Friday, July 10, 2009


IRVINE, Calif. - July 10, 2009 —Developers struggling to survive the current historic housing downturn should be retooling their planned communities for shifts in consumer tastes right now so they’ll be ready to thrive when demand returns, stated experts from Developers Research ( - national real estate consulting firm.

Barry Gross, president of the Developers Research consulting firm, said his advice can be boiled down to a simple edict: Get ready to start selling homes that people can get excited about again, not just cheap loans that happen to be attached to property.

He said when the housing market was at its hottest in recent years, many customers were more interested in the loan than the home, itself. That meant developers and builders didn’t have to stretch much beyond building homes and communities according to old land-planning templates that were tried and true.

“Now many of those templates just look old -- and tired,” Gross said.

But an unprecedented opportunity exists right now to modify and resubmit stagnant development plans with the sole purpose of increasing the residual value of the land. There are techniques to optimize improvement costs by avoiding unnecessary costs. He said it is also possible to maximize potential lot value while decreasing lot costs.

This shift in thinking has many elements to excite customers: And many will be willing to pay a premium for that excitement. Developers can tap into the trend once they understand the risks and rewards of submitting an improved entitlement to a new discretionary process.

Here are just a few of the shifts in consumer tastes that Gross said developers can leverage into savings:

• Golf course communities are out. New market studies show people would rather have 100 feet of common space behind their 120-foot deep lot in the form of a trail system, rather than a 300 or 400 feet of common space in the form of a golf fairway. That means developers can redraw a community and tap into that customer preference, while at the same time recapturing valuable land for more streets and more home lots.

• Customers are showing a preference for minimalist homeowner association communities. There is a shift away from huge, expensive clubhouses and toward more passive recreational amenities such as parks and open spaces for barbecues and picnics. So land set aside for parks is not a liability. Instead, it is a substitute for luxurious common buildings, and a draw for consumers who will be willing to pay more to live in the community.

• Future consumers will pay more to live on a street with houses on only one side, and doing it that way can actually maximize profits for the developer. So there’s no need to re-channel every creek or pave over every square inch to maximize the “lot-count” in a development.

• More consumers will be interested in living in communities that promote sustainability, walkability and diversity. Sustainable communities are designed to minimize their ecological footprint and achieve a balanced lifestyle for their residents. Pedestrian oriented communities should use traffic circles and context sensitive design. The streetscape should serve a range of users such as pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and automobiles. In addition, homes should be centrally located near the heart of the community. Looping trails connect destination points. A diversity of neighborhoods and a variety of parks and gathering places create a cohesive community.

Media outlets interested in this story can arrange an interview with Developers Research President Barry Gross by contacting Anton Communications at 949-748-0542

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