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Redefining Property Values

Ladera Ranch, a California planned community, is divided into myriad neighborhoods, including Surrey Farm, which features numerous small parks.
Ladera Ranch, a California planned community, is divided into myriad neighborhoods, including Surrey Farm, which features numerous small parks. (By Mark Avery -- Orange County Register)

Although this type of marketing is fairly ubiquitous now, developers have only recently begun to realize its power to create communities.

"People of a certain typology look for a certain kind of house or respond to a certain type of theme," said Len Bogorad, managing director at Robert Charles Lesser, a marketing firm that specializes in real estate and which has conducted values-oriented surveys for Washington area clients. "It's a type of marketing that for better or worse is part of our economy, and developers are catching on."

Before a shovel ever hit the dirt at Ladera, Warrick sent out more than 20,000 surveys to people who had called after reading billboards advertising the community or who had been shopping for a new house in Orange County.

He asked them to rate how important certain things were to them -- "making it big" or "finding your purpose in life." He asked people whether "extremists and radicals should be banned from running for public office" or whether they "like to experience exotic people and places."

To a large extent, some questions were aimed at finding out whether people would pay for eco-friendly features, and others were aimed at what Warrick calls "neighboring." People were asked whether it was important that they know their neighbors, or have organized activities, or privacy, for instance.

When the responses came back, they were sorted, and four psychographic profiles emerged.

As it turns out, there were lots of status-conscious "Winners" in Orange County, people who tended to go for the glitziest, most expensive homes in Covenant Hills. And there were a fair number of "Winners with Heart," a hybrid group of status-conscious people with a spiritual side.

There were the religiously oriented "Traditionalists," who, it was assumed, would prefer the more classic architecture there, and more family-oriented activities, such as the annual Easter egg hunt.

On the other hand, the "Cultural Creatives" tended to be more liberal-minded, environmentally oriented and "less into conspicuous consumption," Warrick said, and Terramor was built for them.

"Their houses might have a courtyard that conceals the front door, and it's kind of cozy and nest-like," he explained. "The materials might be just as expensive as what the Winner would want, but more understated."

Warrick has been doing this sort of work for more than 20 years. He's sold products from cars to console TVs and worked on a seminal ad campaign for Merrill Lynch, the one with the lone bull in a china shop. ("We told the ad agency, you don't want a herd of bulls," he recalled. "That's not the image for achievement-oriented people. You want an individual bull.")

But he said he is especially excited about his work at Ladera and the social chemistry that seems to have evolved there.

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