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August 2010

    August 2010


 Low cost of the high life ...in Savannah, GA  

   Most northerners contemplating a move to the Savannah, GA, area will find a cost of living less than they are used to.  A chart published in Where to Retire magazine shows a lower cost of living than in most major cities of the north.

    The following data show the % decrease or increase in cost of living with moves from selected northern cities to Savannah.


Baltimore -24%
Boston -29%
Buffalo -2%
Chicago -18%
Columbus, OH -1%
Detroit -8%
Indianapolis +4%
Manhattan -57%
Milwaukee -8%
Minneapolis -18%
Nassau Cty (NY) -35%
Newark, NJ -27%
Philadelphia -25%
Pittsburgh +1%
Portland, ME -18%
Providence, RI -22%
Stamford, CT -37%
Washington, DC -33%


Reader Feedback

      We want to make this newsletter as  useful as possible for you.  If you have comments, suggestions or observations about the newsletter, please email them to:  editor@homeonthecourse.com.
      I promise to respond quickly.  Thanks.
  --  Larry Gavrich, Editor


Copy Cats:
Golf community marketing hyperbole
insults our intelligence

    Like the French, I am taking the month of August off and re-publishing here a commentary about golf community advertising.  If the headline above and article that follows seem familiar, it is because they ran at GolfCommunityReviews.com last March. Apologies to anyone who may have read it in its original incantation, but a recent perusal of online golf community advertising indicates the flow of overstatement goes on, unabated.  Beware.


Golf community marketing is often heavy on hyperbole and a little light on the facts.

     Too-good-to-be-true storylines never seem to go out of fashion in marketing campaigns, and no group hyperventilates more than do real estate developers, or at least the folks they hire to advertise in their behalf.  A sucker may be born every minute, but in the wake of the housing collapse and the unfulfilled promises in many of the most expensive golf communities, you would think the marketing geniuses would substitute more fact for hyperbole in current promotions.
     No such luck.  Even those planned communities that barely survived the meltdown are back to their old promotional ways, loading up their marketing language with the kinds of unsubstantiated pronouncements of which a Countrywide Financial sub-prime loan pusher would be proud.

“…compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought.” – Winston Churchill

     I received a newsletter recently from a beautiful mountain golf community that I had visited before it maneuvered past some life-threatening financial issues.  It had the bad fortune to position itself at the top of the market just months before the collapse; it was the kind of place hedge fund managers and bank executives would like and, at one point, could afford.  The half-finished development came close to going over the cliff but it has come back from the brink with new owners and a fresh outlook.  The newsletter proudly references that the community is now debt free.  In these parlous times, the financial status of the community is critical to its marketing; but that strong selling point is trivialized by an unfortunate avalanche of trite and exaggerated pronouncements that follows.  (Note:  I am not naming the community because, frankly, it is no guiltier of hyperbole than are most of its competitors.)

     The newsletter describes the development as “a community that would defy all conventional logic”; it is unclear in the copy what logic it defied, but my best guess is that it is a reference to the low density of housing (one home per 12 acres) and the “park” that surrounds the community.  This same community that defied all conventional logic also provides “superb amenities…of quality without pretentiousness.”  When you actually have to say you are not pretentious, you are being quite pretentious.

     The new president of this community may have been hired for his strong portfolio of adverbs and adjectives (emphases mine).  “…we're moving forward expeditiously to complete this exceptional project in one of the country's most beautiful settings," he says of the “unique property…” (as if we are not smart enough to understand that every community is unique).

     Just in case you haven’t reached for your checkbook to send a deposit on a mountain home site, the new prez adds that, “It's really a now or never opportunity for inaugural buyers with only 30% of [our] home sites still available.”  Unless re-sales will never be permitted, there is nothing “now or never” about the opportunity, unless he offers a money-back guarantee that prices will never be lower.

Copywriting by Pollyanna and Rebecca of Sunnybrook, via Stepford

If a developer says it is "now or never," you might want to opt for "never."

     They teach you in Golf Community Development Marketing 101 that you must always present happy homeowners in your ads, and that you put words in their mouths that are straight out of Stepford; the more banal the better.  Something like: “I think that the strongest feature of the development is the enormous feeling of community and friendship among its members.”  Q.  Where have I seen that line before?  A.  In dozens of golf community advertisements.
     Call me elitist, but I have this notion that folks who are being asked to plunk down $250,000 for a piece of property and another $1 million or more to build their dream home are intelligent enough to figure out for themselves whether this is a good time to buy or not.  But some marketing copywriters and their editors don’t understand this:  “You've read the stories,” the newsletter reminds us, “seen the television specials, maybe even received a few E-Mails telling you that this moment in time is a truly historic one to be in the market for real estate.  Whether you're looking for a primary home, a vacation home, or a retirement destination, everyone is rolling out the red carpet for you.  Feels good for a change, doesn't it?”
     Not really.  What would feel good is a lot more fact and a lot less drivel.


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