New way to target 'lock-and-leave' lifestyle
Kiosks offer developers downtown presence without costs of sales officeBy Tom Kelly, Wednesday, December 5, 2007.
What's new in Puerto Vallarta condos? Want to see the latest San Diego high rise?
No longer do you have to wait for a national road show to get a feel for new developments around the world. Cliff Bowman, the Vancouver, B.C.-based marketing expert who has turned pre-selling condominium buildings into an industry art form, has taken his online condo idea to retail stores. His Urban and Resort Condo Centers offer consumers a menu of popular destinations and in-city projects while providing developers and builders a downtown sales presence for a fraction of the cost of finding and leasing their own building.
"Time is money for developers and their buyers," Bowman said. "Today, buyers utilize the Internet in their due diligence process. They demand rapid access to credible information to assist in their final buying decision. The centers are a logical next step after visiting the condo search portal."
Located in downtown storefront locations, each condo center is designed as an "open house" retail environment. A variety of developers provide scale models, floor plans, virtual tours and interactive visuals – typically the same sales tools provided at a resort's onsite sales office. Condo centers are currently operating in Vancouver and Calgary. More than 800 are planned and are coming soon to Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Baltimore and Boston.
A kiosk in a prime in-city location could be a boon for cash-strapped developers. For example, if you had a project in Cabo San Lucas and wanted to tap into the San Francisco market, you could rent space at the condo center for three, six or 12 months without the hassles of finding a key location or battling long-term leases and interior construction costs. The condo center provides a receptionist, closing area, touch-screen LCD screens, cleaning, security services plus copy and fax options. On-site salespeople and a call center also are available.
Global Condo Center has subscribed to Second Life, a three-dimensional online world complete with people, entertainment and experiences. Visitors can view some of the best urban and resort condo developments around the globe. Developers can actually have a "virtual" sales center in Second Life, a community of 10 million "residents."
"There are developers in different areas of the world who simply don't have the budget to promote out of area," said Bowman. "I thought if there was a central place where developers could advertise their properties, they would get a lot more interest – especially from people in other countries.
"The online Global Condo Center was the first step and the retail centers follow up on that."
The Urban and Resort Condo Centers can be used for several purposes, including:
Primary Sales Center: In the same city as the project for sale and used for pre-selling new developments without the costs of a permanent sales center.
Pre-Launch Sales Center: Used to promote a key event or seasonal marketing period. It could later be moved to a permanent location.
Satellite Sales Center: Used to complement sales efforts from a development's permanent sales center located elsewhere. (For example, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver condo centers could act as satellites for a Lake Chelan project).
Close-Out Sales Center: For a project that still has some remaining units for sale but cannot justify the expenses and workforce to keep a permanent sales center open.
Both the online Global Condo Center and the retail stores are aimed at persons seeking the "the lock-and-leave lifestyle." According to Global Condo Center, that is a "personal freedom" targeted at aging baby boomers who would be more than willing to give up the privilege of performing landscaping, maintenance, security and upkeep of a single-family home. In a capsule, the concept means you can leave your home for a week or a year and have a maintenance program continued by others.
Other lock-and-leave lifestyle options include timeshares, fractionals and destination clubs. Even though home values have dropped recently, 80 million baby boomers are still in their prime earning years with an eye toward more leisure time. That potential pool of buyers, coupled with older retirees and younger Gen Xers, is deep and wide.
Bowman also is president of Builders International Real Estate Marketing Corp., a Vancouver-based company specializing in pre-marketing condo, office and mixed-use developments across the United States and Canada. The company has leaped at the possibilities offered by online presentations and continually refers a to National Association of Realtors report that 77 percent of buyers start their search for their next home on the Internet.
All of BIREM's marketing materials and tools are Web-enabled, allowing all employees to conduct virtual tours of a project's amenities and neighborhood from any computer terminal.
"Now we have stores for what we do," Bowman said. "If interested parties want personal contact sooner in the discovery process or later in the buying process, we want to be there for them."
To get even more valuable advice from Tom, visit his Second Home Center.
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