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The Future of Real Estate Marketing #1July 12, 2017 | By Al Doyle

The Fine Art of Being Everywhere At Once

Back in the day, the tool most properties relied on was signage. A good sign would capture the eye and attention of anyone walking or driving by. If your phone number type was big enough to read from a car, you were golden. If your sign had a photo that flattered the listing agent, all the better.

Today, a good sign is still critical, and indulging the listing agent will never go out of fashion.

However, we no longer count on drive-bys. Our new home and commercial buyers usually start their searches in their pajamas and slippers, on-line, glued to a screen, large or small.

That means every marketing campaign has to be supported by a robust on-line presence. You start with a solid website that is easy to navigate and packed with information.

Double down on search engine optimizations with a campaign of paid search using the terms your prospects are most likely to use. Google can help with this. Generous of them, isn’t it?

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Turn Up the Heat!May 18, 2017 | By Al Doyle

As we do with all new home websites, we carefully monitored visitor patterns and comments for the first few weeks. The community of Summerwell is quite unusual, featuring sixteen $2+ million architect designed homes in Seattle’s Mercer Island suburb.  We quickly found a great way to increase both time spent, and pages viewed. The tricky tool we used was animated photos that draw attention to a couple of the homes’ appealing features. We often find this kind of visual disruption can be quite compelling when compared to static images. We added flickering flames to the cozy fireplace and running water to the stylish kitchen faucet.

Spend some time visiting  Summerwell.  We love the end result!

How can we help you heat up your web presence?

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How Homebuilders Can Rock The Boat, Without Sinking The ShipJanuary 31, 2017 | By Al Doyle

Lennar CEO Stuart Miller spends a dozen minutes sharing with fellow homebuilders his belief that “Success is the enemy of innovation” and explaining how he is managing change at one of American’s most successful homebuilding companies. He tells us, “You need to get to the future first,” meaning before your buyers and before your competitors. What are you doing today about tomorrow?

Watch the Video

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the market is strong, demand high and prices are rising. Our big complaint and constraint these days is getting and keeping a steady supply of skilled labor and reliable subs.  But this is the kind of thinking mire, Miller tells us, that prevents us from future-proofing a place in tomorrow’s market. His video is a twelve-minute view and just might change your future.

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"Shut The Front Door:" Surprises About Cross Cultural BuyersJanuary 17, 2017 | By Al Doyle

Cross Cultural buyers can be tricky. In a recent issue of Builder Magazine, correspondent Jennifer Goodman related how home buyers from other countries sometimes don’t shut the sales office front door when they enter, which can catch the sales personnel off guard. There’s a lot to think about when dealing with home shoppers from non-US cultures.

Open more doors. Close more sales.

It’s an article we highly recommend.  A recent website created by Fusion for Summerwell, an uber upscale neighborhood on Mercer Island includes a welcome page in Mandarin to welcome buyers from China. Here’s a link so you can check it out. Being as hospitable to this important buyer segment can be a tricky process, but well worth the effort. Our mantra has alway been “Good Manners is Good Business!

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Where Are The Women in New Home ConstructionJanuary 11, 2017 | By Al Doyle

We keep looking for more women in new home construction. Always suprised when this resource is overlooked..

“Widely reported is the fact that people skilled at various parts of the process, and management of residential construction are in short enough supply that both the cost predictability and the time-to-deliver homes add up to one of every home building enterprise’s No. 1 risks.”Builder Magazine On-Line, January 11, 2017

Whether financed by hard money, public money or private investors, the amount of time it takes to deliver a home drastically effects financial performance, and often even market share.  Yet in recent years in the Puget Sound market and nationwide a shortage of skilled trades and labor has hampered builder performance. If you have visited an active construction site recently, you may have noticed the

When will we add more women in new one construction.
When we need more workers why are we mover looking women?

lack of women in the trade,  Half of our potential workforce is missing from the action.

 

Perhaps some pressure should be put on our trade association lobbyists* and trade school admins to step up their game

*Where does the Master Builder Association of King and Snohomish Counties and the BIAW stand on recruiting and training?

 

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Fusionhappens, LLC & Vortex Mangers: A New Partnership to Better Serve the New Home and Destination IndustriesJanuary 6, 2017 | By Al Doyle

Synergy (Two are Greater Than One)

Synergy represents the magic when the combined effect of a combination is greater than the sum of their separate effects.

Fusion is what happens when differing elements come together to create something remarkable.

Synergy has always been one of Fusion’s favorite concepts. Over the past several months, the teams of Fusionhappens, LLC and Vortex Managers have had the opportunity to collaborate on several projects for shared clients. What both teams discovered were those moments of synergy when the combined talents of our two groups produced outstanding results.

The announcement was shared by Al Doyle, Partner, Fusionhappens, LLC and William V. May, President of Vortex Managers.

“Because of our past collaborations, it gives us the great pleasure to announce that the Fusionhappens, LLC, and Vortex Management teams will co-locate and begin collaboration at the Vortex offices on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.”

The Fusionhappens team is one of the West Coast’s most experienced and awarded new home marketing teams serving homebuilders and apartment developers. William May and his Vortex team bring years of experience as a top innovator in the fields of Vacation Rental Management and Destination Marketing. The added depth of talent, experience, skill and creativity of the joint teams will greatly benefit current and future clients of both firms.

Give us a ring; we can tell you so much more.

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2016 TRIBUTE AWARD WINNERSDecember 1, 2016 | By Steve Hardin

summerwell-koi_pond-bg3

Meet the Superstars of the New Home Industry!

We love the new home industry and the Tribute Award Winners who worked so hard to make it one of the best ever. As one of the founding members of the New Home Council, we have worked hard to make the competition meaningful for the 2016 Tribute Award Winners.  Here’s our toast to the hard working sales and marketing teams.

Fusion salutes all of you!

These professionals have been recognized for outstanding efforts, performance and team spirit in the fields of New Home sales, marketing and construction.

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Farm-To-Table: Is This The Land Planning Paradigm We've Been Waiting For?October 3, 2016 | By Al Doyle

cannerysign


the_cannery_hotel_near_farmIt’s refreshing to discover that I’m not the only one hooked on the idea of a Farm-to-Table Community. A few weeks ago, I noted The Culinary Cottages on the Baja Peninsula won a 2016 Gold Nugget Award, and today I want to tell you about The New Home Company’s community The Cannery in Northern California.

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A NEW HOME WITH HARVESTING RIGHTS WINS GOLD NUGGETJune 28, 2016 | By Al Doyle

2016 Gold Nugget Award winner. A luxury cottage as part of a working farm.

Today, I was reviewing the winners of the 2016 Gold Nugget Awards, from the Pacific Coast Builders Conference. I knew something quite different was up when the tab on a homebuilders website reads “Harvesting Privileges.” So, of course, I clicked the tab and what I found was the 2016 PCBC Gold Nugget Award Winning single family home “The Culinary Cottages”. The website informed me that “Culinary Cottage owners enjoy perpetual rights to harvest for their consumption, from all Flora Farm fields.

