MEETING SPACE: Simply Cinco, the information center for Newland Communities’ Cinco Ranch in Katy, Texas, builds traffic by hosting local groups, such as this Chamber of Commerce event.
MEETING SPACE: Simply Cinco, the information center for Newland Communities’ Cinco Ranch in Katy, Texas, builds traffic by hosting local groups, such as this Chamber of Commerce event.

One of the most cost-effective ways to draw traffic to your community is to use what you’ve got—a sales center or a model home—to host events. The goal is to keep a steady stream of people coming through the door and to reinforce the impression that your community is the place to be.

Simply Cinco, the community information center for Cinco Ranch, a Newland Communities development in Katy, Texas, was designed to work as a venue for a non-stop stream of events. The center is located in La Centerra, a mall within Cinco Ranch, and was built with a giant demonstration kitchen, says marketing director Heather Gould.

A series of “Simply Cinco Adventures,” held on Thursdays and Saturdays, features demonstrations from chefs in the mall’s restaurants, interior decorators from home décor stores, and fashion experts from clothing stores.

“It gives people a reason to stop in and see what’s going on,” Gould says. “Right now, that’s one of the most important things, getting people in the door.”

The best part about the adventures is that they don’t cost Newland Communities anything at all.

“We’re trying to partner with the community around us to leverage everyone’s strengths,” Gould says. “We give publicity to those vendors. They’re happy to come in.”

Invite residents

Epcon Communities neighborhoods have hosted everything from dance lessons to dog washes to attract prospective buyers, says Nanette Overly, vice president of sales and marketing services. “We’re constantly thinking of things,” Overly says. “Our thought is that if it will appeal to our current residents, it will appeal to future residents. We always invite current residents and prospects and invite residents to bring their friends and family.”

Overly says builders shouldn’t be shy about approaching local merchants for donations of items for cross promotions to increase attendance. For a “Step and Stroll” walking event, Epcon partnered with a local fitness shoe store, which donated a pair of walking shoes for a raffle and provided gift certificates for anyone visiting its store.

Gene Donahue, manager at Weiss Homes’ Newbury Pointe community in Osceola, Ind., has used events to help catapult his community into a top producer for the company.

He opens his sales center for a wide range of community meetings including the local Lion’s Club and the organizing committee for a bluegrass festival. An adopt-a-pet event, held in conjunction with an area animal shelter and a veterinarian, showcased pets available for adoption and provided pet care advice.

“We invited the local fire and police departments to demonstrate safety to children and adults alike,” Donahue says. “In the meantime, we set up a Neighborhood Watch program despite the fact that we are in a low crime area. I sold two homes in a matter of hours off this [Neighborhood Watch] event. One buyer was just stopping through, and the other was out with their Realtor looking at other homes in the area.”

Involve vendors

Last year, Hubbell Homes in West Des Moines, Iowa, hosted a series of Sunday-afternoon block parties at a different community every week, offering a barbecue lunch prepared by one of Hubbell’s vendors. The Wednesday before the event, Hubbell would invite Realtors and members of the Chamber of Commerce to a luncheon, enticing them with a free lunch and a drawing for a gas card. The block parties were also advertised in the local paper on Friday and Sunday, and invitations were sent to prospects. The final part of the marketing was TV advertising on a local Sunday home show.

Between four and seven homes were open to tour during the events, says Jarad Bernstein with Hubbell Realty. “We have a little passport program where the potential home buyers get a sticker at each house they visit. If the buyer visits all of the homes, they are entered into a drawing for a decently sized gift card to a local electronics and furniture store and other big prizes. We have seen traffic of anywhere from 50 to 175 people, and the program has directly resulted in home sales and lot sales.”

Events don’t have to be elaborate, though. Gale Communities in Kansas City took a fairly typical event—Fourth of July fireworks—and turned it into a marketing effort. “Residents in one of our communities were going to gather for a community-wide fireworks display already, so we asked if prospective buyers could attend,” says Kevin Enyeart, vice president and general manager of Gale Communities. “They agreed and we sold a spec home out of it!”­

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Des Moines, IA.