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Homebuilder camps out to spark sales

Mattress in tow, Wieland’s aim to sell 101 houses brings him to South Hall

POSTED: March 7, 2009 12:02 a.m.

Home developer tries unique marketing tool

John Wieland talks about the reason for his "Get Housing Moving" tour.

HARRIS BLACKWOOD/The Times

Developer John Wieland, left, talks with homeowner John Campbell during a visit to Wieland's Reunion development in South Hall. Wieland is on a tour of his developments in an effort to sell 101 homes.

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HOSCHTON — When he first began building homes in 1971, John Wieland took a direct role in marketing them.

"I used to go on Sunday and take a folding lawn chair and sit outside waiting on folks to come," Wieland said.

In the ensuing 38 years, Wieland has weathered a few economic storms, but he remains convinced that now is a good time to buy a house.

"This is our fourth big recession, and in the three previous it has always been housing that led the economy out," Wieland said.

The developer, whose home business one of the largest in the Southeast, has taken to the road in hopes of selling 101 homes in 60 neighborhoods in Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee.

His first night on the road was in Reunion, a planned community that opened in 2001.

Though he travels in a fully equipped motor home, Wieland also brought along a twin-size mattress, a folding table and a lamp, and he will sleep in a model home in a different neighborhood every night until he reaches his sales goal.

His tour, dubbed "Get Housing Moving" is to stress the importance of housing to the U.S. economy.

Like many developers, Wieland is pulling out the stops to sell homes. Prices have been discounted from 5 to 25 percent and his company’s financing arm is offering historically low interest rates.

The developer also offers a protection plan that guarantees the home will appreciate in value after five years or the company will pay the difference between the final appraised value and the purchase price, or appraised value at closing.

Wieland admits that the home building industry will emerge from the recession with changes in how it does business.

"It’s going to be a different housing market," Wieland said. "There are going to be fewer builders and fewer lenders. We plan to be a part of that long-term program, and that’s good. We created too many homes, and now we’ll be back in balance as we come out of recession, and it will be healthy."

Wieland said that every new home sold creates three full-time jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the industry currently accounts for 1.8 million jobs, down from 3.5 million. He also points to the domino effect housing sales have on home improvement, retail and other industries.

John Campbell, a middle school principal in Gwinnett County, has lived in Reunion for five years. He applauded Wieland’s innovative marketing effort.

"He’s a good guy and he’s showing his commitment," Campbell said. "We all have to recognize these are different times, so different approaches are needed and appreciated."

Campbell said he has another reason for Wieland to succeed.

"I don’t want him leaving this subdivision. I want him to finish what he’s started here. It’s a beautiful thing."



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