Right there, I knew that this community is opening a new chapter in the development book. While the Culinary Cottages are on Baja peninsula in Mexico, it is very easy to picture this style of community in South King County or East Snohomish County—both areas where we need to protect our open space AND accommodate the relentless growth in the Puget Sound region.

Mixing new home development with working agriculture is not a new idea; it’s just one that has been a little ahead of its time. Currently, there are some very smart people working on this concept in Western Washington. I invite anyone interested in this approach to contact me and I’ll make introductions. This approach to development can create vibrant, involved and sustainable communities while at the same time protect valuable farming resources. We have a who new generation of makers and growers coming along who can work these lands and provide healthy, local and organic produce for neighbors and our region.

Picture the interesting backdrop of fields becoming lush gardens with a rich harvest, and this is the view you enjoy from your home and yard.

In the meantime, If you want to see the rest of the line up of 2016 Gold Nugget Award Winners, click here.

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FUSION TEAM LAUNCHES FOUNDRY— WEBSITE CREATION FOR HOMEBUILDERSMay 11, 2016 | By Al Doyle

NO MORE EXCLegacy_Mockup_E-Blast_HeaderUSES! IT’S TIME TO UPGRADE YOUR WEB PRESENCE.
According to the National Association of Realtors®, over 94% of millennials, and 84% of baby boomers first shop for their
new homes on the Internet.

Clearly, this points to the need for homebuilders to have a high-performing website is more important now than ever. That is why Today, Fusion is introducing Foundry, a brand new tool to create world class homebuilder websites at extremely reasonable price levels.

FOUNDRY has refined a proven User Interface Design (UXD) designed to enable a homebuilder, small or large, to show off their homes and communities at their best. The FOUNDRY system helps any homebuilder, large or small, have a robust, easily updated and responsive website quickly and affordably.

FOUNDRY gives builders and their marketing/sales teams the tools they need to manage and update their on-line image.

Our goal is to get both the cost and the learning curve into the range manageable by nearly any size builder.

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THE WHO, WHAT, WHEN AND WHERE OF THOSE PESKY GEN “wh”YsMarch 7, 2016 | By Al Doyle

It’s kind of fun when a Portland commercial developer opens our eyes to insights into the new home market. Portland’s Vanessa Sturgeon, President of TMC Development, shared some of her thoughts in today’s Portland Business Journal.

It’s particularly fun for me, as I have been spreading this message for the last ten years… at least.

The core message is “pay attention to the Millennial Generation – Gen Y – these are going to be your primary buyers for many, many years to come.”

Vanessa Sturgeon points out that many Gen Y’s are renting now… not because they are “slackers” but because they are planners and getting ready for a home purchase in the future. Many are not buying now because the home building industry is giving them “their parents’ homes” from which to choose. Many Gen Y’s are active in the new home market now. They are in their 30s, planning families and hitting their threshold career paths.

My personal observation is that many more Gen Y’s would be in the new home market right now if builders and developers paid as much attention to them as they do to their more familiar Gen X parents and Boomer grandparents.

Folks, this is one whopping large market we aren’t paying a lick of attention to. Gen Y’s outnumber the Boomers, and they are just at the up-curve of their peak earning and baby making years. Let’s show these GenY’s some LOVE!

Here are three simple steps builders and their marketers can do:

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The MPC! It’s Back – and Better Than EverFebruary 22, 2016 | By Al Doyle

Recently IDEAS magazine, published by the National Association of Home Builders, featured an article on the return of the Master Planned Community. Here’s a link. 

I got excited reading about the possibilities. While Western Washington has not seen the kind of MPC development Southern California has, often the results here have been very encouraging. Back in 2002 and 2003, when my Fusion team helped introduce Issaquah Highlands Phase Two, the results were nothing short of spectacular.

SpeedDating_2

With a team of great home builders and an inspired developer, home sales hit nearly 600 in one year. This one community sales volume is unheard of in this market! A key strategy for that kind of volume was intentional market segmentation. A liveable Master Planned Community can appeal to a wider variety of buyers by offering a more varied line-up of new home designs, plus many more shared amenities, such as parks, trails, shopping and work opportunities.

When segmentation is deliberate, it keeps the builders from cannibalizing each other and greatly encourages product innovation.

The new High Park and Spring Mountain communities, both in Southern California are marketing to a wide variety of home buyers. The builders are encouraged to create homes that meet emerging trends.

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Brothers and SistersJanuary 27, 2016 | By Al Doyle

Around 2006, I as was judging the SoCal Awards and was struck by some new product created by The New Home Company. The New Home Company was truly “new” at the time, as a collaboration of talent from a recession-beaten, long-time SoCal builder came together under a new banner. 

What I loved about their product was the way they were always innovating to reach out to new markets. Southern California always has attracted immigrants from all over the world, so it was not unusual for the local builders to design homes with cultural sensitivities at the forefront. My favorite neighborhood featured a variety of living options for close-knit and extended families.

At the more simple side was a small “apartment”, with living room, bath, and small kitchen. This suite has a private entrance as well as a connection to the larger home. The target market was “older parents” who wanted to live close to family members or returning young adults who were slow to launch.

The next step up from this initial level of multi-gen living is the separate “cottage” or “carriage house” with similar amenities. The detached buildings kept families close and connected, but with a little more privacy since they are not under the “same roof”.

My favorite on the tour of New Home Company product were two adjacent homes, both expansive, elegant (about $1 Million + each) and had graceful transitions to very usable outdoor living areas. These outdoor living areas were also the connection from one home to the next. The target for these homes were siblings raising families or parents and their adult kids who each wanted a separate family home but love the idea of being close.

Now The New Home Company is marketing entire neighborhoods with a full range of options. It’s worth checking out. Click here.

Now, ten years later we see a similar philosophy marketed in the Northwest by Lennar Homes. They have introduced their “Next Gen” home incorporating many of the ideas made successful by The New Home Company.  The encouraging thing about the Lennar approach is they do not build high-end in the Seattle market, so these extended generation homes are pretty affordable.  Read about it here. These innovations are important as our society changes. As parents age. As immigrants wanting family unity come into our market. And as sometimes older adults would like to have someone else with whom to share the homeowner expenses.

What innovations have you seen lately in the new home industry?

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Bubble Trouble? Or Inflate Gate?January 15, 2016 | By Al Doyle

Those of us in the New Home industry who survived (or didn’t) the housing crash of 2007 remain a bit testy on the subject of “housing bubbles”. A “bubble” is an over inflated market characterized by the specter of an imminent burst. In fact, if there is not impending burst, there can be no bubble.

What has some people on edge in the Seattle market these days is the “hot” residential market. Both for-sale and for-rent markets are doing very well and some people think, “What goes up, must come down”. Another factor blowing up the bubble theory is that some nervous Nellies in the media are fanning those flames—i.e. The Seattle Times’ Jon Talton, December 1, 2015, “Are We Headed for a Housing Bubble?”, and Zillow on December 9 declaring in a “The “Sky is Falling” tone: “Experts Think the Housing Bubble is Back”.

