THE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT -
INSTALLMENT LAND SALE BUSINESS
Digressing from the chronological story of the Mackles
Community Development Business business, I want to go in to some of
fundamental concepts behind it.
Some of the origins can be traced back to the Florida Land Boom
of the twenties and to the Mackles
earlier building activities. But it all came together in a new form in the
During that time they laid the foundations for both General Development
and later The Deltona
Corporation - concepts
which built two highly successful public companies
cities which today are the hometowns of hundreds of thousands of
GOOD - LOW COST - LAND
The success of the Mackle Brothers had been - at Westwood, Key Biscayne and
Pompano Highlands and other subdivisions - based on buying good land "a little further out" from the immediate
growth areas of Miami and Fort Lauderdale. This allowed them to purchase tracts of
land below market which gave them a cost advantage over their competition. Then they relied
on their marketing abilities and reputation to bring potential buyers to the
they were taking that philosophy a quantum leap farther!
You can not fathom how remote and isolated the Port Charlotte property
was in 1954. The nearest towns of any size were Punta Gorda and Venice both sleepy little
backwater villages. The only town in the immediate vicinity - El Jobean -
was so small it became an "inside joke." The west coast of Florida, itself, was still relatively unknown
compared to the south east coast. The Tamiami Trail - U.S. 41
was two lane from Miami to Tampa.
I can remember - to this day - Dad
driving me - I must have been ten or eleven - around Port Charlotte in the early days and -
with nothing around except flat west Florida cattle land and pine trees as far as the eye
could see - describing the city that would someday be there!
The good news was that the land was high and dry - with good subsoil
conditions ...... and -
it was cheap.
Port Charlotte's original 80,000 acres was purchased by Florida Canada
for $43 an acre!
Port Charlotte Property
The early successful testing resulted in the Mackles thinking bigger than ever. The
largest pure housing project prior to 1955, Pompano Beach Highlands
consisted of 4,500 acres. Port Charlotte - originally 80,000 acres would -
through later acquisitions - grow to over 92,000 acres!
Fortune magazine, in 1960, described the mega cities of Port Charlotte, Port
Malabar and Port St. Lucie:
"(General Development's) stated business is not less than the
creation of cities, not pint-sized ones but affairs so vast that all of
Detroit or Greater Miami might be set down within their borders."
CREATION OF ADDED VALUE
Home Site Improvements
Like most builders the Mackles relied on finding choice
property that would be in demand because of the
natural growth process of the nearby city and a growing local economy.
But the Mackles - even in the Miami days - were willing to reach out geographically beyond the edge of the
city. Key Biscayne, Tropical Estates and Westwood Lakes were all examples of this
willingness to "pioneer". But even those projects were still
close enough to the existing city that they benefited from the
natural growth factors and the existing amenities - parks, libraries, retail centers,
churches and so forth - of the nearby city.
Builders added some value through development but
they were already "paying" for proximity to existing amenities
in the original cost of the land.
The new city-sized projects of Port Charlotte, Port Malabar and others - as
remote and as large as they were - relied on creation of added value through
state-of-the-art city planning and construction of all of the facilities
and amenities of a fully developed city - totally within its own
Modern city planning - unburdened with the drawbacks of an existing
city added value to the raw land.
Planning and construction of parks,
churches, shopping centers, office centers, roads, water lines, sewer
lines, gas lines, power lines, golf courses, boat ramps.... all added
value to the raw land and to the homes and home sites sold
It was the ability and talent of the Mackles and their organization to
do good planning and - more importantly - to actually bring to reality the
planned city through their constructions skills that distinguished them and
their business from their competitors.
There are basically two methods on which lots are sold: Deed and Mortgage
and the Installment Contracts.
In the Deed and Mortgage method lot sales are normally for fully developed lots. At the point of sale a
contract is written, providing for a closing within 60 to 90 days
deposit is made. At closing, a deed is issued and, if the contract is not paid in full, a
mortgage is taken back by the seller.
