By Carolyn Weber. One-level living is red hot in the Southwest, as single-story homes make up more than 80 percent of the homes built in Arizona last year, followed closely by 71 percent in Texas, and 60 percent in Nevada. It makes sense in those states, which attract masses of empty-nesters looking to avoid stairs, but the easy-living plans are also hitting the first-time buyer market in California, where 40 percent of homes built in the last year were on one level.

Forecast Homes, a K. Hovnanian Co., has tapped into the Golden State's single-story home niche for more than 30 years. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based builder is responsible for 5.1 percent of single-story homes in the state, and 60 percent of the 2,154 homes it built in California last year were single-story. "We've been building for a long time, and found that, as a rule, people prefer single-story homes [for the convenience and energy efficiency]," says Forecast vice president Mike Dwight.

But how can a builder make a spread-out, one-level plan pencil out in a state where the buildable land supply is dwindling? "We focus on velocity and turns in inventory," says Dwight. He admits that the cost per square foot is higher because the plans lack the efficiencies of a second floor. "However, an aggressive construction schedule provides the cost efficiencies we need to pass that on to the consumer."