The Urban Land Institute (ULI) hosted its annual Emerging Trends breakfast in Calgary on January 7th, and Chatterson’s President & Managing Partner Jason Hardy was honoured to be among a distinguished group of panelists (bios below).
In case you missed it, here are Jason’s key take-aways from the discussion:
Customer-Driven Spaces Driving Greater Interest
Considering parallels to the commercial market’s transformation towards customer-driven spaces in the residential markets, and changing indicators in consumer demand, Jason pointed to activations both inside and outside developments. New multi-family developments, both condos and purpose-built rentals, are including collaborative spaces both within and outside the building, including co-working spaces for a true “live, work, play” experience. We’re working with many property developers to conduct extensive research, speaking with prospective purchasers and renters directly through surveys and focus groups to identify what is truly important.
The literal spaces in which we sell real estate are blurring as well, treating the experience as a retail setting, or creating the experience in a retail environment. This shift is illustrated by The Beaverbrook Store in Edmonton City Centre, which Chatterson designed in collaboration with Beaverbrook Communities.
Customer-Centric Marketing Tools
When looking to improve the customer experience in real estate, we often look to the automotive industry. Prospective buyers can fully build and price their desired vehicle online – but this type of tool is not offered by new home builders. Buyers are increasingly conducting research online independently before stepping foot in a show home. They want a sense of transparency from the builder in what is available and what is expected for pricing. Simply stating “Starting from the mid $500s,” doesn’t cut it anymore. This type of technology is appealing not only to buyers, but also gathers important data for the builder in terms of the most popular floorplans and options and delivers exceptionally qualified leads to salespeople.
We offer this type of customer-facing new-home build and price tool with Ownly, optimized for both web and sales centre touch screens. (Reach out to learn more about Ownly.)
Opportunities in the Missing Middle
Asked how Calgary stacks up to other markets in North America, and what we and our developments can do differently in 2020, Jason emphasized the success of missing-middle development occurring in Calgary’s U.S. counterpart, Denver.
Jason’s message: Focus your marketing efforts on creating a sense of place and community, making your new project a destination with connections to a desirable city lifestyle.
We’ve seen a shift to amenity rich communities here in Calgary. Westman Village, a project Chatterson supported through branding and sales centre design, is a full community in the suburbs offering a mix of homes from rentals to starter and luxury condos, to active and retirement living. Located along Mahogany Lake, the community has over 42,000 sq ft of commercial and retail space, and a residents-only village center with three stories of recreation, services and entertainment.
Creative Deal Making
How are deals getting done in this market environment? It’s important to avoid a race to the bottom and continue to demonstrate value without getting into a price war or devaluing your brand. Builders must invest in understanding their audience’s true needs and wants, and craft both homes and brands that embody these messages in order to succeed. Increasingly, non-traditional media and marketing is becoming more effective in meeting buyers where they are in a more authentic, engaging and creative manner. We’ve found success with guerrilla marketing strategies for communities such as Seton and are currently working on strategies for new projects launching in 2020.
Walking the Talk
There are many reasons to be optimistic about the Calgary market. We need to focus on and promote the positive. In her keynote preceding the panel, Wendy Waters, VP Research Services & Strategy for GWL Realty Advisors, highlighted how Calgary is well positioned for the future:
#5 Most Livable City (Economist)
#1 Cleanest City (Big Travel Mag)
#1 Most Affordable (housing) Tech Market in North America (CBRE)
#3 in Global Resilience / Adaptability (GWL)
Chatterson is proud to have its headquarters in The Edison, a poster child for the transformation of commercial spaces towards real estate as a service. A reimaging of the former headquarters for Encana, The Edison is catering to SMEs and start-ups with leasing options and amenities including a fitness centre, golf simulator, basketball court, co-working space, and games and meeting space. It’s also the first dog-friendly office tower in downtown Calgary, complete with an outdoor dog park. Chatterson staff are also allocated 30 minutes of paid time per day to use the fitness centre (often used with lunch or at the end of the day), with the team seeing a significant reduction in sick days.
Keynote speaker Andy Warren, Director of Real Estate Research at PWC, made an important distinction in the rationale for stakeholder’s market sentiment on expected profitability in 2020. Those who are more positive about 2020 than 2019 are being proactive and considering strategic and internal factors, while those who are less positive about 2020 are being reactive to external factors including the economy.