Selling with an Installment Contract is done with a smaller deposit
and a long term contract - anywhere from one to ten years or more -
where payments are made - usually monthly - with interest. When, and only when, all of the
payments are made is the lot deeded to the purchaser. Usually when the original sale is
made the lot is undeveloped. Construction of roads and installation
of utility lines are done later in the contract period but are assured before closing.
Until the mid 50's the primary method used was the Deed and Mortgage.
The Mackles recognized that the sale of lots on the Installment
basis had several advantages to the seller and buyer.
1. In the Deed and Mortgage method, in the event of default, the
property must be foreclosed. The foreclosure process is lengthy and costly.
With the Installment method no foreclosure is required as no deed is issued
until the contract is paid in full. In the event of
default, a simple notice and cancellation procedure is all that is required for
termination of the transaction. This makes it a much safer sale to the seller.
2. Because of the security to the seller that the above
provides a lower deposit from the buyer is acceptable.
3. Because all of the sales price will be collected by the
seller before he is required to deed the lot over, the development of the lot can be
deferred until the end of the contract period and the money collected can be used to pay
for the lot improvements.
4. Because there is not a large outlay of capital prior to the sale,
the sale can be made over a long period of time thus reducing monthly payments
THE MARKETING MACHINE
But how could they possibly market a project perhaps
...twenty times !... the size of anything they had ever taken on?
There was no local market.
A market had to be created.
It all started with the quarter page and and
the mail order sale of Florida land on an installment contract.
The mail order business was the forerunner of more sophisticated marketing
organization the likes of which the real estate
business had never seen. The marketing methods invented and refined by the Mackles
sales professionals propelled General Development for over
thirty five years and The Deltona Corporation for twenty years or more.
The Branch and Franchised Office Network
Following on the early mail order success, it was found that a higher percent of the returned coupons could be
converted to sales if a local sales representative was given the
"lead" and contacted the prospect in his home or in the local
By the late fifties a network of company owned branch and franchised offices was
being established all over the U.S. It was only a short time later that
offices were being established in many foreign countries as well.
franchised offices were required to sell only the Mackle's Florida
properties. They were granted exclusive sales territories in their local
Properties were sold at jobsite as well but the vast majority of
both home and land sales were made by the branch and franchise network.
National Advertising and the Sponsored Trip
|Sponsored Bus Group
|Sponsored Plane Trip
By 1959 the pure "mail order" business had been phased out.
But the national advertising program was now more important than ever to the
success of this new organization.
The vast majority of sales "leads"
were generated by the national advertising campaign. The parent company's
annual advertising program was targeted - as much as possible - in the
areas where sales offices were located. Local sales offices participated
financially in the company's advertising through co-operative advertising
allowances that were earned through sales. For example, at Deltona, two
and two thirds percent of each sale went into the offices "co-op
advertising account" to be spent on past and future advertising in
Coupon responses to the national advertising came to company
headquarters in Florida were recorded for tracking purposes and immediately sent out to the area
sales office. Good sales manager at the Branch or Franchised Dealer office treated
the "lead" like gold and distributed them to local sales
representatives for follow-up.
The sales representative made an immediate phone call to the
customer to set up a home appointment.
The sales representative - armed with a vast array of sales aids from
slide presentations to brochures - made a presentation and attempted to
close a sale on the first visit.
If a closing could not be achieved immediately, the "sponsored
trip" program came in to play.
The customer would be asked to sign a contract and make a small deposit.
If - after a personal inspection of the community - the customer was not
satisfied the contract would be cancelled.
On a company "sponsored trip" the customer and his or her spouse
would enjoy a weekend in Florida to inspect the community. The cost of the
trip was kept to a minimum and if the sale went through the cost would be
partially credited towards the lot purchase.
The "sponsored trip" customers were scheduled for an upcoming
weekend. The charter group assembled at bus or train - later chartered
airplane - terminal on Thursday or Friday afternoon.
And a weekend Florida vacation began. The trip to jobsite set a party
atmosphere with the sales reps getting to know their customer better. At
jobsite there were dinner parties each night.
and early Sunday the customer were given - with the help of jobsite
personnel - a tour of the community, of
the model homes and of the local area.
