The test drive is such an integral part of the process of buying a new car. No matter how good the vehicle looks or how many features it includes, it is not a good purchase if the buyer doesn't feel comfortable behind the wheel. That is the idea behind GL Homes' Stay and Play program at Valencia Lakes adult community, according to Marisa Lufkin, project manager and vice president of GL Homes.
The program allows for buyers to spend time in a fully furnished home and participate in the numerous activities available at the 55 plus community. The staff at Valencia Lakes endeavors to put participants into the type of home they are interested in, whether it's an attached villa or a larger single-family home.
"The Stay and Play program is not a new concept," Lufkin said. "There are many active adult builders who use it, but we have tweaked it to fit our program, and it has been very successful for us. The intention was for our buyers who weren't familiar with Valencia Lakes to come and visit and immerse themselves in the lifestyle."
GL Homes charges $99 for the three-day, two-night stay, according to Lufkin. Once a buyer books a Stay and Play visit, Valencia Lakes staff will contact them to get information about what sort of home the buyer is interested in, as well as what sort of activities the buyer enjoys.
"We do our best to provide them with a stay in a home that fits their needs in regard to square footage, price and home site," Lufkin explained. "We have a Guest House Concierge who works to make our guests' stay as comfortable as it can be. We arrange for them to participate in community activities that match their interests, whether it is tennis, pickle ball, swimming, aerobics, pilates, dancing or any of the hundreds of activities available at Valencia Lakes."
As with an automobile test drive, participants in the Stay and Play program do not always buy a home, and that is okay with Lufkin.
"We know that every person who stays with us is not going to write a check that weekend," Lufkin added. "We want them to feel that Valencia Lakes is the right choice for them. The program makes purchasers feel at ease that they are making the right decision. They meet other homeowners, meet potential neighbors, and spend time with them and even form friendships. They may not buy right away, but for those looking for this sort of active lifestyle, we will be at the top of their list."
Lufkin said that the permanent residents of Valencia Lakes love the Stay and Play program because they are proud of where they live and will take time to make guests feel welcome. That welcoming attitude made an impression on Jean Ferman, who participated in the Stay and Play program in April with her husband Neil. When the Fermans were settling into their weekend home, they discovered that they had lost the key to their luggage. When Jean Ferman asked a resident if the office was still open so she could get a pair of pliers to open the luggage, the resident cheerfully offered her husband's assistance with pliers.
"My husband and I were interested in getting into a 55 plus community in Florida," she explained. "On paper, Valencia Lakes had everything we were looking for, but we didn't go to buy. We went to see if we would even like the west coast of Florida. We loved the home and how it was built. We spoke to people at the pool and honestly didn't meet one resident who had anything but nice things to say about the community. Usually, you have at least one person who complains."
Despite their initial lack of interest, the Fermans loved the community so much, they bought a home in Valencia Lakes.
"For the money, I don't think you can find a better value," Jean Ferman said.
"The Stay and Play program is a perfect way for buyers to focus two and a half days on their home search and to really decide if Valencia Lakes and the active adult lifestyle is for them," Lufkin added. "We have sold more than 100 homes through the program. The quality of the home construction and the unparalleled active lifestyle are the most common reasons that guests give for purchasing a new home."
To reach Valencia Lakes, take I-75 to exit 240 (SR 674 East Sun City Center). Travel east on SR 674 to Highway 301 and turn north. Valencia Lakes entrance is on the right. The sales center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Friday from noon to 5 p.m.
For information, visit glhomes.com or call 1-800-875-2176.