Marketing research students help elderly, disabled and veteran homeowners in Atlanta

Marketing research students help elderly, disabled and veteran homeowners in Atlanta

I t happens across America as cities grow. Developers swoop in to buy property held by families for generations, at times only offering the current residents a small portion of the value of their home and land. Some residents take the offer, not knowing the real value of what they have and their limited housing options after the sale.

Without resources to turn to many disadvantaged residents find themselves in this situation.


Seven marketing students and their professors partnered with an Atlanta non-profit to help highlight the problem and bring solutions for low-income residents.

“We have been working with HouseProud Atlanta, a nonprofit organization that works with under-resourced families in metro Atlanta,” said Dr. Mary Rickard, assistant professor of marketing. “They specifically work closely with seniors, veterans and disabled Atlantans.”

Marketing professors Rickard and Dr. Dee Sams, along with geography professor Dr. Doug Oetter led students as they worked with HouseProud this summer.

The students' who worked on the project are Carlie Behan, Jordan Crabb, Perry Ender, Julia Grace Fields, Bailey Pritchett, Ellie Rhinehart and Paul Stegenga.
The students' who worked on the project are Carlie Behan, Jordan Crabb, Perry Ender, Julia Grace Fields, Bailey Pritchett, Ellie Rhinehart and Paul Stegenga.

The team analyzed real estate details in under-resourced Neighborhood Planning Units (NPU) using tax records, deed information, Geographic Information System Mapping (GIS) and ESRI business analyst software. The goal is to provide residents with the findings from the data to help them make informed decisions.   

“A lot of homeowners are approached by developers, and they're offered a cash price, which is generally very low based on what the evaluation price or appraised price would be,” said Rickard.   

“For a lot of these people, they may have bought their house two generations ago, or it may have been a gift from another family member,” she said. “Then all of a sudden somebody's saying, ‘here's $30,000 cash for your place.’ That seems like a lot of money to them, however many of their properties have  gone up exponentially in value since 2018.”

HouseProud Atlanta works with local community groups to identify seniors, veterans and disabled homeowners who need assistance. HouseProud provides services such as repairs enabling residents to keep their homes as long as possible.  

Now with access to additional sources of valuable information provided by this Georgia College team, HouseProud will be able to provide additional resources to residents.

Rickard and Sams found out about HouseProud through a Georgia College alumni, Aruna Sadasivan, who volunteers with the organization. Once they heard of the organization’s work in the community and the need, they rallied students to help.

Carlie Behan
Carlie Behan

“With the price, housing and land information that we're providing HouseProud, we hope residents are better equipped to understand their resources and options,” said Rickard.

The students were hand-selected by faculty to take part in this project. They showed an interest in marketing research and were willing to work hard over the summer for the undergraduate research course credit.

“I wanted to just get my toes in the water with marketing research,” said Carlie Behan rising senior marketing major. “And it seemed like a really great opportunity for a good cause.” 

Paul Stegenga
Paul Stegenga

The team conducted marketing research and worked to create tools for HouseProud to provide its clients.

“We developed this decision tree. So, if they want to sell their house, they know what steps they need to take based on their needs, or if they don’t want to sell, they know what to do as well,” said Behan.

Growing up in the Atlanta area, senior marketing major Paul Stegenga jumped at the opportunity to hone his research skills, work with real estate and help the city he loves.  

“I really want to see the city of Atlanta flourish,” he said.  “I wanted to do research to show people what's happening in the area, and then show them how we can find ways to help people within the city so that they can flourish too.”

He and other students hope the information they provide HouseProud can be used to benefit clients for years to come.

“It's a really great opportunity that I didn't really know what to expect going into it, but I'm really glad that Dr. Sams reached out because it gives me an opportunity to be creative while also helping people,” said Behan.