NO STEROIDS HERE. That's not to say that the BUILDER 100 companies didn't enjoy the effects of natural performance enhancers last year. Continued strong demand drove home prices ever higher—11.17 percent, on average—and interest rates that were expected to rise in step with the Federal Reserve instead headed downward, enabling buyers to purchase larger, more expensive homes.
In the end, 2004 was another year for the record books. Total housing starts swelled to more than 1.9 million units, including 1.6 million single-family homes. New-home sales hit an all-time high of 1.2 million, 10 percent higher than 2003. The companies listed on this year's BUILDER 100 benefited the most from those trends: They closed 448,851 homes and increased their overall market share to 35.7 percent.
Posting those kinds of numbers might lead some to slow down and take a minute to catch their breath from the torrid pace of the past few years. But BUILDER 100 leaders are anything but complacent. They're forging ahead, implementing new strategies that they say will give them a leg up on their competition. They're bracing for hurdles, too: Those forward-thinking moves may pay off if forecasts for higher interest rates and fewer starts prove true.