Hardly a day goes by without an article in a major newspaper or a special news report on television about the state of the real estate market. This mainstream media fascination with a real estate bubble has many builders scratching their heads, looking for countermeasures to what they feel is not only misinformation but also bad press. The task seems daunting when media has both a local and national reach, but K. Hovnanian Homes in New Jersey is taking a stab at it.

Last month, as part of its “Ask Me Why” marketing campaign that began in June, the builder launched three home buyer symposia, which were held throughout New Jersey. To complement the campaign's mission to educate potential homeowners about why it's still a good time to purchase a new home, the symposia featured presentations by various real estate professionals. Speakers included interior merchandisers, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, financial planners, real estate appraisers, representatives from title insurance companies, and real estate attorneys. All spoke about the benefits of buying a home even in the market's current slump.

The symposia brought in a total of 75 attendees. Doug Fenichel, regional director of public relations and communications for K. Hovnanian Homes, believes it was “a good turn out.”

One of the main thrusts of the program was a discussion of home value, both on the new-home and existing-home sides of the real estate equation. Understanding that many potential K. Hovnanian buyers already own homes, making the purchase of a new home contingent on the sale of their existing home, the sessions aimed to help attendees understand how to “right price” their homes for sale.

“Right pricing” is K. Hovnanian's term for positioning the sale price of a home to offer greater value compared to the competition. It's an approach it takes in selling its new homes and something it believes existing homeowners can leverage for their own benefits. With demographics strong in the state and a challenging regulatory environment that significantly limits new-home construction, K. Hovnanian hoped to impart attendees with the idea that their homes were embedded with significant value, even in a slowing real estate market.

“We believe that the best way to sell a home is to ensure that a home is properly priced,” Fenichel says.

At this point, the program is unique to operations in the New Jersey market, which Fenichel says contributes significantly to the company's business, although it is not the largest business generator. When asked about whether K. Hovnanian expects to continue offering more symposia in the future, Fenichel says, “We are considering our options.”

However, he notes that other K. Hovnanian divisions already are cherry picking parts of the “Ask Me Why” campaign for their own uses, “borrowing what works for them locally.”