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Cover Story: The Road Goes On

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"We were like the kid in elementary school who colored outside the lines," says Le Plastrier of the company's approach.

Around the same timeframe, LDC went to market with lots in the Questa community; 16 builders responded with bids. While the response was encouraging, just two lot deals were inked with new builders?one with Meritage Homes for 94 lots and another with Standard Pacific Homes for 73 lots. The deals allowed for a broad segmentation plan with Meritage covering the lower end of the pricing spectrum, Standard Pacific in the middle pricing band, and Shea Homes at the higher price points.

Executives at all three builders consider Questa neighborhood at Mountain House an "A" location, given its proximity to job centers and its master plan amenities. However, the strategic value for each company varies. For Shea, which owns 321 lots in Questa, new builder blood in the mix was a way to re-spark the community and renew its commitment to project. For Meritage, a stake in Questa was an opportunity to get into a nice master-planned community with its aff ordably priced "green" product while adding to its stock of new communities. And for Standard Pacific, it was a chance to gain a position in a solid new community that shared the company's dedication to quality design and architecture.

"When you're trying to reinvigorate a community that's been stalled for a while, it's helpful to have a couple of new builders in the mix to raise their flags and show some life," says Jon Nicholson, division president for Standard Pacific's Central Valley/Northern California operations. "When we were first buying land out there, we raised eyebrows, since everybody had begun to think of Mountain House as a stalled community, but with four sales a month, and traffic of 50 to 60 a week, we're wishing more of our action was like it is there. The other builders, Shea and Meritage, the master developers, and our team there have done a great job of re-sparking the love aff air people have with that place."

ALL FOR ONE

With each builder's success in the community linked to that of its competitors, and that of the master developer's hanging in the balance, there's an undeniable need for all stakeholders to partner to support a unified message about the pluses of buying into the Questa neighborhood. In May 2011, the three builders participated in a collaborative community marketing event, which served as a grand opening party designed to showcase the builders' products and plans for the community. The event attracted more than 750 visitors.

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While the event marked a critical, initial publicity push for all Questa stakeholders, it also underscored the importance of community-based marketing to the overall success of the neighborhood. In addition to events that aim to encourage interaction between existing residents and prospective ones at Mountain House, Jann Rowe, an account supervisor with Roxburgh Agency, says that, for similar reasons, social media platforms? blogs, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter? have been especially eff ective in helping reposition the community.

"Residents have been incredibly valuable in laying the foundations for the marketing plan," she says.

The word is spreading as organically as anyone could have hoped. Consequently, referrals continue to supply a steady stream of serious interest in the Questa neighborhood. Shea's Hieb says that, in a master plan like Mountain House, referrals typically account for 20 percent to 25 percent of sales; however, at Mountain House, it's common to see rates hover around the 35 percent mark.