Targeting condos at specific demographics

I would love to see a story on the demographics of who is purchasing in the Woodlands of Charlottesville, a new condo development about a mile from the University’s of Virginia’ Main Grounds. This story in the WSJ notes broadly that they may not be getting the buyers the expected.

Developers across the country are appealing to young buyers — many of them single, almost all without children — with buildings that promise not just an affordable first home but also a great social life. The amenities tell the story: videogame lounges and outdoor fire pits, rooftop soaking tubs, on-site bars and poolside drinks.

But it’s not so easy to control demographics in the open market. Some of the buildings are drawing unexpected buyers: people old enough to be the parents of the kids down the hall. And that’s leading to territorial conflicts, social snubs — even planned boardroom coups.

Much of the story strikes me as being potential fair housing violations – see this graphic for example:

People like us - from the WSJ

I have been trained (and raised) not to target the people, but the property, even though it seems to be human nature to want to live with “people like us.” Couldn’t the targeting of singles be construed as discriminating based on familial status?

This targeting of developments to this younger, hipper demographic is the same as families wanting to be in neighborhoods with other families – perhaps one of the most common, innocuous requests that I am asked – yet as a Realtor cannot answer.

(Note: I think the Woodlands are going to be a great community, despite the fact that they clear-cut the woods to build the ironically-named development)

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5 Comments

  1. Maus May 15, 2007 at 12:25

    This is no different than all of the developments targeting families with children in the household. If they can cater to people with children by providing playlots, soccer fields and community pools than I see nothing wrong with bars, videogame rooms anything else they want to provide. You seem to think it’s ok to target families but once young single adults are the demographic they want all of a sudden it ‘might’ be discrimination. It’s a case if one is acceptable than the other has to be acceptable also.

  2. Jim Duncan May 15, 2007 at 13:45

    Maus –

    Thank you for visiting and commenting.

    Frankly, I avoid all conversations about “who” is living in an area or neighborhood. I focus on the features of the development, as anything other than that could be construed as discrimination. Perhaps I am paranoid, but I have heard too many horror stories of real and perceived discrimination.

    I think that it is natural for people to want to live with/near those with similar interests, but the explicit targeting of those people treads a very thin line.

  3. TrvlnMn May 15, 2007 at 20:32

    Jim, I think you raise some interesting points in your post. In this instance however I’m going to say more power to the person targeting single people. If they can sell overpriced 55 plus age restricted ghettos, then they should be able to tell old people to shove off on the singles preferred developments. If it’s fair for one group it should be fair for the other.

    And for the record I’m opposed to 55 plus restricted communities.

  4. Jim Duncan May 16, 2007 at 07:15

    TrvlnMn –

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you. What I am befuddled by is the incongruity of the pertinent laws. I don’t think that the family with two kids who want to live next to another family with kids is as onerous an offense as those who ask the racial makeups of neighborhoods, or those young professionals who want to live with similarly-aged people.

    I would imagine that the 55+ communities are the result of powerful lobbying, and I have had people interested in them. I have had many more asking for Universal Design homes rather than the makeup of the community.

    The “one-size-fits-all” regulations are infuriating.

  5. TrvlnMn May 16, 2007 at 20:43

    Jim,

    I agree with you. What I advocate is taking the 55+ rules and turning them to use in ways that were not anticipated and could be morally and/or politically disturbing, in an attempt to force the change we would all like to see.

    But then sometimes I’m just odd that way.