Builders go with the flow.

By Iris Richmond

A few years back, one of Meritage Corp.'s most popular plans wasn't popular among Asian buyers. After some digging, CEO Steve Hilton discovered that having the stairway facing the front door is considered bad chi, or energy, in Asian culture. Today, the Arizona-based company incorporates into its floor plans the principles of feng shui, the Chinese art of maximizing positive energy.

Hilton instructed his architects to become familiar with feng shui's rules. Though he chose not to advertise the design shift, he says the effect is more attractive and marketable homes.

Like Meritage, KB Home is diversifying its designs to prevent the risk of offending a strong buying segment. The California builder works with consultant Angi Ma Wong, based in Palos Verdes, Calif., to assist in what marketing director Kim Adams calls the "fine-tuning process." For a price of several thousand dollars, Wong reviews all the design plans for a new community to ensure that potential buyers won't reject the decision to buy a certain home because of the archway over the entry, for example.

Wong's client list includes Shea Homes, Centex Corp., Western Pacific, The Ryland Group, and Taylor Woodrow. "Home builders have learned to send their plans to me first, which prevents them from having to pay the high costs of correcting mistakes later."

Although Meritage and KB don't record how many homes they sell to Asian-American home buyers, both report significant success in reaching this segment since applying chi-driven principles.

Published in BIG BUILDER Magazine, June 2002

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Phoenix, AZ.