August 03, 2015

Developers, Agents Hope to Keep Buyers Sweet on Living Downtown

By Lisa Kelly Eason
– Commercial Appeal –

Several residential real estate developers and agents in the Mid-South are weathering the current housing slump with creative marketing.

Tracie Gaia of Garland Co. Real Estate said her company uses cross-marketing with other businesses and affiliated companies to establish a presence in the community and maintain direct contact with people interested in Downtown Memphis.

That includes hosting events in conjunction with the monthly South Main Trolley Tour and Memphis in May, as well as becoming partners with Downtown restaurants.

“We try to promote the lifestyle of the Downtown area and not just the building itself,” Gaia said. “Our presence at various events in the Downtown area is a branding of our name.”

Downtown property values are holding steady, Gaia said, but the slowdown in sales has led several developers and builders to offer such incentive options as rate buy-downs, new appliances, personalized paint colors and flat-panel televisions with wiring.

Downtown is one of the few local areas where home values have increased in the last year, according to the Memphis Area Association of Realtors.

Despite a 23.4 percent drop in sales for the period, Downtown Memphis had a 7.5 percent increase in median sales price and a 10.2 percent jump in average sales price.

Overall, Memphis-area home sales declined 19.4 percent in the first half of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007, while the median price dropped 14.3 percent.

Gary Thompson, vice president of Boyle Investment Co., said various promotional events, including monthly open houses and participation in the 2007 Vesta Home Show, help sales at the company’s Spring Creek Ranch development. Located on the Shelby-Fayette line in the Collierville Reserve area, Spring Creek Ranch is situated on 1,000 acres adjacent to the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course of the same name.

The neighborhood will eventually have about 500 homes ranging in price from $500,000 to $4 million.

The recent official opening of Spring Creek Ranch’s recreation center drew 400 to 600 people, including real estate agents and local politicians. The catered event included live entertainment and giveaways and preceded a neighborhood open house, all in an effort to get the word out about the community.

“We want to get the ball rolling and then hope it builds upon itself,” Thompson said. “We think if you build a great neighborhood, then make sure people hear about it, they’ll want to live there, and they’ll tell two more people and so on.”

Thompson said Boyle anticipated a decline in the local housing market a year ago and slowed home building but continued to develop and improve the neighborhood, including building the recreation center, which includes a pool and two lighted tennis courts.

“We just keep trying to cast a net,” he said. “We’re still having sales when other communities aren’t so fortunate.”

Adams Homes, which concentrates on homes in the $130,000-$250,000 range, hosted “Christmas in July” this summer at its five developments in Olive Branch and Southaven. Christmas trees were set up in model homes and buyers who signed a contract in July were able to unwrap a “Christmas gift,” which included rate buy-downs, gift cards, refrigerators and blinds.

Steve Morgan, general manager of Adams Homes, said DeSoto County’s housing market seems to be on an upswing after hitting “rock bottom” at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008. He said the evolving market and varying needs of home buyers mean incentives aren’t “one size fits all.”

“For buyers today there are so many challenges, so you try to do what you can to help them out,” Morgan said. “We try to offer a vast array of incentives and let people choose what’s right for them.”