BOB SHUSTER, PRESIDENT OF RWS CUSTOM Homes, says he knows that if he needs to get to a jobsite in Franklin Farms in a hurry, he'd better take the truck. “People wave at me when I drive through the community,” he says. “It takes too long to walk down the street because everyone wants to stop and talk. Those are good problems.”

Indeed they are.

A 120-acre community of single-family homes, Franklin Farms is the kind of neighborhood many builders remember selling—just a quiet place in the country.

Marketing for the community has been a basic combination of the Realtors' multiple listing service and advertising in the area's new-homes guide. “Most of our homes are sold from word of mouth,” Shuster says. “The Web site seems to be bringing in a lot of the out-of-town buyers.”

The word-of-mouth buzz is that the houses are well built, and they close on time without a punch list, Shuster says. Standard items in all homes include upgraded, all-wood doors; plaster walls; and wood, low-E windows. “Our standards are the options that other people charge extra for,” he says.


Plus, there's no construction loan for buyers to deal with. “They put a deposit down, and we build it,” he says. “It saves them points and interest. We build them in 90 to 120 days, and we've never missed a closing date. And we have winter to contend with here.”

He's able to stand behind that promise by taking control of his materials and equipment. Shuster owns his excavation and concrete equipment as well as a lumberyard. “With the weather being what it is, I need to do 12 months' worth of work in seven months,” he says. “If we need concrete at 2 a.m., we have the ability to pour it.”

Project: Franklin Farms, North Huntingdon Township, Pa.

Date sales started: February 2004

Sales through February 2006: 113

Total units planned: 117

Unit size: 2,072 to 5,000 square feet

Price range: $270,000 to $600,000

Builder/Developer/Architect: RWS Custom Homes, North Huntingdon Township

BEHIND THE SCENES Proximity to caffeine: Three miles to Dunkin' Donuts

Poultry items in a model: Four

Sales center munchies of choice: Coffee

Sunset central: The vista behind the Phase 4 homes; the view of the mountains is astounding

Sales staff's fave feature in the best-selling plan: The morning room on the first floor and the sitting room on the second floor of one of the custom design plans