Last year, the housing slump made an unwelcome visit to Oklahoma City, one of the few markets nationwide that had so far resisted the downturn. Permits were off 11 percent in 2007, and the metro’s inventory levels of unsold homes currently hover at around six months’ supply, or two months longer than is normal.
Builders here, though, still think they have a positive story to tell. After all, Oklahoma City enjoyed its third-best year in existing home sales in 2007, during which home values rose 12.1 percent to a median of $134,400, making it the second-best housing market in the country, according to Forbes magazine. To emphasize the strength of their area, especially compared to other, weaker parts of the country, the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association launched on April 15 an aggressive, $50,000 marketing campaign scheduled to run for 90 days.
The anchor of this campaign, in its first phase this month, is a Web site,www.defytheTrends.com, which includes video clips that feature several local builders and HBA members, each touching on different reasons why it’s a good time for buyers to purchase a house. “What we’re doing is re-educating the public about the market,” says Jeff Click, the owner of Jeff Click Homes, who will serve as the association’s president in 2009 and has spearheaded the marketing campaign.
The promotion’s tagline pretty much says it all: “Don’t let the national media scare you out of the smartest move you can make.” The HBA’s contention is that the media have unfairly lumped Oklahoma City with markets that are experiencing far worse housing problems. For example, California and Florida account for 30 percent of all foreclosures and 36 percent of all subprime foreclosures, but fewer than 5 percent of the mortgages in Oklahoma City are subprime adjustable rate loans. In addition, 97 percent of all prime borrowers are current on their payments.
The Web site calls attention to a recent article posted by CNN/Money that identifies Oklahoma City as only one of 11 “bust-free” markets, because of its housing appreciation. In his video stream, builder Click points to the market’s low cost of living and relative affordability as reasons to buy. Another builder, Mike Gilles of Savannah Homes (the HBA’s 2007 president), talks up the energy efficiency of new homes as a way for buyers to help save the planet. And Jim McWhirter, the HBA’s current president, focuses on sustained home values. “Oklahoma City real estate is making it through the national real estate recession with little damage,” McWhirter states.
Click tells BUILDER that the association decided to use videos of its members on the Web site, as opposed to voiceovers or hiring professional actors, to lend more authenticity to the message being conveyed. He says his group also wanted to avoid the text-heavy approach that other HBAs with similar campaigns have tried.
The campaign is supplemented by conventional media such as billboards and media kits. The HBA also cut a deal with the Daily Oklahoman to run a seven-page insert in the newspaper’s real estate section promoting open houses last weekend and this weekend (the first of which included more than 70 homes). Phase two of the campaign, which begins next month, will include TV ads and Facebook. And every other week, HBA members will post blog entries to keep the Web site fresh.
Click says the HBA plans to sustain the Web site after the campaign is done with more generic messages, such as emphasizing the value of owning a home versus renting one.
John Caulfield is a senior editor for BUILDER.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Oklahoma City, OK.