By Tess Wittler
Buyers today still want community amenities, but the types that attract them have changed. They no longer yearn for full-on community facilities with pools, locker rooms, kitchens and large gathering rooms; those amenities are becoming less important.
Instead, buyers now seek smaller community centers that have flexible uses, trails and open spaces with small gathering places along the way, and other unique community features that match their lifestyle needs.
Community amenities have become a big marketing lure and really need to stand out.
Amenities should visibly demonstrate a story or theme before a community is even fully built so people can get a sense of exactly what the community is—long before they set foot on the property. This means a thoughtful investment upfront to convey this, but it doesn’t always necessarily mean a large financial investment. A community can convey a sense of peace, tranquility and being one with nature by integrating trails, open spaces and a few lovely gardens.
Communicate a Promise & Create an Experience
The amenities that are available must have meaning and communicate a promise of what life will be like when a buyer chooses to live there. You aren’t simply selling a community (the home); you are selling the experience. For example, the Rancho Mission Viejo community is located in bustling southern California, yet it offers a relaxed and natural feel. Within the master plan, the builders created a campout area—an open-air gathering space with a firepit, BBQ barn, yurts and picnic tables where people can connect over s’mores.
Building Places That Create Experiences
The definition of community has changed. It is no longer a cluster of homes or a section of a zip code; it is the connection between people. Thus, creating opportunities for experiences answers the question, “How do we capture the minds, and more importantly, the hearts, of potential buyers?”
Consider these ideas:
Experiences with Nature: Most community sites have innate characteristics that can be leveraged in your community plan and story. Certainly, some need to be manmade and others enhanced, but when you pull those ideas to the forefront, they are impactful—for example, creating a water oasis where people can feel tranquil or a small boathouse along a manmade lake where residents can rent a kayak for the afternoon.
Social Opportunities: Given their busy and plugged-in lives, people hunger for a real-human connection. Small cafés where residents can meet over coffee and a bagel, or a grass pocket-park overlooking the community pool where people can do yoga in the morning and gather for a wine and cheese event in the evening are both popular amenities.
Experiences that Energize: Energized spaces are an important characteristic for a community, particularly with Millennial buyers as they are coming out of high-end apartments where they are used to having lots of energy surrounding them. These spaces can be a small plaza that hosts live music on a monthly basis, or Food Truck Fridays, or a brew pub that’s hopping for a few hours after work. Such amenities easily bring people together and create fun interaction within the community.
Simple Experiences: Amenities don’t have to be elaborate to communicate authenticity. In fact, some of the best amenities—such as nature trails, benches on which to sit and take in the view, or a bicycle pump station for cyclists—are simple and inexpensive.
Today’s home buyers are seeking an experience that creates the lifestyle they want, and community amenities play a powerful role from the onset of their buying process. If you design them to communicate a promise and be memorable, you will have selected the right amenities to maximize your return on investment and bring value to your buyers.
Editor’s Note: This article summarizes the 2018 NAHB International Builders’ Show® (IBS) education session, “Put Your Money Where Your Community Is: New Amenities for Lifestyle Buyers.” More detailed information can be found by watching this session on IBS Education On Demand.