Frustrated with waiting for home buyers to come back on their own? The HBA of Metro Orlando, Fla., put together a million-dollar TV and multimedia advertising campaign designed to knock indecisive would-be buyers off the fence and into new houses.

"We are really being proactive," says Carmen Dominguez, president of the HBA of Metro Orlando. "Instead of waiting we said, 'Why don't we educate the public?'"

CAMERA READY: Carmen Dominguez, president of the HBA of Metro Orlando, Fla., appears in TV ads in both English and Spanish that educate prospective home buyers about the buying process. Courtesy HBA of Metro Orlando The idea was sparked by Randy Noles, group publisher of Homebuyer magazines and a member of the builders association, who heard about NAHB's generic "It's a Great Time to Buy" advertising material and suggested last December that the local association take it a step further by creating an intensely local campaign. "What [NAHB] did was pretty basic," says Noles. "What we are doing is really our own thing."

Local builders, hungry to do something to combat the slowing sales and lingering inventories, seized onto the idea with fervor.

Keith Bass, president of Ryland Homes' Orlando division, offered to call his big builder peers to ask for donations. "Every builder that I called donated," he says. "Usually all it took was about two minutes on the call to get the money. They said 'Gosh, this is just what we need. Send me an invoice, I'll send you a check tomorrow.'"

Builders were asked to kick in cash based on their size. All the big builders in Orlando donated $20,000 each. Whatever money builders donated, the local HBA matched it using money from its Variable Fee Fund–which is funded by HBA member contributions that are based on their number of closings and used for a political action and public relations. Next, in a surprise move, the local HBA's non-builder associate members started contributing to the campaign fund as well.

Then, media outlets agreed to discount pricing on the advertising to further boost the group's buying power. "They gave us incredible pricing on the television commercials that we bought," Bass says. Between the contributions and the in-kind donations, the campaign's war chest grew to $1 million within six weeks of its conception. "No one builder could kind of change the market like this can," says Bass.

"Nobody would be able to spend a million bucks and benefit everybody."

A majority of the money was devoted to television spots. Most feature an image of an hour glass while a narrator warns that time is running out to get a good deal on a home and now is the best time to buy because prices aren't likely to fall further. The ads direct curious viewers to a Web site ( to get more information on the current home buying market in Central Florida.

"We have a great message to tell," Bass says. "We just needed a way to get it out there and give the buyers the unbiased information about where we are in the marketplace. ? It's not a solve-all, but it's one more tool."

The HBA is hoping to stretch the commercials beyond the original six-week time frame, which was scheduled to end in February. They'd like to run the ads closer to April to coincide with its annual Parade of Homes. Or, at least, keep the theme going until then.

It's too early to tell how much effect the advertising is having. "I don't even know how that will be measured," Noles says. "We just hope to change the mindset out there that if you wait a little longer something will happen to make conditions more favorable."

–Teresa Burney

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.