What does it mean in today’s economy to be selected America’s Best Builder? Cynics might say that any builder who can keep the doors open deserves the title. But that’s far from the truth. The three builders selected this year—The Dragas Cos. in Virginia Beach, Va.; EYA in Bethesda, Md.; and Estes Builders in Sequim, Wash.—earned the recognition through laser-like attention to their business operations, extraordinary discipline when others around them were grabbing at quick fixes, and an unwavering focus on their target buyers. The results have been enviable.

For The Dragas Cos., financial discipline—the company has no debt—has given it the ability to garner the lion’s share of its markets and to seize opportunities that others had to bypass because of heavy loan repayment obligations.

Two-time America’s Best Builder (ABB) winner EYA has recorded more than $1 billion in sales over the past 16 years. At the same time, it has established itself as a champion of architecture that creates ­cohesive urban neighborhoods.

Estes Builders has turned its passion for continuous improvement—it is Washington state’s first and only National Housing Quality Certified builder—into a well-deserved local reputation for attention to detail. And while its closings fell short of expectations in 2008, it has sufficient cash reserves to be able to expand into two new markets in 2009.

Together, the 2009 America’s Best Builder winners exemplify the fact that the skills required to run a profitable home building business in a challenging economy extend far beyond the construction process. There are lessons to be learned from the practices that they’ve perfected.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Virginia Beach, VA.