The Charlotte, N.C., new-home community was a failure for its first builder. In a year and a half the regional builder had sold two homes in the 53-lot development, and those two buyers eventually backed out, panicking about the stalled sales in the neighborhood.
Toll Brothers bought the community in September 2010, gave it a new name, a spruced-up entrance, and a new product, then relaunched it about six months later. Within a year and a half it had sold 33 homes with prices averaging in the $700,000s—several hundred thousand more than the original builder’s price point.
It was pure old-fashioned sales and marketing tactics, rather than a home building economic turnaround, that created success for Toll at the community formerly named Etalon and rechristened Enclave at Providence to give it a fresh start. Toll spent three months figuring out who the likely buyers in the community would be and what they would value in a home before restarting sales.
Toll held focus groups with Realtors to pick their brains about what they were hearing from buyers, scoured market data, and visited competitors’ communities to get a handle on what product might be missing in the market.
The final verdict was that the project should target young professionals, particularly doctors, who needed to live close to Uptown. Enclave at Providence is within the I-485 beltway around Charlotte, 20 minutes south of the center city, and in an infill area near the prestigious Providence Country Club community area where very little land is available for new construction.
That location could command a price point higher than the mid-$400,000s to mid-$500,000s price tag the previous developer was targeting, if you found the right buyers, Toll’s researchers theorized. In addition, with the loss of many custom home builders in the area, they thought there might be an opportunity for Toll’s higher-end homes that offer a dizzying array of upgrades and some customization within the plan.
“I think it was a mistake that a lot of builders make, diving in at the lower price point, where there is increased competition,” explains Bob Kardos, president of Toll’s Charlotte division. The previous builder was targeting a buyer who might care about the local public schools that, while good, are not the best in the area.
“A lot of our buyers [in the higher price point] are either doctors or young professionals, and a lot of their children are in private schools anyhow,” Kardos says. About 20 percent of Enclave’s buyers have been empty-nesters without children who were looking for something else they weren’t finding in competitors’ homes: first-floor master suites.
So Toll imported its master-down 4,200-square-foot Monfort floor plan from Texas, redesigned its elevation to fit North Carolina, renamed it Magnolia, and built it in the new community. The floor plan—one of six, ranging in size from 3,200 to 5,600 square feet—became, by far, its best seller, according to Kardos.
While the community was too small to offer a clubhouse or other space- and dollar-eating amenities, Toll worked out a deal that allows the community’s residents to buy a golf or social membership at Raintree Country Club, which is located across the street.
And, to appeal to busy buyers, lawn maintenance and irrigation from a community well is included in the community’s HOA fees. “These people are on the go a lot and want to be able to enjoy their weekends and not have to cut the grass,” Kardos says.
Despite its success, don’t expect Toll to reproduce the same community formula elsewhere in Charlotte. “We try to create a separate identity for each of the communities,” Kardos says. “We try not to compete against ourselves.”