s lifestyle, features and benefits. It’s not time to close them.
Sell the value, subtly. Share how great the weather is or how much residents at your community love the new clubhouse or latest events. Do this consistently and with no call-to-action.
Ask authentic questions. Go beyond the sales qualifying questions and learn about their lives and interests. Authentic questions and interchange develop stronger relationships – this is so obvious, but not practiced enough.
Read and respond. When individuals offer comments or have questions, read the comments/questions carefully and respond quickly. Comments/questions that go unaddressed are frustrating to someone conducting research important to him/her.
Top of funnel leads are critical to your community’s future because they represent your sales pipeline. People at this stage are seeking information and engagement. Save the close for later.
Research from Nationwide Insurance’s team of economic experts suggests the health of U.S. housing markets can be predicted two years into the future. Nationwide Economics also offers helpful monthly data on housing activity, but its Health of Housing Markets quarterly report is an ambitious effort that might instill confidence in both the real estate industry and its consumers.
Nationwide’s Chief Economist Dr. David Berson and his team looked backward at data and past performance indicators in 373 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) to create a National Leading Index of Healthy Housing Markets. Good news is the index “suggests little chance of a housing downturn in 2015.”
An index score between 125 (positive) and 75 (negative) has been tracked back to 2001. The national housing market was considered neutral in 2004 prior to the burst of the bubble and did not rate better than neutral again until late in 2011.
The current index (as of January, 2015) is at 108.6.
When Community Sales & Marketing News caught up with Dr. Berson at the International Builders’ Show in early 2015. He explained that the formation of households by Millennials would be a major influence on Baby Boomers and their retirement or second home plans.
Don’t be surprised if prospects soon ask to see 3D-printed renderings of a model home or even a community clubhouse or amenity one day soon. Adding thousands of printed layers, each thinner than one human hair, Utah-based whiteclouds.com converts your architectural renderings, prints them in 3D and mails them directly to you.
Full-color (390,000 CMYK colors, to be exact) and monochrome renderings can be produced in four to six weeks and whiteclouds can handle rush orders too, mailing the scale models to you. The company insures all of its architectural models for shipping at no cost to its customers.
Edible versions of the 3D-printed renderings are possible with whitecloud’s sugar-based printing materials (no kidding).
Several effective and preferred Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can be found under B2B Resources on Community Sales & Marketing News. All CRM systems can help sell new and existing homes in master-planned communities. They collect useful information, but how marketers and sales people use it makes all the difference.
CEO Michael Worthington of North Carolina-based brightdoor Systems, Inc., took a few minutes to share his observations:
- Capture all relevant interactions at the top of the funnel. When prospective buyers are seeking information it is a good time to begin qualifying them and keep watching the process.
- Solid sales and marketing decisions depend on being familiar with how A, B, and C prospects transition and what will make them move through the sales funnel more quickly. Having technology that captures information throughout the process is the key. From site visits to follow-up emails and phone calls, buyers are offering clues about their intentions.
- What he calls destination or master-planned communities, even those where builders have left the process, are successful when they have continuity in their resale process that carries over and a good CRM system remains relevant to whomever will sell homes at that community going forward.
Big crowds gathered each day at the International Builders’ Show to see an array of quadcopters (commonly called “drones”) featured by Rotor Concept, Inc. The company retails its Discovery Quadcopter for $649 (USD) but was offering a show special for $299 (USD). Both are small prices to pay to equip your community with the marketing tool real estate has been watching Washington to approve.
These take plenty of practice to fly, and Discovery is billed as “made for beginners.” Sooner or later, master-planned community tours using such devices will become standard for any community to help tell and sell its story to perspective buyers. Communities that show well have every reason to opt in, while communities with some blemishes might be slow to invite such tours.