Headlines and articles like this are titillating, but pretty useless. Let’s look at the underlying factors of the Seattle market that might explain rising house prices. First of all, our local economy is strong, and the pricing of homes is driven by market-based competition resulting from job growth. More people are moving into Seattle for high-paying jobs. The people want a decent place to live. For a long time, Seattle homes were undervalued, due to the effects of the 2007 bust. Seattle has regained most of the post-2007 losses, and as housing prices go, we may be far more expensive than Waco, Texas, but we are still almost a third below San Francisco and other markets with high-tech workforces.

Second, the lenders are acting quite sane. In the early 2000s, lenders ran amuck with sloppy, sometimes crooked, and, nearly always, too lax lending requirements. They were getting away with it by bundling good loans with bad loans and selling them off to suckers: investors like you, me, and the neighborhood banks. People who have no business buying homes were getting huge loans and driving prices up artificially. Yeah, that really sucked!

Third, the Feds seem to be keeping a better eye on the economy and seem to want sincerely to keep us all out of another mess. The recent tiny hike in the Fed rate ticked up home loan rates. (They made their move on the day we applied for our mortgage, thank you Fed!). As home loan interest rates slowly tick up, home prices stay steadier.

Fourth, is the factor of supply and demand. There is not enough supply in new homes or resale homes in the Northwest to fuel a huge and widespread pricing boom. The diminished inventory will also shield against a rapid drop.

But, with all due respect to these market factors, let’s keep a close eye on housing. Over the years, the housing market in the Northwest has proven that almost anything can happen, and when it happens, it happens quickly.   

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The Philosophy of NamingNovember 5, 2015 | By Al Doyle

WHO BROUGHT THEIR MAGIC NAMING WAND TO THE MEETING?

There are those communities or buildings that just seem to name themselves. Often there is a landscape feature, a historic element or obvious cue that comes from the site. (Spend some time on the land. Let it speak to you!) Those are happy days. There are other communities where it is not so easy to come up with the right name and brand.

Recently we went ‘round and ‘round on a naming because I was pretty sure we had too many good choices, and we had team members vested in their take on the matter. On top of it, this is a very serious group, who cares deeply about what they are about to create.  They are folks who certainly don’t want to screw it up.

If you get involved in naming, you know the feeling. Over the years, the Fusion team has had the honor of helping clients name hundred of communities, buildings, and companies. This process has taught us a lot, as thought we’d summarize some of the key guidelines that can help you navigate the naming process.

And if you get stuck, it’s ok to give us a call.

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How to Make a Winning First ImpressionNovember 2, 2015 | By Al Doyle

Tribute2015Winners
The Fusion crew holding up the hardware, joined, in white, by the wonderful Cynthia Higgins, interior designer of the winning Oyhuy Bay model home and merchandiser for the winning Oyhut Bay Welcome Center.

WINNERS: 2015 TRIBUTE AWARDS: “BEST SALES OFFICE.”

The Fusion team creates marketing magic for real estate. Our team of branders, designers and strategists knows what it takes to tell the story of a community, a home or an apartment. And we tell that story in a way that makes your prospect fall in love with what you’ve created

Recently our team helped with the successful launch of Oyhut Bay in Ocean Shores from focus groups to a finished product.  A launch recently recognized by four 2015 Tribute Awards in the following categories: Exceptional Sales Center
Oyhut Bay Corporation, Cynthia Higgins Design, Matrix Real Estate & Fusionhappens, LLC

Marketing Leader – Regional
Al Doyle, Fusionhappens, LLC & Kim Sharpe Jones, Matrix Real Estate

Exceptional Floor Plan up to 2,399 sq. ft.
Oyhut Bay Corporation & Nash & Associates, Mike Johnson, Architect

Exceptional Model Home under 2,000 sq. ft.
Oyhut Bay Corporation & Cynthia Higgins Interior Design, Mike Johnson, Architect, Fusionhappens, concept and exhibit design and content, Waypoint Signs, exhibit construction.

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Adaptive Reuse Meets the LocavoreSeptember 2, 2015 | By Al Doyle

Red on Salmon is a Portland, Oregon adaptive reuse intended to streamline the start-up of farm-to-table food manufacturers
Red on Salmon is a Portland, Oregon adaptive reuse intended to streamline the start-up of farm-to-table food manufacturers

It’s great to see progress that also recognizes history. Portland, Oregon’s Ecotrust is responding to the farm-to-table trend by creating a space where food related business can start and grow. The Redd on Salmon Street is a new two-block campus at the center of Portland designed to encourage young food businesses. It puts them close to both the regions agriculture and the transportation networks. By putting the infrastructure in place, and sharing it across multiple users, the “start-up” concept for a small farmer or food manufacturer becomes much more feasible. Maybe something like this can happen in Seattle, Everett or Bellingham? I’d love to hear your reactions. Read the whole story on their website. http://www.ecotrust.org/project/the-redd-on-salmon-street/

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Could Bellingham Become the New Ballard?August 28, 2015 | By Al Doyle

Free lending library in Bellingham, Washington’s Lettered Streets neighborhood.

Shocking! That’s the consensus of house prices in the prime area of Ballard these days. Actual thinking there would every be a “prime” area in Ballard was beyond my conception when I was growing up there in the mid- 1960s. After 30 or 40 years of steady decline, Ballard hit bottom in the 1980s and bounced back up with a vengeance. As part of Seattle’s urban village growth plan, Ballard has benefitted from streamlined entitlements and early investments spurring both commercial and residential growth. Of course, the “growth” in residential is almost 100% multi-family, including a number of super-dense projects lining Market Street and along NW 15th that seem styled after Soviet-era “Kommunalka” communal apartments. (Insert smiley face here).

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Monumental MistepAugust 27, 2015 | By Al Doyle

WHAT NOT TO MONUMENT!

lightfarms

“Light Farms” is one of our favorite executions of a ‘sense of arrival’ noted on an awards judging trip to  California.

I was driving through my Bainbridge Island community the other day and took a familiar turn to go past a new small subdivision about mid-Island. This development is one I have been watching with great interest as it looked like the land plan and home plans are quite compatible with their surroundings. Then as I rounded the corner, there it was… a brand new ENTRY MONUMENT rivaling any you might see adorning a Mill Creek, Auburn or Tumwater subdivision/ It was imposing, all logo’d up…. and oh, so OUT OF PLACE!

M

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The Sky is Falling..The Sky is Falling...August 5, 2015 | By Al Doyle

Today’s Seattle Times featured a story by reporter Nina Shapiro on the effects of Amazon on its hometown. Wow… it was like Chicken Little crying the “sky is falling….” Lot’s of talk about traffic congestion and soaring home prices. Horrible, horrible news…. Or was it?

In 2006 Fusion created and produced the Green Living Expo for the City of Seattle at the redeveloped High Pointe neighborhood in West Seattle.