And - of course - at every opportunity the
customer was given a chance to finalize the contract that he had initiated
back in his hometown. By Sunday afternoon when the group re-boarded for
the trip home a high percentage of them now owned a Florida home site -
often more than one.
It was a very effective sales program.
Later in the seventies and eighties the sponsored trips were more
individualized as the "group" trips became less efficient. But
throughout all of the installment land sales era the "sponsored
trip" was a very important sales tool.
The national and international advertising program that created the
"lead" in the first place became more and more sophisticated and
by the late fifties major New York and Chicago advertising firms were
competing for the Mackles advertising budget. Elaborate testing of
advertising methods and advertising copy were run and rerun. Detailed
tracking of which ads were more effective than others were done. Costs of
leads generated were measured precisely and advertisements were duplicated
or discarded based on the results.
"In home" Presentation
Other Sales Programs
In addition to the national advertising local advertising and sales
office promotions such as evening seminars and group presentations were
encouraged and supported as well.
Sales contests were frequent - awarding points to sales representatives
all over the world to see who were the best of the best. Of course at the
annual sales convention the winners were recognized for their outstanding
achievements. The "Million Dollar Club" was a accolade sought by
Recruiting and training was a continuous undertaking both by the parent
company and by the branch and franchised offices. Schools were conducted
at jobsite to prepare local and out-of-state sales people for selling the
Mackles Florida properties.
The Home Office Marketing Organization
The Sales and Marketing Departments were staffed with the top
people in the industry.
Neil Bahr - after demonstrating his talent in the Mackle Franchised
office in Cleveland - was named to head up the entire marketing
organization at General Development and - The Deltona Corporation.
In Miami he directed all of the Sales Management, Advertising,
Promotion and Sales Administration functions
One of the most fascinating areas of the Miami Marketing Division was the
Lot Control Department.
Lot Control was where the inventory of hundreds of thousands of
company properties were kept track of and controlled. Sales offices
competed for the right to sell whichever property was "hot". And
Lot Control made sure that something was always "hot". They knew
the available inventory better than anyone and could identify which lots were close to shopping ... or nearest to the golf course ... or on top of
a hill ...or whatever.
And the Lot Control staff were trained to "sell" those attributes
to sales representative who were constantly calling the control center for
updates and allocations. Lots would be given to a representative on a 24
or 48 hour "hold" and he or she would lose the allocation if the lot was not
reported sold within that time. When particular sales promotions were
announced - for example an upcoming price increase - or a new section of a
opened for sale a frenzy could develop - with over a hundred offices
competing for prime lot allocations. The head of Lot Control was a very popular
person in the Mackles sales organization!
Lot Control was always at the physical center of the Marketing Department.
Other departments included offices for the Division Sales Managers who were
responsible for different geographical areas, Public Relations, Advertising,
and the administrative departments such as House Control, responsible for
processing mortgage applications and Customer Relations, charged with
communications with existing customers.
Annual Sales Convention
Mardi Gras Party
Deltona Sales Convention
The Annual Sale Conventions
At the beginning of every new year a company Sales Convention
was held. It was an opportunity to reward the best performances of the
past year, to introduce new properties, products and programs and for
sales people from all over the world to meet each other and to meet entire
staff of the home office. The annual sales convention was always held at
some prime Florida resort - the Key Biscayne Hotel until the organization
outgrew that facility, The Diplomat Hotel, the Doral Resort and Golf
Course and - during the Deltona days - the Marco Beach Hotel and Country
Business was mixed with pleasure.
Morning would start with a roaring -
professionally produced - welcome for all attendees in the main ballroom.
This would be followed by speeches by the President and senior officials. Other smaller group meetings would be held to do training or
present products or programs of special interest. The afternoons were
filled with golf and tennis tournaments, local shopping or scenic tours or
just relaxing in the Florida sun and surf. Friday evenings event always
featured a major cocktail and "theme" party which grew
bigger and bigger over the years. One of the later convention dinners that
I attended was an "Arabian nights" theme which included multiple
stages of dancing girls, magicians and other acts. Saturday nights dinner
was more formal featuring after dinner speeches and presentation of awards
but it was just as sumptuous.
