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The housing crash has hit hard in California, and nowhere worse than areas undergoing aggressive growth in the form of relatively large-scale housing divisions. Brand name creation for these developments has long skewed towards the fanciful (and some say, misleading). But when the houses are sold faster than they can be built no one seems to mind that their new home sits alongside a dozen other identical houses on “Solitude St.” and thus doesn’t really deliver on the name. The names for housing developments have always baffled me and I’ve often wondered at names for housing projects that evoke ocean views in California’s Central Valley (like Villages at Vista del Mar). Why make a promise that is obviously so untrue?

When the economy takes a dive, the strategic naming for these new housing developments rings hollow. Without the optimism of a thriving economy to bolster the promises. “Luna at Terra Serena” for a development near San Jose seems forced in its evocation of Italian estates and “Crossings at Eden Shores” is emptied of its assurance of earthy delights. When you scream a brand promise so loudly, you often run the risk of stirring suspicion in customer’s eyes. Why should Abe need to call his car dealership “Honest Abe’s Used Cars” if he truly were so honest, the customer might wonder.

It’s not an uncommon observation that subdivisions and housing developments often seemed to be named for what was destroyed in the building of the homes; A sort of backhanded homage if you will. Although they’re not professional namers, there is a great parody of naming suggestions for housing developments on the SlowMover blog including “Leveled Hills, Waning Woods and Vanishing View.”

So while we maintain that great names are incredibly powerful, it’s unlikely that Vacaville’s “Villas at Portofino” development will ever live up to its namesake in Italy – one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful ports. After all Vacaville itself does mean “cow town.” We advise finding a happy medium for the product naming of these kind of housing developments. Names that are down to earth (like Garden Walk, Merced Townhouses or Madrone Village), but not face-down in the mud (sorry Vacaville).


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