As someone who’s actively looking for a new home inside the city of Seattle, I can relate to how hard it is going to be to pay more and get less. But, I could be looking in Snohomish…. or Bellingham.

Why are we looking in Seattle?
Because it’s a very liveable city, and because employers like Amazon, Seattle are attracting new jobs and new dollars. Those dollars are going to keep this city moving forward in terms of an already highly livable community with parks, services and maybe someday, event decent mass transit.

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Bruce Woodstrom Named New Home Council 'Legend' at Tribute AwardsNovember 8, 2012 | By Al Doyle

On Thursday, November 1, 2012 Bruce Woodstrom, co-founder of Fusionhappens, LLC was inducted, in front of a large crowd of his peers at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center, as a “Legend” by the members of The New Home Council.

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Bait and Switch?September 25, 2012 | By Al Doyle

For several months on our near daily walks, Dorothy and I pass this sign. Since I am a big fan of anything that expands the availability of new homes to those who need some help, I was excited to see what looked like a great deal of care in the architecture and land plan for this new work-force housing community. Looks pretty cool doesn’t it? I’ll bet that’s what the City of Bainbridge Island planners thought too when they approved the project. Ferncliff Village is now well underway with homes in all stage of completion. And the prices? The Ferncliff Village website peg prices at $148,000 to $220,000 for income qualified buyers. This is admirable!

Today walking by, I snapped a couple more photos. For week’s I’ve been concerned that the promise and the reality of this project just didn’t seem to be in synch. You take a look and make up you own mind.

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Who Dunnit?May 19, 2012 | By Al Doyle

I’m moving. Getting prepared is kind of a pain. Packing means digging through some family history. Last night I took a trip down memory lane. Memory lane is a place where I advise one to be very cautious. It’s fraught with detours and lots of baggage you thought you’d rid yourself of years ago.

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There is Now Scientific Proof that Urban Village Life Makes People Happier, Healthier and WealthierApril 17, 2012 | By Al Doyle

“The Orenco Station study is probably the first to show, in an academic study, such a big difference in social activity between a new urban community and a comparable suburban development. Also, it is the first to show such high rates of walking to stores.”New Urban News, September 2009

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One More Reason To Buy A HomeSeptember 17, 2010 | By Al Doyle

A lot of my friends have been shooting around a link to a recent Wall Street Journal article “Ten Reason To Buy A Home”. On that discussion I’d like to turn the volume up to Eleven!

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Who Are the Ones who Go Above and Beyond?August 30, 2010 | By Al Doyle

Several years ago I was shopping for a new home and happened onto an open house that caught me eye. There I met an agent with whom I would have a relationship for at least two decades so far. I have bought from her. Sold with her. And referred her to numerous friends. I learned there is real value brought to the table by a highly motivated, well-schooled real estate agent. Today, I am in contact with dozens of top quality agents who are dedicated to one homebuilder or one community. This group of New Home Professionals has earned my highest respect based on their knowledge of product and process as well as their unwavering commitment to making sure that the home buyer is well represented in the transaction.

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What is the Best Time to Buy A New Home?August 1, 2010 | By Al Doyle

I bought my first home at age 18. I needed to get the loan co-signed, most of my friends laughed at me, but this was without a doubt one of the best moves of my life. Today, some 40+ years later, I’m renting for the first time in my life, and thinking a lot about when is the best time to buy a new home. Every morning there is a new blog, a news story or an office conversation that speculates about the future of the housing industry. Each expert attempts to top the next with stories varying in nature from The Apocalypse to Pollyanna. Most of these pundits are focusing on the wrong point — the investment aspect of a new home. Not until the early 2000s did investment become a major driver in home ownership. It was a given that over time, owning a home would benefit a family nest egg, but new homes were not get-rich-quick schemes. Today is no different.

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The Get Rich Quick GeneJuly 1, 2010 | By Al Doyle

“Get Rich Quick.” It’s a topic that sells books, videos, lectures and seminars. I guess the people to teach us how to get rich quick are actually the ones who do get rich off us. Recently a favorite cocktail party conversation has centered around making a killing by buying a foreclosed or short-sale home. In theory it sounds tempting, but in reality, the prospects of profiting from the misery of others is something best left o the IRS. In the Puget Sound market and around the country the inventory of foreclosure and short-sale homes is large and has influenced the entire housing market, new and used, by lowering prices to right around the 2005 levels. Let’s take a look at what it means to take a swim in this pool of distressed housing. First of all some terms. A foreclosed property is one that a lender has taken back through a legal process and now holds title to and need to sell to recover their losses. A short-sale is an offer made to a seller for an amount less (or short) that what is owed to the lender, and therefore the lender has to approve the sale. It is generally thought that because of the distressed position of the lender, foreclosed or short-sale homes should be great deals. In reality this is far from the truth.

The truth is shopping for a foreclosure or a short-sale property is not pretty! There are a few things you might want to consider before you start your search.

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Confessions of an Old Home Junkie and What Cured MeAs published in The Seattle Times / New Homes Saturday
June 1, 2010 | By Al Doyle

I woke up one morning realizing I was an old home junkie. You know the type. We feel the irresistible pull as we drive through the neighborhoods around Puget Sound. Old homes seem to jump out and call our name, offering up the plea: “fix me, save me”! It’s all very seductive and I fell for them all. The bungalows, cottages, Craftsman, Victorian. Tudor and even one very appealing mid-Century modern (or Brick Ick a my friends named it). Over the years I’ve bought and sold a few, so I know what it feels like, both the good and the bad. Old homes had me hooked. I loved the idea of preserving history. I adored the ornate trim and the solid woods. I bought the books, the magazines and wore my leather tool belt with great flair. Then recently I realized that old homes had become a very expensive habit and one of the biggest costs was to my lifestyle and comfort. No matter what I did to an old house, or how much money I poured into it, the results were still and old home.

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Master Builders Party Like it's Two Thousand FiveApril 23, 2010 | By Al Doyle

I just received a glossy, full color 44-page “President’s Report” from the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.  I wonder if these guys have gotten the memo.  Their members are hurting.  The New Home Industry is under siege!  I’m more optimistic than the next guy about good things lying ahead, but right now, I have to wonder why I’m paying these guys big dues so the “President” can report in the most old-skool of ways.  Here’s a suggestion:  try the Internet for Sam’s sake!  Email your report.  Post on the Association website.  Put it on Sam’s Facebook page.  Anything but print and mail a 44-page slick report that actually does little to address the core issues that face our industry.  And  if any MBA’ers are thinking I’m being a little harsh?  Be damn glad I didn’t choose to pick on the wretched, self-serving excess of that thick hard cover you published this year for the 100th Anniversary.  Can I find anything GOOD to say about the Pres’s report? The orange on the back cover is pretty nifty!

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Facebook is Not FreeApril 15, 2010 | By Al Doyle

“Facebook is Free.” So is Twitter, your Blog and those incessant email blasts we send and receive. That “Free” thing is quite far from the truth, actually! Access to these services may be at no-charge, but using them correctly and effectively is far from free.

That is a good thing.

