Whenever I travel to England and Ireland, I'm always fascinated by the names people give to their houses, and even more by the fact that they name them at all.
For example, our friends in County Clare called their house "Island View," because you can stand on the front porch and sometimes see Inisheer, the closest of the Aran Islands.
I say "sometimes" because, after all, it is Ireland, and it is rainy and foggy on the west coast much of the time.
We don't give names to our houses as much, although I've often called my houses by a variety of names -- none of them publishable.
I did give my last house a name once -- I called it the "Money Pit," but had a friend of mine translate the name into Welsh, hoping that there wouldn't be a flood of people from Wales moving into the neighborhood to rat me out.
Names are more important to the new-home market anyway. You probably wouldn't be interested in the two-story Salmonella model on Dead End Lane in Vulture Gates Estates.
You might, however, look long and hard at the Avalon on Sand and Sea Street in Ocean View Heights, even if it were 90 miles from the shore.
Since that day long ago when Og traded Glog a spot in his cave for half a deer, the real estate industry has struggled to come up with names that capture the house-buying public's imagination.
That first cave development was known as Look! Bear! Run! They used a lot of "Hunt" and "Chase" names, too.
Is naming a science, or is it simply a matter of chance?
It's actually a bit of both.
It begins as science. You build a development and you "theme" it -- for example, Wildflowers is the development, and the models and street names are things like Periwinkle.
The randomness of the process comes through with a check of street names with the post office and the county 911 authorities.
If there are duplicates, or even if your names sound like the ones already on the books, you have to change them. But would you go to battle over Periwinkle Drive? Of course not.
It was easier naming streets in the old days, when developers just called them after their relatives.
Especially their children. I've never tried counting the number of Ashley and Hannah Lanes in new-home developments, but they probably comprise the overwhelming majority.
One developer came up with the name "Symphony Estate Homes" and used composers for models and symphony orchestras for street names. Every model home had a piano.
Buyers wrongly thought that there would be concerts at the models all the time.
The site-plan table in the sales center was an old grand piano.
Try to stick with what may have some resonance with buyers, especially if most are from your geographic area.
I once visited a planned development in the Southwest. One of the builders had been taken over by an Eastern builder. Instead of the traditional names like the Pueblo and the Arroyo, the models were called "Beacon Hill" or "Ocean View."
I mean, Ocean View in the desert?
When marketing people come up with names, they do follow some rules.
Keep it short. People remember it, it fits better underneath a graphic, and it reduces advertising costs.
Get the location into the name. People are used to having the town followed by "Chase," or "Chase" followed by the town.
Be sensitive. Never name an active-adult community "Next to the Last Stop."
Sensitivity is no laughing matter. For instance, although the word may seem quaint, plantation conjures up unpleasant memories for many African American buyers because of its association with slavery.
Something called "Hell's Kitchen" doesn't work anywhere, however.
English-sounding names long have been popular, although some builders have gone the extra mile adding an "e" to create "Pointe" or "Greene."
Historical ties are much sought-after.
It's not enough to have a name, but it has to have a story attached. Developers look back at history and draw a narrative from it.
In one case, a development outside Detroit was being built from a brownfield. The land originally was set aside by the French, who, instead of marking off townships, platted the land to run in ribbons from the water's edge.
The stream from which those ribbons of land emanated had long ago been buried, but research helped the developers locate it and bring it back.