It’s no secret that sales of existing homes and condominiums across the country are declining. Statistics from the National Association of Realtors indicate that sales of existing homes fell 8.5% in 2006. Projections indicate this trend will continue in 2007 and beyond. The reports also show that listings are staying on the market longer and are selling for lower prices. When faced with these depressed market conditions, it becomes ever more essential to market your community association. Whether you are a manager, a board member or a homeowner, marketing your community can help improve sales and increase sales prices.
Overcoming Traditional Thinking– After the initial sales period by the developer, it is rare for a community association to view marketing as a priority. Conventional thinking requires the community to maintain the common elements and enforce rules. More recently, scholars have been promoting the concept of “building community” as an essential component to the successful community association. Taking this concept one step further leads to marketing of the community association. Marketing has long-been thought to be the responsibility of the individual owner that is selling their home. Certainly the Realtor has some role in marketing. Yet, it seems clear that if the role of the community association is to maintain and promote property values, it would appear that marketing the community becomes a key component in that success.
Getting Started- The first step to market your community association is to perform a survey of the local market. Where does your community stand with respect to amenities, fees, and desirability of the neighborhood? In the home sales arena, consider that your competition may be more than just the condominium community down the street. It could include mixed-use developments, HOA’s, and various other types of common-interest communities. The competition may also extend to nearby cities and towns. Armed with the information about the competition, you are now able to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. In marketing, you always want to highlight your best features while at the same time, work toward improving your areas of weakness.
Finding Your Identity- In evaluating the strengths of your community association, it is important to find the identity of your community. What are the distinctive characteristics that help define your community? It could be unique architectural design, sound financial practices with a healthy reserve fund, beautiful landscaping, location or a myriad of other qualities. Once identified, you can now use marketing techniques to promote your distinctive characteristics. Don’t discount the value of curb appeal when it comes to property values. Do your amenities need refurbishing? Are your buildings worn and dated? Are your color schemes modern? Making sure that the common areas of the community are well kept is one of the most important aspects of marketing. Does your community have a logo? While this may seem transparent, a logo helps identify with the community. If you are looking for a logo, find something that helps illustrate the positive aspects of the community.
The Marketing Plan– Your marketing plan should consist of at least four objectives. These will include: Internal Marketing; Advertising and Promotion; External Marketing; and Evaluation.
Internal Marketing- his is by far the easiest and least costly method to improve your community. The concept of “building community” is at the heart of internal marketing. Internal marketing means promoting the community to the current residents with the objective of increasing the desirability to live in the community. There are many aspects to the notion of Internal marketing. Here is a sampling:
- Effective communication to the co-owners and residents. This should include open meetings, a community web site, and regular newsletters.
- Fairness in making and enforcing rules. The goal is not to punish but to help people live together in harmony.
- Consistent architectural control with flexibility. Allow the proper balance of reliability with room for individual preferences.
- Flexibility in policies governing For Sale or Open House signs.
- Community activities. The list here is endless.
- Educating co-owners about the real estate market and how to enhance their property.
- Curb Appeal. Sprucing up the community, the buildings and the common areas can go a long way to improve the marketability of the community.
The goal here is obvious – to make the community a neighborhood that becomes a more desirable place to live, which in turn increases property values.
Advertising and Promotion- After the developing phase, there are very few community associations that consider advertising and promotion as well-spent funds. However, in depressed real estate markets, this can be a key to improving property values and sales. There are several methods that can be used:
- Community Website. This is by far the best place to advertise your community. Your web site should be professionally monitored and updated to keep it fresh. While some of the content should have restricted access to the co-owners, there should be a public area of the web site that allows potential buyers to see this as a great community. Some web sites even offer a place to post homes for sale.
- Sales Brochure. This can be simple or elaborate with the objective to create a positive image for the community. Pictures of the community amenities and activities are always a plus.
- Print advertising. There are many inexpensive publications that can help highlight your community. Many local newspapers have a special real estate section or a city directory.
- Sponsorship of Local Event. Schools, local festivals, allowing the 5K run to go through the community streets, boy/girl scouts, etc.
- Press Releases. Local newspapers are always looking for stories of local interest. Sending press releases about the community activities or accomplishments is a great way to get some positive press for free.
- Partnerships with Charities. The local United Way, Humane Society, etc. provide excellent opportunities for community-based philanthropy.
External Sales-The next step in the Marketing Plan is to become acquainted with the local realtors. A simple mailing to the realtors who focus on your area can improve the knowledge about the association and assist with sales. Most real estate agents will use whatever information they can find in order to promote their listings. By providing them with positive information about your community association, you will help raise awareness, confidence and ultimately, property values. If you are able to identify certain real estate agents that tend to sell more homes in your community, invite them to a board or annual meeting. Consider having a community open house event for all the homes that are currently on the market. Offer seminars to homeowners that teach them ways to improve the sale ability of their home – remodeling bathrooms, fresh paint, crisp, clean interiors, etc. Working with the realtors can lead to shorter days on the market, higher sales prices and a new resident base that is more informed.
Evaluation-The final step in the process is to evaluate the successes and areas that could be improved. Creation of a Marketing Committee is helpful in this regard. There needs to be an annual budget allocation devoted to marketing efforts. While there are some front-end costs associated with some of the ideas, the long term results of improving property values and sales can far exceed that expense. Marketing is an evolving concept and the community needs to evaluate the plan frequently. By creating a marketing philosophy in your community, every resident can prosper.
Published in Association Times: 2007