The typical consumer does not value FREE. We are attracted to free. We are enticed and tempted by free. For years consumer research has shown that the average consumer cares more about products and services they have to pay for than those they don’t invest in.So the fact that “Facebook” has a cost is a good thing.

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Your 2nd Chance to Score a 1st Time Buyer Tax CreditNovember 5, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Hot off the presses: the Senate offered final approval last night, the House of Representatives chimed in this afternoon. Legislation passed containing an extension and expansion of the homebuyer tax credit. President Obama should sign by tomorrow (November 6).

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The Hidden Motivator Behind Most Luxury SalesSeptember 2, 2009 | By Al Doyle

A theory…

Embedded in human nature is the need for approval.

People are often motivated by the deep-seated pyschologic need to be liked and respected.We are conscious of our place in the social order of family, work and the world at large. This hidden motivator often deeply drives our behaviors. What kind of car we drive makes a statement about our values.We dress so others will think well of us.Our manners, our speech patterns are often easily seen as attempts to gain the favor of others. With me so far?

I have often believed that one of man’s greatest drivers is his mother-in-law.

This became clear when I tried to understand the motives leading to the purchase of a luxury home.

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Is it Time to Push Your Reset Button?July 2, 2009 | By Al Doyle

We may be living in one of the greatest eras of opportunity in recent history. It may look grim right now, and we have fond memories of the early 2000s, when sometimes all it took to win was just to show up. But the good news is the current economy presents an opportunity to rethink and reinvent our industry.

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Builder Magazine Weighs In On Nation's Top Housing MarketsJune 19, 2009 | By Al Doyle

As this year’s PCBC conference wound down and the the winners headed home clutching their hard -earned Gold Nugget awards, Builder Magazine went live with a review of the nation’s top 15 new home markets.  It’s a real eye-opener.  They also amuse (or depress) us with their review of the 15 top losers.  It was very interesting to see where markets like Seattle and Washington D.C. fell.  I guess the democrats are good for biz if you consider a growing number of government workers all need a new place to live.  Read it here.

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Going For The Gold!May 13, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Come June 18th, the tension in the air in the San Francisco Convention Center will be palpable as the finalists and industry leaders await final word on who will take away this year’s Gold Nugget awards in various categories.The Gold Nugget Awards, established in 1963 and for a long time known as “Best in the West,” have gone international and are now considered by some to be the most prestigious award for architecture and building.In acknowledgement of the growing ties between the U.S. and its neighbors who also touch the Pacific Ocean, the competition now includes major Pacific Rim participants such as Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Singapore and Thailand.

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Facebook and the Art of New Home SalesMay 5, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Social Media in the Workplace

One of the perennial questions for large companies these days is what to do with the emerging Social Media phenomenon.With the advent of Web 2.0, larger IT departments have placed some very strict limitations on the access their employees have to outside Internet sites.Being strong proponent of hiring adults, and then treating them like adults, puts me immediately at odds with that Old Skool line of thinking.(Of course, I disclaim: I have never had to manage an organization that numbered in the many hundreds, if not thousands.)

With that said, let’s get specific.

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Toast the FutureMay 4, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Over the generations, just how much of our body of useful knowledge was traded at the neighborhood pub or bar? One of our Fusionhappens, Bruce Woodstrom, was catching up with long time pals, Susan and Al Sipe. Bruce has this thing for the Zig Zag, a quiet and venerated bar between Seattle’s Pike Place Market and the waterfront. Also home to Murray, Seattle’s favorite bartender. Recently, Susan has been asking a lot of questions about Social Marketing. She’s responsible for marketing many hundreds of new condos in premier buildings represented by Williams Marketing, a regional legend in condo sales. Midway through their second round of cocktails (Murray’s Old Fashions are seductively good), Bruce noticed a group in the next booth. Mixed ages, mixed genders, mixed ethnicities. A perfect sampling of the metropolitan condo audience. Here they were, face-to-face, and each member in the chatty group was also riveted to their iPhone or Blackberry. “Those are your buyers, Susan,” noted Bruce, “and look how they’re connecting.”

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What’s Your Mental Age?April 28, 2009 | By Al Doyle

The real estate marketing world is changing at a fiber-optic space. The newest uses of technology invented yesterday are spreading like a viral video of Susan Boyle.

New business models are being designed around Twitter, which itself is only a little over two years old. (I blogged earlier this week on “what” Twitter is.) Ponder for a moment these life questions: Are you ready to change everything? Are you mentally and emotionally agile enough to plunge into the Internet age with wild abandon?

If you’re in your 40s, 50s or 60s do you sometimes question your place in the Internet era of marketing and selling new homes?

To find the answer we had to find America’s oldest realtor.

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Twitter is the New "WHAT?"April 21, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Most of us love metaphors. They are a tool to help us understand our world better by linking new and complex ideas to something much more familiar to us. When Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh computer in 1984, his team deftly built the interface around our very familiar desktop, complete with file folders, documents, adding machine keypads and more. It was an idea his team borrowed from the Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center. Now there’s Twitter, still in its infancy and now, according to A.C. Neilson, 7-million users strong, up 1,300% from last February. Twitter is a very limited form of communication, allowing a blog-style message that maxes out at 140 characters. Some “tweets” are as mundane as “Had a great meeting today with al_doyle. Follow him and learn good marketing” to “KOGI is at NB 5 Fwy at Whittier Bl First 10 peeps get free Echo Park Blackened Quesadilla”. The first “tweet” was obviously from someone who was trying to butter me up, the second “tweet” from KOGI Barbecue, a Los Angeles based Korean Fusion Taco Truck that tweets its location and specials each day and has gained a huge following relying on only Twitter as their marketing medium. How is one supposed to describe or relate to a new medium like Twitter? Short messages displayed for an entire community? My brilliant friend, Kris Hoots, nailed it last week.

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What Do You Do With A Live One?April 14, 2009 | By Al Doyle

I have had my worst fears confirmed. There truly is a missing link in the evolution of new home sales.At least in the Seattle market.For my out of town readers, I’m checking up on you as you read this, so don’t get too smug…yet.

New homebuilders spend tens of thousands of dollars on websites, and even more on media ads and internet campaigns in search of those increasingly elusive buyers. One of my worst fears as a provider of marketing advice and services was the thought of how many buyers get lost through the cracks of a well planned marketing campaign? A few weeks ago, I realized I was in the market for new home. After 19 years on Bainbridge Island, it was time to make the move back to the city, perhaps downsize, find a cool neighborhood, explore the options of condo convenience or single-family privacy.Here was my chance to do some first hand research.I had everything a “live one” needed: motivation, a price range, a timeline and questions.Here we go, I thought. I’ll use this opportunity to see who is doing the most outstanding job of following up on leads.

