Marketing Bang for the Custom Home Buck

Grand marketing plans might fall outside the scope and needs of many custom home builders.

June 01, 2002


This Sonoran Concepts home is shown in Superstition Mountain’s Featured Builder Program literature..

Grand marketing plans might fall outside the scope and needs of many custom home builders. Who needs a marketing department when the majority of your business is referral or you build only 10 homes a year?

“Custom builders don’t think ‘marketing,’ so it’s sometimes hard getting information like floor plans, home features or a builder story to create brochures and builder plaques,” says Tom Popa, vice president of sales and marketing at Superstition Mountain, a private, 890-acre golf course community near Phoenix. “Be-cause they’re busy doing what they do, they don’t market themselves.”

So at Superstition Mountain, Popa implemented a Featured Builder Program that benefits the builder and the developer reciprocally. Based on a format Popa discovered while working with builder marketing consultant Pete Halter of V.R. Halter & Associates, the Featured Builder Program provides active promotion through myriad channels to builders who purchase two home sites and commit to building two homes with a licensed or an approved architect. The developer pays all in-curred marketing ex-penses.

The program has worked with 26 custom home builders who’ve built 94 homes in the Superstition Mountain community. In addition to more basic marketing initiatives such as brochures, mailings, signage, print ads and television spots, the program also features “meet the builder” days, cocktail parties, home tours, and builder profiles and virtual home tours on the Superstition Mountain Web site (

Builders also receive a private Featured Builder room in the sales and information center, and builders who buy three home sites and have a least one site under construction are given use-right privileges, sans membership deposit or dues, at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club and its two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses, a huge perk when it comes to entertaining investors and business partners.

Joe Strong, president of Sonoran Concepts Custom Homes Inc. in Scottsdale, Ariz., has built in Superstition Mountain since it broke ground in 1998. During the past three years, his company has worked almost exclusively in Superstition Mountain, having built 12 homes to date with another currently in design. He has continued to build in the development because of the ease and efficacy of the Featured Builder Program.

“Compared to production builders, we don’t spend gobs of money on marketing, nor do we need to,” says Strong. “In a community like this, the customer is picking the builder, whereas in a production community, they’re picking the house. In a program like this, we get a higher amount of visibility and we can differentiate ourselves from other custom builders. The program makes it very easy for us to find and work with clients.”

The program is convenient for potential home buyers, 70% of whom come from out of state, because they can research all builders and review all product in one place, and they’re given an implied “seal of approval” because Superstition Mountain screens builder and architect participants by looking at their financial statements, personal references and built product.

Builders also can offer buyers “grandfathered” club membership dues, based on the price when the builder bought into the development, for up to three years after escrow, and buyers who already bought memberships at the current rate are re-funded the difference.

“This program became a great way to get houses out of the ground while also providing a service to our property owners,” Popa says. “Our builders feel confident on a daily basis that we’re doing everything we can to market them, so they can just worry about building the houses.”

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