A good time was had by all and by Sunday's departure representatives
had received a healthy dose of the Florida good life that they were
Engine of the Marketing Machine
The Mackles were Builders by trade and by training. But they
- especially Frank Jr. - definitely had a streak of the Promoter in them
This is said in the most positive of ways even though - later - the
word "promoter" took on a negative connotation when applied to
the land sellers.
Dad came by it naturally - and he delighted in it!
His father - given the relatively tame business of general contracting
in the south in the first third of the century - must have been a
promoter himself. Advertising and Publicity was always important to him
with the theme of Build Now! frequently headlined.
Dad always seemed to have a close relationship with the head of the
Publicity .... Tom Ferris in the days
of General Development and Bill Prentiss at Deltona. They were
both very creative - "off the wall" - people to say the least.
Perhaps it was his fathers' influence or the gambler streak in him but
he knew how to go out on a limb to get the publics' attention.
At General there were the Home shows featuring huge wooden rockets and
lighthouses. They drew in huge crowds!
Someone had the insane idea of building a complete Florida home in Grand Central
Station in New York City and the Mackles did it!
Featured segments on Omnibus and Dave Garroway were the product of the
Publicity Department as were the extensive coverage in national magazines
At Deltona the Florida section of the 1965 Worlds Fair featured a water
skiing pool, a citrus industry exhibit ..... and a Mackle Built model
At Deltona the Tony Lema tournament - for many years one of the
best attended Pro-ams on the professional golf schedule - was a
cooperative event of the Hotel and Clubs Division and the Public Relations
There were always celebrities associated with the Mackles
activities....Jack Paar at General .... Don McNeil at Deltona. It was not
unusual at all for either of them to mention their recent trip to Key
Biscayne or Deltona or Marco Island on their national TV and radio shows.
Not bad publicity for the price!
In the mid 1950's a young Heisman Trophy winner - Billy Vessels of the University
of Oklahoma - was introduced to the Mackles. They immediately hit it
off and for the next twenty five years Billy was an important member of the Mackle Team charged with Corporate Relations
All in all, it really was a very professional way to sell real estate.
For me, the totality of it came together at the Annual Sales Convention.
While my schooling was in engineering and my career came through the
construction side of the business, I was always impressed with the quality
of the sales organization and the science and training and expertise that
went into the marketing of the Mackle communities.
PROFESSIONAL MANAGEMENT a.k.a. GREAT PEOPLE!
Last but not least the promises could not be delivered and the Mackle
could not achieve their goals without a relatively small group of people who made made
up the Mackle Team for many years spanning the days before General
Development and well into the hay-days of the Deltona Corporation.
Herb Savage, and
There were many other dedicated associates - too numerous to mention
But as the Mackles were fundamentally Builders, I will mention the early
They were the men
who actually made it all come true:
Earle Cortright Senior
...and many many more
Later younger faces would enter the scene and carry on the traditions
But this Mackle Team would work hand in hand with the Mackle Brothers
for years building Florida cities and defining the meaning of
THE SINCERE BELIEF
Underlying all of the elements that was Dad's - often repeated - belief
"As long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the tides
rise and fall...people will want to come to visit, work and retire in Florida"
AND FINALLY....THE GOAL - HOME BUILDING
.....FOR GENERATIONS TO COME
Frank, Elliott and Robert Mackle were Builders. Their father
was a builder before them. They each had young sons and daughters that might
someday be Builders.
They had an organization that had demonstrated time and time
again that they could build efficiently and successfully. They
had built over 10,000 homes in Florida before installment lot selling ever
The creation of master planned city-sized communities and
the sale of lots on the installment basis was only a means to an end. The
ultimate goal was the creation of a huge and nearly captive
market of home site owners for the sale of Mackle homes for many years to come.