To even the playing field, I established some rules.I would look in the Seattle Times New Homes Saturday two times. First on March 22, and then two weeks later on April 5.I chose the Times because it was the most expensive place a new homebuilder can go to generate live ones…leads that is.We’re talking about ads that cost from about $1,500 to well over $6,500 for single run. That’s how important new leads are.Second rule, I would only respond via the builder or building’s website.I would completely fill out the form, answer all questions, and only initiate the test if the project fit my price range and other criteria.I would then proceed to answer questions, etc. as the bubbly sales agent followed up on this live one.So, on week one, eager to meet some exciting new people and see some wonderful new product I began my quest.I had some great places to choose from and even knew quite a bit about many of them.Here’s who I signed up for more information with:Caymus Townhomes, Veridian Cove, Cooper Creek (Centex), Berrywood (Quadrant), Element, Trace Lofts, Bellevue Tower, Ruby, San Juan Passage, Front 9, Verdeaux, Canal Station, Brix, diModa and Centerra.I would have signed up for a cool project in Columbia City, a neighborhood I love, but the listing agent only offered his phone number, not even an email.I guessed he didn’t want me to call him after midnight, the dope!Two weekends later I added The BelBoy, 5th and Madison, Polygon at The Point, One Main Street, The Vue, The Parc and Olive 8.If you or your client are represented above, you might want to stop reading right here.

The scorecard:

Eric Jones of Centex.You’re my hero.Centex sent an auto-responder and Eric followed up with several polite emails and phone calls, engaging me in conversation about my needs. The agent for San Juan Passage sent an excellent personal response within hours after my inquiry. Sean from Ruby followed up with an email wanting to know more about what I was looking for.OK, that’s three out of twenty five! The rest of you?Pretty much missing in action.

Williams Marketing rocks in the auto-responder department, every project I inquired about netted me a quick robot reply. One auto-responder even promised me a 24-hour personal follow-up. That was March 26… I’m still waiting. I got few other auto-responder messages, and on more than half—thirteen out of twenty-five—of my inquiries, I received absolutely no acknowledgment or follow-up.

The lessons learned?Before we spend a builders’ hard-earned money on ads, search and outreach, all of us have to sharpen up how our sales teams get the resulting leads and think long and hard about effective follow-up and lead tracking systems.Each lead, in these current market conditions, is costing builders and developers in the high hundreds or even thousands of dollars each.The least we can do, from the marketing and sales side, is make sure someone invests in at the minimum a phone call and a personal email.

If anyone mentioned above has some lame excuses to offer or would like to bust my chops, that’s what the comment box below is for.

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Less Square Feet, More ImaginationApril 13, 2009 | By Al Doyle

April 14, 2009. We love optimism, based on realism. Today we’re in discussions with a group who believes in doing the right thing and doing things right. The focus is the buyer most home builders love to ignore. We believe there is a “sweet spot” in the market, and that is as well designed, green home priced for the first time buyers. Not just a bared-boned box or stripped down stock plan. The mantra for this new product needs to be “Less Square Feet, More Imagination. We’ll keep you posted.  (Yes, I know it should read “fewer square feet”.  Humor me while I parody David Miles.)

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Beware of TechnogeeksApril 9, 2009 | By Al Doyle

The Social Media discussions are heating up around the new home industry as our home and community building friends continue to look for more efficient ways to reach their customers. What worries us most are the possibilities of a misstep or two with do-it-yourself approaches or non-housing techno-geeks trying to speak the nuanced language of the home shopping experience. We know we are going to have to share what we’re learning with as many people as possible.

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Do The Boomer Builders Know What Their Kids Want?April 9, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Experts say that Millennials “are unlike any other youths in living memory: More numerous, more affluent, better educated and more ethnically diverse than those who came before.” Those words came from William Strauss and Neil Howe, social scientists who coined the term “millennial” in their book Millennials and the Pop Culture (LifeCourse Associates, March ’06).

I took this quote directly from a blog post by Kelly Noble, Campbell Homes in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  She’s a lot closer in age to the Millennial Generation, which, by the way is nearly 20 million people larger than the Baby Boom generation.  If you’re designing, building, marketing or selling new homes, listen to this generation as if your future depends on it.  I’ll add my 2¢ on the subject over the coming year, but let’s get the discussion fired up right now.

What do the millennials want from life, from love, and from NEW HOMES?

Read what Kelly has to say….then please add your voice to this discussion.

PS:  Kelly’s Facebook presence for Campbell Homes rocks. Great broker relations tool! Check it out.

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Is Big Better? Today There’s a New #1!April 8, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Below are links of some of the best articles on this news:

Bloomberg

Chicago Tribune

PR Newswire

Number Four ranked Pulte just pulled off a stock swap netting for itself #3 ranked Centex to become the new #1, overtaking long-time leader D. R. Horton who slipped to the new #2.Last year, Pulte and Centex combined closed 39,000 sales.To put it in perspective, that’s 150 homes per business day in the worst housing market since 1930!

What are we to think?At first blush, Wall Street Journal reported that the stock market smiled on the other large national public builders—Beazer, Lennar and Hovnanian shot up in midday trading, while Moody’s pondered a credit downgrade on the new entity.  Centex was the Old Skool queen.Cheap. Efficient. And unimaginative.Pulte was the steady Eddie who also lucked out by a big presence in Texas and the Carolinas, where the housing dive hasn’t been quite as bad.

What I’m waiting for is the Apple of the home building industry to make its appearance and take us into New Homes 3.0. We need a design and innovation revolution to create new products for a new generation.We need to see homes that are way greener than the current green-wash approach used so much. We need homes close to public transportation.We need the Del Webb (Pulte owned) for the new generation.

I have two young adults in my family who are within a few years of their first home purchase.Who is listening to this generation?They will trade square feet to live near friends…to be less dependent on cars. And they will trade mom and dad’s oversized suburban box for coolness.

If this innovation comes from the new #1, I will be both shocked and thrilled.But believe me, I’m not holding my breath.

Who do you know out there who are building a new, exciting and appropriately priced products for the Millennial generation?

And who’s building smarter and greener? We need to get the word out and keep the heat on the big boyz.Leave your comments or rants in the handy space below.

Right now I’m thinking small is the new big.

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The Google TaxMarch 20, 2009 | By Al Doyle

The FREE Internet!  Like FREE Tibet, it’s been a battle cry as well as the subject of a decade of discussion as competing forces promote the polar opposite concepts of a global free and open exchange of information vs. how to monetize the web.

As dazzled as any of us have been by the immense power of Google and its core service — search — we are about to pay an ever increasing price.

I call it the Google Tax.

If your business has become dependent on being found on the Internet, paid search (PPC/Adwords) have become the price of admission.   However, paid search is not an area where you can expect dramatic increases in results.  In fact, you end up in a pool with all your direct competitors bidding up the price of a known set of key search words.  Your search terms, once refined, can only be tweaked at best.  Your PPC prices will only go up, thanks to you and your top five competitors.  Welcome to being at the mercy of Google’s (and others’) pricing structure.  They have no incentive to help you spend less.

I say all this to lead into a discussion of The Social Media channels which we are finding can provide dramatic increases in overall exposure and efficiency of your organic search.  There is equity value in organic search as it does not shut itself off and go away like a PPC campaign does when your daily budget is reached!

