I am endlessly fascinated by creativity in the real estate world. I had the opportunity to spend some time recently with John Sims, Chairman and CEO of Marketlogics, a firm that provides creative real estate market advisory services for residential home builders. John’s personal philosophy is simple, “People want to feel special. We figure out how to get them that feeling.”

The really cool thing about John and his firm is that they live and work at the intersection of research, planning, architecture, interior design, construction, appraisal, cost analysis, marketing, sales, psychology and magic.

Although it would be very wise for a builder to hire Marketlogics from the outset, more often than not John gets called in to fix a problem project. The problem is usually very simple: the units aren’t selling. That’s when John and his team parachute in to rescue the project.

They start with excellent boots-on-the-ground research, identifying the competitive market area, the existing and proposed competing projects, and the styles, sizes, pricing, and amenities being offered. They arrange focus groups of active local residential brokers to better understand the needs and wants of local buyers. They analyze the data and develop a report with a dizzying array of charts graphs and figures. Then they add their unique gift  – creating a plan to make the project a success.

The recommendations can be simple: offer free granite countertops and stainless steel appliance upgrades.

Or complex: change the concept from a mid-rise steel frame building to townhomes with garages. Make the units bigger. Make the units flow better. Offer an internet cafe. Give the entrance and clubhouse more “wow” factor.

During our meeting, John told me a story that captures how creative he really is. Marketlogics was engaged to turn around a huge and troubled active adult community in southern New Jersey. Sales were sluggish, to put it mildly.

John studied the situation and realized that the builder’s assumptions about the customer base were wrong – buyers from the Philadelphia area were unlikely to move to higher-tax New Jersey to retire. So he had to identify a new customer base and refocus the marketing.

John hired a long time New York City radio personality as the project’s spokesperson. Initial attempts to have the radio personality read ad copy were a disaster, so John took a different tack. He ordered up a  limousine for the radio personality and brought him down the project. The radio man toured the property, met the developers and the attractive young ladies from the sales office, and enjoyed cocktails and a sumptuous lunch.

When the radio personality returned to his microphone, he was effusive, “the project is beautiful, in a quiet area, but convenient to New York City, the homes and the amenities are first-class. I met the developers, such nice people. Ladies and gentlemen, you really have to go take a look.”

And they did. By the hundreds. And they bought.

John is a master of his unique craft. Home builders would be wise to call him first.