It's hard to overestimate the value of a well-designed community entrance. But a good name is also worth a thousand words. It's the least expensive way to brand and market a community, says David Miles, president of Milesbrand, in Denver. “People are going to say the name for free, so if you have one that resonates, breaks through the clutter, and invites investigation, then you're spending your money very wisely. If you have a me-too name, you're not getting a full return on your investment.”

Milesbrand aspires to monikers that go beyond the proverbial Stone Gate and Lakewood Farms, seeking out words that don't necessarily sound like real estate. For example, he says the name Trail Mark, for a Denver community set against a mountain with footpaths, was a marketing success, compared to the mundane—and incongruous—Chatfield Green the developer had dreamed up.

“Oscar Wilde had a saying that an idea that doesn't make you nervous can hardly be called an idea at all,” Miles says. “I think names are like that. They should make you a little uncomfortable in the beginning because you're not used to hearing that name.” But not too uncomfortable. It can't be intimidating or hard to pronounce, says Lee Ballard, president of Name One, in Mars Hill, N.C. “You wouldn't choose a name that's not approachable, not warm,” he says. “People shouldn't stumble over it.”

When builders have done their homework and have the right story to tell, the name adds prestige. And the rest is up to the ear. “There's a flow you get used to in this business,” Ballard adds. “You know when something is euphonic and when it's not.”