In addition, the Social Media channels offer you two-way brand discussions, the ability to form relationships, as well as have third parties speak on your behalf.

Right now my partners are I are on a mission.  We want to give all our Google using friends a TAX CUT and a path to search results that are dramatic, not just incremental.

What has been your experience in the Social Media space?  We’d love to hear from you, so leave us a comment.

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Twitter Updates for 2009-03-19March 19, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Twitter Updates for 2009-03-16March 16, 2009 | By Al Doyle

St Patty's WeekMarch 15, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Enjoyed a pint at the Owl and Thistle (pre St. Patty’s Day) with our Fusionhappens’ friend Teresa Kenney. She’s one of the sharpest journalists in the market and a frequent collaborator.  We agreed that there is a swell of activity in the Social Media arena that can be good communications channel for saavy new home markets.  We are also amazed by some of the people from our pasts who have found each of us on Facebook.

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In The Market for a New Dog?March 13, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Bruce, Diana, Carleigh and I are in another session today with another of our Social Media team members. We love these brainstorming sessions as Fusionhappens continues to focus our attention on turning the Social Media and online social networking phenomenon into leads and sales for our friends who sell new homes.  We have to put out a word of caution.  Social Media does not mean simply adding a Facebook page.  The real poetry (and sensational results) come from true integrations of your entire use of the Internet across all available channels.

Integration of Internet efforts, including your natural search, pay-per-click, social media sites and blogging —if you’re brave enough— work together to increase tangible and measurable results.  What is is worth to boost traffic to your main web site?  How much can you reduce your pay-per-click costs by integrating the social media channel?

If you’re curious about hard-core marketing results, maybe we should chat.

And before you add that Facebook page, remember, if you just want a friend, buy a dog.

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Here's a Must Read!March 11, 2009 | By Al Doyle

We’ve been sending copies of Groundswell to our clients now for about two months. What’s been happening in the new home industry is a large burst of interest in what people are calling “Social Media” or “Networking” sites. Groundswell is such a good starting point for discussions around this topic because Groundswell provides an overview of a change of behavior among the general public from a management perspective. This is not a hands-on tutorial, or a “how to”, or even “Social Media for Morons” title. This book gives us all a quick fly-over of the whole scene from blogging to Twitter to Facebook to Flickr with a good look from a business point of view at why you should care, when you should get involved, and how to allocate your resources to make things happen. The part I like best are the short case histories of real companies facing the questions you and I face every day. Like what do I tell my clients to do with all those Facebook friends?  We have found that reading this book with our clients gives us a common ground from which to move forward.  Right now were starting some exciting new projects (of modest means) using what we call the Core Four of Social Media— Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter. We’ll keep you posted on the results.

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Another Nice Friday ChatMarch 7, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Bruce, Diana and I just had a great time with Dave Porter formerly the Countrywide maven in these parts. He’s on to some very exciting new ventures and we wish him the most success. His passion for Green in all aspects of the New Home industry from lending, to sales, to construction is inspiring. We remember when Dave worked with us on the Puget Sound Energy Built Green Idea Home at Issaquah Highlands. Back then, green was just another color. —Al

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Seattle in Forbes "Top 10 Home Markets"March 6, 2009 | By Al Doyle

David Letterman has hooked us all on “Top 10” lists! (By the way, did you see Bono U-2 all this week on Letterman?). Recently Forbes published their Top 10s for ‘best’ and ‘worst’ housing markets in the US.

New York City was #1 for best market with values holding strong!

Seattle squeaked in at #10.

Forbes’ source was the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index, released Feb. 24, 2009. with the rate of home price increase or decrease was calculated by examining data covering the time period between November 2008 and December 2008 for month-to-month results, and December 2007 to December 2008 for year-over-year results.

I won’t repeat the entire list here, you can catch it on Forbes web site:http://tinyurl.com/cujnjl.

I will, of course, tell you who was # 1 in “Worst Housing Markets”. It was Las Vegas with a nearly 33% drop in prices. Is this the same city where they say “the house always wins!”

But, maybe not the “home”?

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Be Careful What You Ask ForFebruary 24, 2009 | By Al Doyle

If you want to connect with people, find out what they are passionate about.  About 5 p.m. yesterday as I headed to the ferry boat for my ride home, I “tweeted” a simple question, which also updated by Facebook status:

 “OK Seattle: the question is Dick’s Deluxe? Or, In and Out Burger?”

 By dinner time, I had over a dozen responses!  Clearly, my friends are passionate about their burgers! If you’re selling new homes, condos, (or anything for that matter), discover your customer’s passions, show some interest and then get out of the way.   By the way, marketing relationships of this type are only available two ways: in-person and through Social Networking media.  People can’t talk back to a magazine ad, radio spot or TV commercial.

 PS: The Results:  54% Dicks Deluxe; 46% In and Out Burger with several shout-outs by our California friends for “Animal Style”

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Friday Coffee with John SpearFebruary 16, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Had an interesting time with John Spear from Seattle Magazine. Core audience remaining stable, but housing ads in the you-know-what (Duh!). We’ve got some plans for a couple of cool inserts. Nothing to be gained by standing still!

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Random Acts of RecognitionFebruary 13, 2009 | By Al Doyle

On January 21st, I attended The Nationals awards banquet at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas. Since I had the privilege of helping judge this year’s entries, I was very eager to see and meet the people who did the great work. While surrounded in a sea of glitzy cocktail gowns and spiffy suits, I was reminded of what a powerful motivator recognition can be.

Peter Mayer and Lisa Parrish are the producers of The Nationals, PCBC and similar awards competitions and black tie extravaganzas all over the country and are recognition experts. They continue to teach to the fundamentals: recognition may be the most cost-effective form of motivation.

Recognition can be as simple kind word, a sincere note or card, or thoughtful gift. This is one time when you can rely on the old adage: “it’s the thought that counts”. Even the simple phrase “good job” or even more powerful “thank you” can pay huge dividends no matter what the market conditions are. And when market conditions are like they are in the new home industry this year, recognizing the hard work of ALL our team members is more important than ever.

To see some “over the top” Watch Mary DeWalt, Mary DeWalt Design Group, Inc. (nice dress!) introduce Adrienne Albert of The Marketing Directors, Inc. who was named Legend of Residential Marketing as part of The Nationals 2009 Awards Ceremony.

What random acts of recognition have you seen lately?

PS:
This is the inaugural edition of Sq. Ft. the Fusionapartners blog! We’ll be covering topics related to the creation and marketing of new home communities, with an emphasis on stewardship. We encourage you to comment, dissent and elucidate. This is intended to be a two-way conversation.

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1071330550325&oid=47126317707

http://www.thenationals.com/

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How Many Facebook Friends Do You Have?February 13, 2009 | By Al Doyle

Every week I’m getting a batch of new Facebook friends over 40 years old. And they are actually using this surprising new media to send notes, invitation and even photo of their kids and dogs.

