Place Named 'Awesometown' -- Awesome?

Andy SambergIf you were to round up a group of silly adolescents, give them all the candy and soda they could ever desire and asked them to come up with a list of names for a utopian community, "Awesometown" would probably be near the top of that list. Newland Hall, a community planner in north Los Angeles County, didn't need the youngsters and rushes of sugar to come up with the idea of dubbing the planned community of Valencia just that: Awesometown. The branding of the housing development in Santa Clarita, Calif. has been met with mixed reactions.

"If the Awesometown term is simply a marketing campaign and not the permanent name of a the community or subdivision, I think they should have fun with it and roll with the punches, and use the hype and attention to draw more interest," says Steve Crossland, a Realtor in Austin, Texas. "If they've actually named a part of the community Awesometown, the way a parent would name a child 'Moon Blossom' or something, I think that will eventually be viewed as a mistake."
Hearing "Awesometown" may cause some to remember the 20-minute pilot created by the comedy trio The Lonely Island back in May 2005. The group, made up of Andy Samberg (pictured), Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, put out the comedy pilot for Fox, which never aired it. This version of Awesometown, no matter what people may think, is no joke.

Back in February, Newhall Land began plastering billboards in the Valencia area with the word "Awesometown" on them. Six months later, the developer finally offered an explanation in a blog post titled, "Why Awesometown?"

"In the process of brainstorming our new campaign, we asked local residents for their thoughts about life in Valencia," the Newhall Land Co. explained in the post. "People raved about Valencia's unique lifestyle, great schools, incredible friendliness and convenient shopping and dining. Many folks even described Valencia as awesome. It seemed unusual at first that people would use such a term to describe a town, but the more we thought about it, the more it made sense."

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The community planner went on to highlight the acres of parks, more than 60,000 jobs and one of the country's top art colleges as some of the strengths of the town. "So why did we start calling Valencia Awesometown? Turns out it was Awesome all along."

"Wow, apparently the Newhall Land Co. has been taken over by teenagers," says Jeri Creson, a broker in the Santa Clarita region, of her first reaction. She says her next reaction was that the name was apt for an area that she would live in, if it weren't for the business that she and her husband have in Studio City.

"I like the name Awesometown because it reflects how I see Valencia, and would remind you, every time you passed the sign, to remember to be grateful for having an awesome place to be," Creson says. "It's a little corny, sure, but I see it as a positive moniker and one that will have an uplifting, energizing effect on the community."

Others, however, are not so keen on the idea. "Pretentious, stupid, dumb," is what Crossland calls it.

In July 2006 and May 2007, Crossland decided to examine whether or not "politically incorrect" street names like Shoot Out Court, Ammunition Drive and Six Gun Trail had a negative impact on the sales prices of the homes located on them. While his findings were inconclusive,, a property-search site in the U.K., did a similar investigation in June and found that some street names had higher average property values than others. Properties on "hills" or "lanes" were worth 50 percent more than the national average, while "streets" and "terraces" had the lowest average property values.

Does this translate into the names of community or town names affecting property values? "There could certainly be examples of where the name does matter a lot to a small few," says Crossland. "But I think in most cases it probably doesn't affect the decision and, thus, not the price." He added that Awesometown is a case in which "it's an entire community brand that a buyer must buy into and be willing to be labeled with. That's a bit different than a bad street name."

While there might not be a tangible monetary consequence tied with community names, it still has an effect on potential buyers. Creson recounted a recent escrow closing in which she and her client learned that the client's new subdivision was "Wisteria," which elicited chuckles because of the connection with "Desperate Housewives."

"We love to laugh, smile and feel good about our surroundings, don't we?" says Creson. "Do I think a street name affects the home's value? Not really, but it sometimes can make it more memorable." She listed urban legends and celebrity sightings as factors that can have a minor effect on an area's value, given the charm of being where the action is and the chance to share something special about one's home at a party.

Crossland, however, says home values still boil down to three things: "Price, location and condition. Everything else is secondary."

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