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Igniting IGNITION: Launching a multifamily marketing companyIGNITION Residential

Igniting IGNITION: Starting a Multifamily Marketing Company

IGNITION Residential - Multifamily New Development MarketingAt the ripe old age of 67, after marketing my own residential development projects, I am in the midst of starting a multi-family marketing company to provide services to other developers.  In an odd kind of way, it’s invigorating to be starting anything at this age, but this is something that I’ve been thinking about for the past 10 years.  For a variety of reasons, most of them having to do with the strength or weakness of the condominium market and my desire as a developer to make hay while the sun shined, the timing never seemed right.  Now, in the midst of another slumping condominium market, the timing is definitely right.

I’ve experienced at least four such slumps in the residential condominium market since starting a development company in 1978.   I survived several of them by accident.  As an architect-turned-developer, I tended to over-design and over-build our units, wanting to derive the same satisfaction that I sought as an architect from making my transition to a totally different business, real estate development. Then, in order to allow the projects to work, I had to charge higher-than-average prices for my condominium homes and, by default, I found myself catering to the upper end of the market.  When interest rates started to rise, the lower end of the buying public dropped out after each small rise in interest rates, and we found ourselves dealing with the only folks to whom slight increases in interest rates didn’t matter.  We looked smart but, in truth, we stumbled upon success.  This “formula” ultimately became the template for our future development work.

This slump is different but, in my opinion, not the worst.  The last time the condominium market disappeared, in the late 1980s through the early 1990s, the very word, “condominium” became something akin to a curse.  First, the investor market evaporated due to the change in the tax laws under Reagan.  As investors could no longer take advantage of buying condominiums as a form of tax shelter, many condominium projects no longer made sense.  As thousands of investors made for the door, often leaving non-refundable deposits on the table, the rest of the condominium market followed.  Very soon thereafter, prices dropped precipitously and very few people maintained any faith that asking prices were in any way indicative of a property’s true value.  Even at the upper end of the market, usually immune to such downturns, potential buyers were afraid of making a multi-million dollar mistake.  As we said at the time, “It will take another generation of bankers before the condominium market recovers.”  As always, that happened…and younger bankers with little of no institutional memory were lending again on condominiums.  And, once again, after years of extraordinary price increases, here we are again.

Having seen the condominium market recover from a number of these bursting bubbles, I was more convinced than ever that this was finally going to be an opportunity to try to offer marketing services to developers other than myself.  However, I was also aware that the time-honored tools of residential marketing had changed dramatically and almost overnight.  After decades of relying on advertising and public relations (now dubbed, “Outbound Marketing”), web-based marketing had not only taken root, but had taken over!  A brave new world of blogs, tweets, social media and many other forms of “Inbound Marketing” had supplemented the relatively recently introduced websites for everything under the sun…including condominium projects.  And, like most people my age, I didn’t have a clue how these new tools worked.

That recognition of personal limitations led me to understand that I needed to partner with people who understood this new paradigm.  Consequently, I met with a number of folks and firms whom I thought might appreciate my 30 plus years of residential marketing experience as a springboard to launch a marketing company that combined what I hoped were transferable skills and experience in traditional marketing with the best of web-based marketing.  At some point, not too long ago, I met with the two principals of Charlesgate Realty Group and IGNITION Residential, a multi-family marketing company, was born.

Michael DiMella and PT Vineburgh had been involved in real estate for much of their professional lives (even starting during college for both) and their respective personalities, skill sets, and youthful enthusiasm appealed to me.  In addition, in a short eight years, they had turned the Charlesgate Realty Group into one of the powerhouses of the Boston brokerage community, specializing in both rentals and sales. PT’s articulate and humorous “shmooziness” reminded me of myself in a younger body and he has established himself as one of the best-known and best producing sales people in Boston.  Michael, our managing partner and the more serious of the two, has a high degree of familiarity and expertise with web-based marketing as a result of his being one of the true pioneers in this rapidly emerging, synergetic universe.  Indeed, creating and launching IGNITION Residential with these two remarkable individuals has proven to be one of the most energizing and interesting experiences in a professional life that started over forty years ago.

As an aside, given their ages (young 30s) and mine (mid-60’s), we seem to have both ends of the market covered, i.e., young professionals and “empty nesters.”

Two weeks ago, our website went “live” and we’ve been making the rounds of residential developers and “first responders,” i.e., the architects, contractors and bankers who might be contacted early in the development process and, hopefully, before a marketing company had been integrated into the development team.  We’re confident that we have a “unique selling proposition,” an integrated and comprehensive approach to marketing that combines over three decades of traditional residential marketing experience supplemented by a critically important set of skills that include architecture, construction and web-based marketing expertise.  At the risk of sounding overly self-serving, I think that we are the only multifamily marketing company in the area that offers a marketing platform informed by so many diverse disciplines.

The focus of IGNTION Residential is on providing a broad palette of marketing services to condominium and apartment developers as the former genre recovers and the latter emerges as the primary form of new housing in the Boston area.  I’ll continue to keep you posted on our progress…but for now, we’ve ignited IGNITION!

 

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About Merrill Diamond

Merrill H. Diamond is a trained architect and a founding principal of IGNITION Residential, an interdisciplinary multi-family marketing firm. He is also a founding partner of Diamond/Sinacori, a Boston-based real estate development company founded in 1978. Mr. Diamond has been the recipient of numerous local and national awards for both development and marketing. He has served as both a gubernatorial appointee to the Massachusetts Historical Commission and to the Senate Special Commission on Historic Preservation. In addition, Mr. Diamond has been named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Arthur Young / “Venture Magazine;” “Merchant Builder of the Year” by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), and one of “America’s Most Valuable People” by “USA Today".

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