September 23, 2005

 

Houston developer targeting single women as home buyers

When Houston-based Juliet Homes began its first single-family residential project, Ball Park Plaza, in the underdeveloped east side of downtown, the company's owners had no idea this project would be its top-selling development to date.

But what surprised the owners of the company most was the number of single women who purchased homes. When more than 75 percent of sales at Ball Park Plaza were made to women, Juliet Homes realized targeting women home buyers would be the key to its success.

According to the 2004 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the single female segment of the home buyer population accounted for 18 percent of all home buyers in 2004. Single women purchased approximately one in five homes in 2003, while more than one in 10 was purchased by single men.

In addition, about one quarter of the nation's nearly 8 million single mothers spend more than half of their incomes on housing, compared with one-tenth of households headed by single fathers. Over the time period of 1994 to 2002, the number of unmarried females owning homes climbed from 13.9 million to 17.5 million.

Marketing to women

To attract female home buyers, Juliet hired the Houston-based design and marketing firm Deuce Creative. The all-woman-owned and -operated group created a campaign to target the woman buyer.

"It made sense to hire a firm that represented the target audience we are trying to reach. We have found that over half of our buyers are women, and the women who are not directly buying our homes are huge influences in the purchase," says Juliet Homes co-owner Bernie Kane.

Aimee Smith, marketing director for Deuce Creative, was part of the team that designed Juliet's latest campaign appealing to woman home buyers. The firm implemented a creative theme that will speak to women -- a demographic she says is not being spoken to by other builders -- through language, graphic elements and color stories.

Juliet's marketing campaign illustrates the idea "luxury is standard," a concept Smith says appeals to all home buyers, but especially to women.

"The spacious closets, hardwood floors and granite countertops are upgrades that appeal to women. These amenities make a home feel custom built, which is a goal of Juliet homes," says Smith.

"The woman home buyer is more sophisticated. She's independent. She's doing this on her own. So we have tried to target women through subtle ways," she explains.

"The homes themselves have a romantic feel, so we wanted to keep with that feel in the advertising. But it's not blatant. We didn't just want to show a woman standing in front of a house. And, in appealing to women, we didn't want to alienate men. True, the majority of the buyers are women, but the male buyers are important, too," she says.

"We've also carefully chosen names of developments -- Fleur Gardens Estates, for example. It has a feminine feel. It's cosmopolitan," Smith adds. "Another community is The Vineyards, with names like Sancerre (a French white wine) and Alsace (a region in France)."

Listening to women

To ensure Juliet Homes is building to the standards women desire, the company conducts focus groups after a buyer has purchased a home. After a great deal of response from woman home buyers, Juliet has created an appealing look and lifestyle for its occupants.

"We really try to mimic the same finishes you see in million-dollar homes. Some standard upgrades in our homes include travertine in showers, stainless steel appliances, showers with seats and wrought iron spindles on the stairs. These types of details appeal to women and set our homes apart from others," says Kane.

Exterior details are also influenced by woman home buyers. For example, in Memorial Park Village, located in Memorial Park near the European-style roundabout off Washington Avenue and Westcott, "The exterior color choices vary because we found that women want more options and individuality in the look of their home," Smith says.

Kimberly Munsell, a single-woman home buyer in her 30s, is a representation of the audience Juliet Homes is targeting. The working professional bought a home at Washington Square, off Washington, in January 2004. Munsell says she and Juliet Homes have the same goals.

"The builders and I have the same eye for lifestyle and investment. My home has a touch of class with maximum upgrades. It is great to live in a community with a lot of women because we can all get together. Living there includes a feminine lifestyle. The price point is also right on target. It was a great investment because I knew my home would appreciate even before I bought it," says Munsell.

Urban areas and beyond

The Houston-based home building company was established in 2002 when Kane and Doug Brown joined forces. Juliet Homes began building exclusively freestanding homes in larger master-planned communities, as well as in smaller developments, mainly in Houston's inner loop.

Building in underdeveloped areas has allowed Juliet Homes to be the pioneer in many urban areas.

"After we started Ball Park Plaza near downtown, there was a complete shift in the market. The land was $1.50 a foot when we bought in, and now land is selling for more than $20 a foot," says Kane.

Juliet Homes has decided to try to develop in more diverse areas and has plans for future projects near the Texas Medical Center and The Woodlands.

Juliet Homes' newest project, Fleur Garden Estates, is scheduled to break ground in the next 30 days. The gated community on Richmond Avenue a few miles west of the 610 West Loop, will feature 40 homes ranging from 1,640 square feet to 2,101 square feet. The homes will be priced from $279,900. This community is the first of three Juliet developments in the area scheduled to be finished by the end of the year.