When Charter Homes & Neighborhoods decided to create a townhome section in its Walden master planned community several years ago, executives brainstormed to design a product that would appeal to younger buyers. After the groundbreaking, though, a different group of buyers started showing up at the sales center.
While the new townhomes Charter is building in and near its Walden Crossroads town center are attracting a few young first-time buyers, the demographic most often visiting and buying is women, particularly divorced women over 40 with children. Well over half are past 40 and almost half of those are in the market because of divorce, says Rebecca Fowler, Charter’s communications manager.
Working backward to dissect why the product has special appeal to this particular group of women, Charter executives have discerned that it fulfills their desire for a safe, low-maintenance, stylish product within Walden, a single-family–focused community. The townhomes allow buyers access to the Walden amenities and the ability to stay close to families with children who live in the single-family houses. Plus, the townhomes’ location offers the convenience of being within walking distance of a gym, a day spa, retail, offices, and a day-care center to be built in the town center.
In the first six months of 2011, Charter sold six townhomes, not a huge number but not insignificant since many of the sales were on units yet to be built, says Fowler. Three of the sales were traditional townhomes while the other three were for townhomes perched atop retail in the town center, which are yet to be built. Two of the buyers in the live/work buildings are newly divorced women.
“They are close to, or on, a street that has a lot of activity on it,” says Robert Bowman, Charter’s president, yet not so integrated as to destroy privacy or safety. Each unit, even those in the live/work portion, has a two-car garage that residents can drive into to gain secure access to their homes.
Buyers also are close to a playground unlike any other in the area. Terra Park includes 11 acres of hills, slides, rock walls, sandboxes, and tunnels all built to blend into the landscape. There are no primary-colored monkey bars. “It’s like being able to go out and play like you used to play” in the woods or other natural environments, says Bowman.
Charter recently hired a demographer to help it hone a sharper focus on the group of buyers that showed up by surprise. “While we are sophisticated in tracking prospects,” Bowman says, “we had not been really leading [the way] in our thinking of who is actually buying.”
In the meantime, Charter is using the same three-point strategy for the Walden Crossing townhomes it uses to sell its other offerings.
The product: While the townhomes look traditional, Charter is infusing them with contemporary design elements, including floor-to-ceiling glass windows with views of Walden Woods. For security reasons, the windows are easily covered when the residents desire more privacy.
The relationship: “The relationship piece [between buyer and sales agent] is important,” says Bowman. “Understanding and letting people know we care about them.”
The process: Charter works hard to make the buying experience easy. “We take the burden off of the shoulders of the buyer and try to make it a really fun and simple process, especially with single people,” Bowman explains. “They have to balance [buying a home] with jobs and other responsibilities.”
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Lancaster, PA.