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How to woo Houston homebuyers in a hot market

April 17, 2014

  Doug Goff recently got back from a vacation in Vancouver where he went dog sledding, and I am jealous.

 I, like Goff, love travel adventures. We both have zip lined in Costa Rica, but dog sledding is now on my list of things to do. 

  Also on my list: buying a house, which can be an equally exciting adventure, but somewhat daunting in a market with low inventory. So Goff is a good person to speak to when it comes to deciding what distinguishes one neighborhood from the other.

  As the COO of Johnson Development Corp., one of Houston’s most noted master-planned community developers, Goff knows all about the Houston housing market and how to stay competitive. His secret is actually simple: make sure the community is fun and always evolving.

  As a prospective homebuyer new to the Houston area, I was astonished to learn about the amenities offered at these communities. Riverstone, a Johnson Development community in Sugar Land, is not only adding more homes, but  building a 17-acre recreation center to include a state-of-the-art playground  with zip lines. And Bridgeland, a master-planned community in Cypress being developed by The Howard Hughes Corp. (NYSE: HHC),  provides non-motorized boats for its residents to use on the community’s lakes, as well as gym with classes. These are just a few of the many examples.

  Alongside the looping waterslides, elaborate jungle gyms and stocked fish ponds, Johnson Development employs what they call a “lifestyle coordinator” in each of its communities. Other communities may do this is as well. I don’t know. But I plan to find out. The coordinator plans community events such as wine tastings, parades, movie nights and outside field trips.

  “It creates a sense of community and place for the residents, allowing them to get to know their neighbors and have fun in their own backyards,” Goff said.

  Johnson Development also takes .005 percent of the sale price from the homes in its communities and gives it to a nonprofit designated for that community. The money is used to fund projects that benefit the community and its residents, such as buying equipment for technology centers in area schools or paying for fireworks displays on the Fourth of July. Sienna Plantation used $5.5 million it collected to build a new sports facility. Each community’s homeowners’ association directs its collected funds.

  The program allows communities to continually make improvements without assessing homeowners, Goff said.

  Now if I could just find a community that has a ferris wheel. At the rate these developers are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if I do.

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