Summerfield spruces up its image
Hard work pays off as houses sell like hotcakes
People driving through Summerfield these days will notice a lot of changes: From new signs to Clubhouse renovations to landscape and golf course improvements and more, Summerfield has reinvented itself and polished its image for the 21st century.
Summerfield was built in the mid-1970s and was able to rest on its laurels for decades, but in recent years, "Summerfield was an aging community," resident Jack Vogel said. "Fewer and fewer people were taking active leadership roles in association activities. As the real estate bubble burst, homes were going unsold.
"Public play on the golf course was down. Most important, Summerfield did not have an identity in the area. It was a hidden gem that no one knew about - something needed to be done."
Several of the key players got together recently to discuss Summerfield's transformation over the past several years, including Roy Love, former Board of Directors president; Leigh Wilcox, board liaison to the marketing committee; Jack Vogel, who served on the board for four years and started Summerfield's marketing concept; Robin Starr Dezendorf with Keller Williams Realty, who has sold homes in Summerfield for many years; Wendy Pfeifer, past chair of the marketing committee; Jan Vanderpool, who started the golf course promotions; and Dick Fleming, who serves on the marketing committee.
Two of the biggest efforts were communitywide "open houses" in 2009 and 2011 in which virtually all the homes for sale were open along with the Clubhouse and even the golf course; both events drew hundreds of potential buyers to Summerfield.
Love credits resident Mel Nielson who in early 2009 "brought some key players to his house to plan a course of action," he said. "We asked a lot of people to serve on this new committee, and about 100 offered.
The Summerfield Civic Association Board of Directors was on board and voted to approve funding for the proposed improvements.
"The first open house was very successful, Love said. A lot of people said, 'We didn't know (Summerfield) was here.' We worked to develop awareness that we have a public golf course, not a private one. Jan made sure the residents knew what was going on.
"People who moved in after Summerfield opened (who originally only had to be 40 years old) are getting older, and there was less participation in everything."
Vogel added, "We had a real pro-active board, and that is what made it happen. We had aging facilities. For example, we had a 35-year-old irrigation system that went kaput.
We had a little bit of an agenda. We aimed our efforts toward young 55-plus working people."
The committee agreed that one of its best efforts was the new public landscaping around the eastside of the Clubhouse and other areas.
Another major project was redecorating the upper floor of the Clubhouse, including flooring, painting, carpeting and furniture, plus there were improvements to the lower level.
To promote Summerfield, the committee placed signs at some of the entrances, such as near the intersection of Durham Road and Summerfield Drive.
"We did not change the logo - the sunburst is our brand," Wilcox said.
While the swimming pool outside the Clubhouse got such visible improvements as new railings, there were hidden ones as well, such as a new automatic chemical-monitoring system.
"Before, volunteers had to check the chemicals three times per day," Fleming said.
Vanderpool noted, "I'm impressed with Summerfield residents. When you look at other communities with homeowner associations, I don't think many have as many volunteers as we do.
"You would be amazed. No one gets paid - people volunteer their time."
Summerfield has 1,231 separate residences (equating to 1,625 residents) and at the recent annual meeting, when everyone who had volunteered was asked to stand up, "Everyone stood up," Vanderpool said.
At the Pro Shop and golf course, volunteers act as marshals as well as starters, greeting newcomers and making sure they have paid, have a scorecard and know the rules. "They also ask how they heard about Summerfield," Vogel said.
Golf pro Rob Lindsey, who arrived in March 2011, got women more involved in the golf club, brought in new tournaments and staged fun events.
As part of the makeover, the sixth hole of the golf course was reconfigured along with fencing and the cart path.
"Another big thing here is the administrative support," Love said, crediting SCA Administrator Cari Froeber and bookkeeper/receptionist Diane Ragsdale.
The group lauded Froeber for organizing the showcases featuring Summerfield clubs and programs at the open houses and producing the monthly newsletter, the "Summary."
"Cari is dynamite with the committees," and Wilcox added, "She has a unique ability to work with a wide range of people, and she has good communication and financial skills. She is very effective."
The conversation shifted to real estate, where marketing efforts have undergone major changes over the years.
Dezendorf organized the popular "First Sundays," in which most of the homes for sale in Summerfield are open on the first Sunday of the month, and she continues to coordinate the Realtors, getting information on their listings and creating maps showing the locations. In addition, the Clubhouse is open for tours led by volunteers.
"We have all this great technology now, so it's easy to collect and present information," Dezendorf said. "Cari puts information packets about Summerfield together that are handed out to prospective buyers.
I would say that 85 to 90 percent of the Realtors participate, and people selling their homes themselves are invited to participate too.
Wilcox added, "Robin masterminds it all. It's a marvelous way for people to see Summerfield. People who come to them say, 'When I sell my big house, I'm going to move here.'"
Even Summerfield's website has not gone untouched, getting a makeover too with more updates coming in the future.
"We said if we're going to do it, we're going to do it right," Wilcox said. "Anybody who is looking to buy into a community with a homeowners' association wants to see the minutes of the last board meetings and review its financial stability."
The committee members agreed that all the changes have not just been nice but necessary.
"If you're standing still, people will pass you by," Love said. "We're not standing still. We have had progressive boards the last eight to 10 years."