Branding, Green, TOD among Topics Discussed at Multi-Housing Forum

How to make the most of your real estate brand was spotlighted yesterday in a panel titled “Achieving Peak Occupancy with Effective Branding,” one of nine sessions during the inaugural session at Multi-Housing Forum (pictured), held in Chicago. This one-day program, sponsored by Multi-Housing News, attracted about 160 attendees to the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place where they heard updates on a wide variety of topics from financing issues to green buildings and transit-oriented developments (TODs).Nancy Walker, president of Walker Brands, a Tampa, Fla.-based firm that just opened new corporate headquarters built with LEED certification in mind, outlined the comprehensive process of developing an effective branding program, which is much more than a logo or a clever project name.“Today’s consumers are hyper-informed and time-starved,” Walker noted, “so explain how your residential product is special and different. Brand distinction builds buzz and helps you break through the clutter.”Garry Benson, president & CEO of Garrison Partners Consulting, headquartered in Chicago, pointed out, “If you don’t spend the money up front to convey your brand message, you’re not going to convert people. Describe what will their life be like while living in your community.”The issue with green is not if but when, believes Katherine Aguilar Perez from Forest City in Los Angeles, speaking at a program on “Breaking into the Lucrative Multifamily Market.” The “secret sauce” to TOD, Perez explained, is that it requires critical mass, a minimum of 150 units in a building around a transit node. The challenge with TOD, she noted, is parking – how do you hide the parking?Perez recently returned from a trip to Dubai and Egypt and she said she was struck by differences between the oil-drunk city of Dubai where ‘tallest and biggest’ are important when it comes to buildings vs. Egyptian cities, deficient in housing.Here in the U.S., the recession is expected to be a mild one by historical standards, according to Michael Cohen, a research strategist with Property & Portfolio Research Inc. Cohen predicts that it’ll run seven months, through July. “By 2009, forecasts are for pretty decent job growth and apartment demand.”This article first appeared on the website of CPN’s sister publication Multi-Housing News at