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"Are We There Yet" (bottom, that is)?February 10, 2009 | By Al Doyle

This morning’s Seattle PI (2/10/09) devoted some front page ink to the discussion of whether or not the Puget Sound market has hit bottom.

It’s fascinating to predict the future. Even more thrilling to put your money on the table while the dice roll. But, really, isn’t this kind of speculation what pumped up the bubble in a bunch of industries. The market a willing buyer and a willing seller will eventually rule. A house is a home, a neighborhood is where you want to plant yourself. So evaluate your agents and your home purchase more through the long lens of where you want to spend your life.

“Bottoms” make good topics for deep sea divers and rappers.

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A High Point for Sustainable RedevelopmentJanuary 10, 2008 | By Al Doyle

First published September 1, 2006 in Environmental Design + Construction magazine

Atop a ridge overlooking Seattle’s downtown skyline, Elliot Bay and the Cascade Mountain range, sits the West Seattle neighborhood of High Point. Until recently, it was clearly one of the low points among the city’s 21 neighborhoods. More than 700 subsidized housing units in mostly dilapidated barracks-style buildings dotted the area — the result of a rush to provide housing following World War II.Visit High Point today, and you’ll see a neighborhood transformed. Seattle Housing Authority has undertaken a 130-acre redevelopment project that will make High Point the largest sustainable, mixed-income urban neighborhood in the country. Now in its second year of construction, High Point is already receiving national attention and awards honoring its innovative approach to the environment and the community.When construction is completed in 2009, the High Point neighborhood will be a mixture of 1,600 low-income and market-rate homes, townhouses, condominiums and apartments. All residence designs meet the standards of the Master Builders Association’s Built Green program at the three-star level or higher; more than 500 of them have been ENERGY STAR-certified. Additionally, the community includes several Habitat for Humanity homes and senior housing, all meeting Built Green standards.

The Seattle Housing Authority, along with architect Mithun, took an ecologically holistic approach to the planning of High Point. The design team considered not only the health, self-sufficiency, long-term costs and well-being of its residents, but also the impacts on the environment and local salmon runs. The team asked for and incorporated design ideas from hundreds of people, including city leaders, surrounding neighbors, and High Point’s former residents — who are all guaranteed housing in the new development.

“We kicked off the project by taking a big picture look at the area and what we wanted to achieve,” said Brian Sullivan, project architect with Mithun. “Working hand-in-hand with Seattle Housing we are able to transform the neighborhood into one that provides a healthy environment and quality design and, at the same time, engages the community.”

recovery, reuse and saving trees

While most of the old buildings at the High Point site were dilapidated, Seattle Housing saw an opportunity to salvage many of the materials, keeping them out of the landfill. Although dismantling all the existing buildings at High Point was not feasible, the deconstruction team recovered and sold many valuable materials.

Bulldozers were also kept at bay for many of the mature trees on site that grew up with the old neighborhood. An arborist evaluated the neighborhood trees, and wherever possible, planners designed the streets and buildings around the best specimens. In Phase I alone, 100 large legacy trees were saved—trees valued at more than $1.5 million. To breathe new life into the community, about 2,600 new trees will be planted.

natural drainage system

Among High Point’s most innovative features is its 34-block natural drainage system designed by SvR Design. The largest of its kind in the U.S., the system protects Longfellow Creek, Seattle’s most productive salmon-spawning stream. High Point’s new streets slope slightly to one side so that water runs to extra wide planting strips lining the neighborhood sidewalks. The strips, planted with layers of specially amended soil and a variety of native and ornamental trees, shrubs, and grasses, act as a swale. They soak up and filter the runoff, allowing it to be treated prior to draining to the creek. Sidewalks adjacent to the planting strips are made of a porous concrete—a mixture of Portland cement, gravel and water—allowing water to drain through and run into the swales. In addition, one entire street is made from this same porous concrete, the first public street of its kind in Washington.

asthma-friendly homes

High Point also serves as a national example for healthy homebuilding. As part of a program to improve indoor air quality and reduce the occurrence of asthma attacks in children, High Point has built 35 “Breathe Easy” rental homes for low-income families with asthmatic children. The High Point team collaborated with the King County Health Department and the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of Washington.

The first mass production build in the country, these Breathe Easy houses feature an advanced air filtration system, hydronic heating system, linoleum flooring instead of carpet, zero-VOC paints and cabinetry, and airtight wall construction to minimize dust, pollen and other allergens. Even the surrounding landscaping plants were selected to minimize pollen. To live in the homes, families must qualify and agree not to smoke or own pets, and will be surveyed periodically to see if the house design impacts their children’s asthma.

cost-effective green design

Because half of High Point’s housing is for families with low or modest incomes, the Seattle Housing Authority has been careful to employ sustainable materials and strategies where it makes economic sense. Low-allergen, drought-tolerant plants, zero-VOC paint, and energy-efficient appliances cost no more than standard options; reusing old paving as backfill in trenches saves money. Some elements such as the homes’ hydronic heating systems and linoleum floors cost more upfront but long-term costs are much lower.

city within a city

The goal of the High Point project echoes the desires of residents who were consulted—to weave the neighborhood back into the fabric of the greater West Seattle community. To achieve this goal, High Point’s streets have been realigned and reconnected with the West Seattle grid, and new neighborhood facilities and a commercial center will open in convenient locations. The mix of housing types and resident income levels will be similar to those in the surrounding neighborhoods.

All of life’s necessities will be within walking distance, including a medical and dental clinic, a new library, retail center, community center and athletic fields, as well as over 20 acres of land for parks, open spaces and playgrounds.

Residents have also put their own personal touch on the community — infusing art into High Point’s public spaces. Handmade shelters, benches and tables made from wood recycled from some of the old neighborhood’s trees are carved and placed in parks and on trails. A vibrant recycled cedar fence — each board painted with a design from a returning resident or by local schools and businesses — surrounds the neighborhood’s “Market Garden” where residents grow and sell vegetables to subscribers. Artist Bruce Myers was commissioned by Seattle Public Utilities to create public art that reminds residents they are part of a sustainable community. Myers created bronze sculptural plaques along the street curbs to slow runoff and remind residents that they are stewards of Longfellow Creek.

building for the future

The developer and design team of High Point have had one primary goal: building a community for the future. A future that includes healthy lives, healthy homes and a healthy environment. The neighborhood’s transformation shows that through innovative thinking, listening to the wisdom of the public, settling for nothing short of great design and a commitment to the environment, that goal is certainly achievable.

SIDEBAR: high point

a sustainable neighborhood of 1,600 low-income and market-rate homes, townhouses, condominiums and apartments.
scheduled for completion: 2009
http://www.thehighpoint.com

project team

owner/developer: seattle housing authority
architect: mithun
civil engineering and right-of-way landscape architect: svr design
landscape architect: nakano associates
contractor: absher construction
marketing: fusionhappens, llc

materials

porous concrete: stoneway concrete
heating system: blueridge company (baxi luna tankless water heater, blueridge roca flat-panel radiator)
natural drainage systems: seattle public utilities

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