On the Move: Master-planned communities get boost from relocation
September 13, 2013

Boasting a various array of amenities, master-planned communities in the Houston area have long been a big draw for both local and relocation home buyers. From picturesque golf courses to neighborhood parks and bike trails, to the close proximity of retail shopping centers and restaurants, master-planned communities have much to offer newcomers to the Houston area.

Larry D. Johnson is president and CEO of The Johnson Development Corp., which is a residential and commercial real estate development company headquartered in Houston that specializes in master-planned communities.

His company currently manages 10 Houston-area master-planned communities.

Johnson said that all of the relocation activity into the Houston area so far this year has had a very positive impact on Johnson Development communities.

"We have experienced a significant increase in sales in all of our communities, much of it due to relocating families. Many companies that transfer employees from one location to another encourage them to consider master-planned communities where values are historically the most stable," he said.

When people relocate to Houston, the neighborhood or area where they choose to live is typically predicated by its proximity to work, schools, and specific neighborhood amenities that are important to them. In the Houston area, there are many master-planned communities from which to choose.

Johnson's company has two communities in Montgomery County (Woodforest and Harmony) that are already benefiting from the tremendous corporate growth that is taking place in The Woodlands and from families looking to be close to the new ExxonMobil campus.

"Our master-planned communities close to the I-10 Energy Corridor (Cross Creek Ranch and Willow Creek Farms), and those in Fort Bend County (Sienna Plantation and Riverstone) are also performing very well with the strong employment growth that is taking place," he said. "Regardless of where they buy, families relocating to Houston are impressed with the value of their home purchase, the amenities that master-planned communities offer, and the proximity to quality schools, shopping and entertainment."

Relocation buyers often like to be able to get a feel for a community before making their first home-finding trip to Houston. For that reason, Johnson said his company has put more emphasis on social media and the Internet to attract these relocation buyers.

"Online research has become the most important part of a new home purchase. Our community websites have more information, more photography and more of the kinds of things that buyers are looking for when they're considering a neighborhood," he said. "Being able to show the kids where they will be going to school, where the community bike trails and new adventure waterpark are located is a big part of a home purchase. Home buying is an emotional experience and we've found that buyers select the community first, and then find a home that meets their needs."

Johnson also recognizes the importance of catering to the local Realtors, who often work with relocation buyers. As such, a large part of Johnson Development's marketing efforts are geared toward those Realtors.

"Keeping agents informed about all aspects of our communities makes it easy for them to bring their clients to one of them, and they are confident that we will have a home that will fit their lifestyle," Johnson said.

Johnson Development also is working closely with the home builders in their communities to help combat the inventory shortage of available properties.

"All of our communities are working feverishly to keep our builders supplied with homesites," he said. "With the strong market we're currently experiencing, it's been quite a challenge but we have been able to use all our resources to meet the incredible demand for new homes."

In order to stay abreast of companies that are relocating or expanding into the Houston area, Johnson Development stays involved in the various local economic development organizations.

Johnson said members of their team serve on the boards of economic development organizations in Fort Bend County, Montgomery County and in the Katy/Fulshear area. They also stay in close contact with local and county officials, as well as the Houston-area Chambers of Commerce.

"When a company is considering a relocation, part of its research involves housing options for their employees," Johnson said. "Often the EDCs (Economic Development Councils) look to us to provide information on our future development and availability."


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