The conventional wisdom: New-home sales are in free fall and buyers aren't buying anything.
Nevertheless, Taylor Morrison sales associate Karen Chapman managed to sell 10 homes worth more than $3-million in 14 days in February at Stonebrier in Lutz.
How did she do it?
MEET KAREN: Age 57; husband, grown son, yellow lab, Ginger ("a rescue dog," 14 1/2 years old). Longtime sales associate: for Tam-Bay Realty; 13 years for Pulte; about a year with Taylor Morrison. (Last summer Morrison Homes merged with Taylor Woodrow to form Taylor Morrison.)
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO CLOSE THOSE SALES? "You have to have the right product in the right location with the right home sites and the right schools, and good access to the Veterans Expressway. And you have to know what you're doing."
THE COMMUNITY: Stonebrier is a master-planned community of just under 500 homes developed by Centex on Lutz-Lake Fern Road west of N Dale Mabry. Home prices start in the $280,000s. Other builders: Centex Homes, Arthur Rutenberg Homes, Bayfair Custom Homes, Shimberg Homes.
"People who live in Lutz want to stay in Lutz. It's the high-rated schools and the new George Steinbrenner High School on Lutz-Lake Fern Road," Chapman says. "I'm selling to a lot of customers that currently live in Lutz."
Many of those buyers, she says, are renting their existing homes to help them qualify for mortgages for the homes they're buying from her. It's not clear whether that's because they can't sell or don't want to. What she does know is that her buyers have no trouble getting financing. "I qualify them before I write them up. We don't have cancellations. These are professional buyers."
EVERYBODY SAYS NOBODY'S BUYING. "That's not true! I'm swamped. I'm selling at least one home a week." A few years ago, during the boom times, when she was working for Pulte, she typically sold two a week.
WHAT BUYERS LIKE: "They're aware that when we opened up nine months ago we were priced at $100,000 more. It's a great value. They've seen the prices drop." (There have been price increases since, including one May 1.)
''To buy a Taylor Morrison home at this price is incredible. We're at the low end in the premiere village of Stonebrier," near those other builders with well-respected names and good reputations.
Her buyers "see the value: great architectural design (including standard brick paver driveways), great home sites, great location."
"When I originally got here, we had the wrong product. They were all two-level homes. Management listened and now we have three one-level plans with optional bonus rooms. We've done real well since we got the right product.
You can't have just one type. You have to have an array. I've got five plans and they're all different."
HOW TO BE A SMART BUYER: "Shop the competition. Know the prices. Look at resales." And if you have a home to sell, "Price your home to sell. Adjust to the market. When houses are priced right, they sell."
Judy Stark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or