WHAT A DIFFERENCE 12 inches can make. It probably wasn't the 9-foot ceilings that sold out Morningstar View. But they certainly didn't hurt sales in the 152-site community east of Vancouver, Wash., across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore.

“In this area, 9-foot [ceilings are] an upgrade,” says Kelly Helmes, vice president of operations for New Tradition Homes, the 16-year-old, family-owned company that built Morningstar and other neighborhoods in Washington's Clark County.

“This is the fastest-growing area in southwest Washington, so it lends itself to fast selling,” says Phil Wilson, New Traditions' director of design and marketing. “A lot of people are moving over the river from Portland because the price point is lower. It's a booming area.”

Also contributing to the community's quick sellout is its proximity to what Wilson describes as “a successful neighborhood of custom homes. So when we purchased the property, we wanted to capitalize on what was successful there—at a slightly lower price point.”

But the buyers—typically move-ups and young professionals—surprised the builder. New Traditions allotted a quarter of the lots to its upper-level Heritage Collection, with gourmet kitchens, Craftsman and Prairie elevations, shakes or board-and-batten gables, decorative corbels on the front gables, and, of course, those 9-foot ceilings. The builder set aside most of the lots for the lower-priced Classic Collection.

“We were a little scared with the Heritage,” Wilson says. “It turned out that we sold 60 percent Heritage and 40 percent Classic.” With options and add-ons, people spent, on average, $40,000 more on Heritage homes than on Classic, he says.

New Traditions is a small company, run by the three Helmes brothers with two dozen employees. Last year the company closed 316 homes.

Clark County is a picturesque place to build. Some 70 miles to the east of Morningstar View, Mount Hood rises more than 11,000 feet, a snow-capped backdrop to the new community. And like the 9-foot ceilings, the view comes standard.

Market: Portland, Ore.; Project: Morningstar View, Vancouver, Wash.; Sales started: June 2002; Sales through March 2004: 152; Total units planned: 152; Unit size: 1,534 to 2,660 square feet (Classic); 1,604 to 3,032 square feet (Heritage); Price: $174,900 to $223,900 (Classic); $207,900 to $282,900 (Heritage); Developer: Vision Land Management, Vancouver; Builder/Architect/Interior designer: New Tradition Homes, Vancouver

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Portland, OR.