WHAT DO BEST-SELLING COMMUNITIES have in common? It's not price point, product type, location, or lifestyle. Those are all over the place, from true starter homes to high-end luxury living. What the builders of these communities share is a clear understanding of the market. With the vision of a great director who knows his audience and finds a fresh way to tell a familiar story, the builders know who's buying and what's missing from the available product mix. That knowledge is coupled with a deep appreciation for and ability to respond to the wants and needs of the targeted buyer.

In this, the 2006 edition of Builder's annual report on America's best-selling communities, we chose to take a detour, bypassing the top 20 housing markets that so often grab our attention. Instead, we decided to dig deeper and look at some of the smaller housing markets, to focus on projects in such places as Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and Colorado Springs, Colo. Sales volume and rate were the price of admission, to be sure, but the projects we selected to profile also represent various price points, builder size, product segment, and type of location, such as infill or wide, open spaces. Hopefully, everyone will see something that looks familiar to what and where they build and take away ideas useful for the future.

While we were at it, we also decided to ask some questions no one else has dared to. We asked our interviewees to pull back the curtain and share some little-known facts about their neighborhoods that may be instrumental in marketing the projects. Specifically, we wanted to know:

  • The distance to the nearest coffee shop;
  • The number of poultry-related items in a model home;
  • The snack or beverage of choice served in the sales center (and the winner is ... chocolate!);
  • The best place in the community to watch the sunset; and
  • The sales staff's favorite feature in the bestselling plan.
  • THREE OF A KIND: Best-selling communities like those pictured on the opposite page (clockwise from top: Virginia Beach, Va.; Mountain House, Calif.; and Bradenton, Fla.) may look dramatically different, but they share some significant similarities. Most notably, they tend to respond to a specific housing need or appeal to an underserved buyer in the marketplace.
    THREE OF A KIND: Best-selling communities like those pictured on the opposite page (clockwise from top: Virginia Beach, Va.; Mountain House, Calif.; and Bradenton, Fla.) may look dramatically different, but they share some significant similarities. Most notably, they tend to respond to a specific housing need or appeal to an underserved buyer in the marketplace.

    To their credit, the builders embraced this assignment with just the right mix of seriousness and silliness. They measured mileage to the closest source of caffeine, admitted a fondness for after-hours martinis in the sales center (you know who you are; your secret is safe with us), and diligently searched for poultry—and found birds where they felt quite sure there would be none.

    So, we present our road-less-traveled look at 10 of America's 150 best-selling communities (two from each of the top 75 markets). Special thanks to Hanley Wood Market Intelligence for doing the heavy lifting of compiling the market-by-market data.

    Learn more about markets featured in this article: Colorado Springs, CO.