Some niches are so obvious, you practically stub your toe on them. As an active adult builder in Atlanta, Roy Wendt always attended seminars and conferences on serving his aging buyers. But it was a program on accessibility a few years ago that made him rethink traditional home plans. “The wheelchairs couldn't get into the houses,” he says, remembering the demonstration. “That's what got me.”

Almost immediately, he began testing universal design features in his homes: putting a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, widening doorways, and adding a zero-entrance-step entryway. “It was all under a $400 change,” Wendt says. “It was so simple. That's when we made the decision to go forward.”

Four years later, Wendt Builders only does universal design. Each of the 50 homes it builds a year includes subtle touches designed for its active adult residents. Bathrooms have handheld showers, garages have stoplights that indicate just how far the car can be parked in the garage, and switchplates near the front door have 911 flash switches, which make garage lights blink on and off, speeding emergency workers' arrival at the right house after a 911 call.

Sales are strong and growing, according to Wendt. All the press attention and strong referrals haven't hurt either. “Word of mouth has been our best sales tool,” the builder says.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA.