Naming In The News

Naming Real Estate Projects Poses Special Problems for Developers

By Diwata Fonte
The Fresno Bee, California

RISMEDIA, Dec. 20 (KRT) With so many "estates," "plazas" and "courts," naming real estate projects may seem like a game of copycat.

That's why selecting the right name is tricky in an area with rapid growth, according to developers and marketing professionals. Busy developers, while blessed with an eager market, admit to being challenged by the task of inventing names for subdivisions, shopping centers, streets and model homes. "It's one of our constant sources of frustration, actually," said Karl Gosswiller, marketing and advertising director for Granville Homes Inc. in Fresno.

"If you've been doing this long enough you're like, 'Gosh, more names.'" Real estate names can come from geographical features, family members, European trips, golf courses and even spices.

While Universal Park was named after Harold Zinkin Sr.'s Universal Gym Machine and Woodward Park, Granville Homes once named streets "Christine" and "Erin" after two women who happened to be standing at the company's front counter at the time.

To stay ahead of such last-minute decisions, Gosswiller keeps three or four computer documents filled with name ideas, because for every name that gets chosen, nine are rejected.

Take "Yountville," for instance. While the Napa Valley town is known as the home of the area's first grapevine, "that name certainly didn't make the cut, as nice a town it is." Gosswiller said.

Robert Wood of Generation Homes also recognizes the challenge for effectiveness and originality in naming projects. When Generation Homes first entered the Reedley market with a housing project, Wood turned to a school contest to help name River Ridge Estates.

Students at Navelencia Middle School and Alta Elementary also named streets after fruit trees in the area as well as Presidents Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson.

"One, 1/8the contest3/8 had the benefit of outreach, but two — to be honest — coming up with names is very challenging," Wood said. "Virtually everything you can think of has been used."

An original name can accomplish many tasks in one short phrase.

"Branding a shopping center is almost like branding a company. The name speaks to what it is you're trying to convey," said Patrick Orosco, vice president of Orosco & Associates, which handles leasing for Visalia's Packwood Creek Shopping Center.

That name was an easy pick because of its location south of its namesake, but "often we have difficulty picking names of any significance or relationship," he said.

While many customers may not remember the name of their model home or a shopping center, names still serve an important role in marketing and sales.

Wood is developing a 96-unit apartment complex called The Orchard because it was a common name that could appeal to a wide demographic market and a mixture of families. The company also is planting a variety of trees to hint at the site's agrarian past.

"With an apartment, it's even more critical because people will identify the name," Wood said. "You would never hear 'I live in a Generation Homes apartment.'"

Keeping to a theme, or playing off a nearby theme, is a standard procedure for real estate projects. While names play a smaller role when developers find themselves with customer waiting lists, a consistent concept with elements such as architectural features or street layouts can have an important effect, said Gary Janzen of Janzen Idea Corp., a marketing company in Fresno.

"Subdivisions are so prolific now in today's market that it's really to the advantage of the developer/builder to do everything possible to distinguish a point of difference," Janzen said.

Marketing professionals agree, however, that one of the biggest mistakes is in misleading customers with the real estate names.

"You can't be an 'estate' and be in a first-time buyer's home," said Bruce Batti, executive vice president of Jeffrey/Scott Advertising. "You have to live up to the expectation you set."

If the name connotes a water feature or a lake, "you can't have a puddle over in the corner," he said. "Those are the kinds of things that always get you in trouble."