Avatar Holdings had its name long before James Cameron dreamt of a movie about blue people on a far-away planet, and before there was an Internet where home buyers could search for new homes.
But, in the end, competing with the wildly popular movie’s name on Google and other search engines, proved to be an expensive and losing battle for the Florida-based community developer and home builder. It announced Wednesday that it is changing its name to AV Homes effective Thursday when the NASDAQ opens and its stock starts trading under the ticker symbol AVHI.
“It was costing us a lot (to develop a search engine presence) we didn’t have to invest,” said Carl Mulac, AV Homes' executive vice president. “Research has shown that 60% of online surfers will only click on the first three listings. In most cases, we were fighting hard for a page three listing.”
The company enlisted the help of real estate advisory firm RCLCO to help redefine the company’s business plans and rename it. “We developed a variety of different naming opportunities and that was the one that we thought tested best,” said Ken Plonski, AV's director of communications. “It clearly defines us as a home builder. That’s something that Avatar Holdings didn’t do.”
The new moniker for the 80-year-old company is but one of many announced and planned changes for the company, which builds 55+ active adult communities and move-up homes in Florida and Arizona.
Last June the company got a new CEO, Allen J. Anderson. That move followed the purchase of Joseph Carl Homes from Carl Mulac and his business associates in October of 2010. Mulac became Avatar’s executive vice president and the purchase brought CantaMia, a 55+ active adult community in Phoenix, into the fold. The company has since branded its all-age communities under the Joseph Carl Homes name and is planning a new name for its active adult products, said Plonski.
The company has also been working with RCLCO to develop a new operation model. It closed its corporate offices in Coral Gables, moving its executive teams closer to its assets in Central Florida and Arizona. It also reduced its staff, which included a large number of people who maintained the company’s golf courses, community centers, and homeowner associations. The company now hires outside contractors to handle those functions.
There are plans to pare down the company’s extensive Central Florida holdings by selling off some of the thousands of acres it owns to raise capital to develop a more diversified market footprint.
It also announced the downsizing of its board of directors from nine to six. And there are plans to bring new active adult brands online soon that might include “home and lifestyle” products for that buyer, Plonski said.
Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.