About five years ago, life got more complex for the plethora of builders active in densely populated New Jersey townships. Under pressure from residents, local officials began to frown on additional construction of single family homes, and in turn, the new schools and taxes it took to support them. Facing lengthening approvals and tougher land battles, Paramount Homes co-founding partners Jeffrey Fernbach, president, and Eli Bleeman, vice president, knew their company needed to employ a strategic about-face.

So like many builders in the state, the Jackson, N.J.-based company founded in 1997, turned its focus toward Active Adult communities. After all, active adults don't demand new schools, and these new projects faced far fewer approval issues.

In anticipation of the expertise they would need, the company began to staff its roster, looking for managers with Active Adult experience—baby boomers who are now starting to redefine “retirement.” Almost immediately, Carolyn Villani came in as vice president of sales and marketing. A year later, Tom Monetti came on board as director of construction, and in 2004, Lara Schwager joined the team as director of development. Together, the management heavyweights contributed a combined 27 years of experience in varying Active Adult disciplines.

After strategic redirection, Paramount, along with a bevy of other builders, will mark 2006 as their inaugural year in the Active Adult market. In February, Paramount broke ground on its first project, Ocean Breeze, situated on 300 acres of dense natural forest, about 13 miles from Barnegat Bay and Long Beach Island and close enough to take a boat and a fishing pole out on the water for the day

Three models are available in the first section, now under construction, and each model offers three choices of elevation and several choices of facade. Home sizes reflect the trend toward larger product in this segment, ranging from 1860 to 3018 square feet, with prices from $300,000 to $400,000. Living space is on the ground floor, but each unit includes space on a second floor loft for storage or a guest suite.

The 16,000-square-foot clubhouse features a long list of expected amenities, including a grand ballroom, media and meeting rooms, library, crafts studios, fitness center, gardening center and greenhouse, separate indoor and outdoor pools. Ponds grace the landscape, and walking and bike trails meander throughout the 680-unit community.

In 2006, the company anticipates about 20 closings, with another 100 in 2007. Although Ocean Breeze will stock Paramount's pipeline with activity for the next five to six years, Fernbach and Bleeman are planning two or three more active adult communities. All Paramount Homes Active Adult communities are set to carry the “Escapes” brand to denote the resort lifestyle.

“There is plenty of room for growth in Active Adult, and there is no downturn in sight with baby boomers coming along,” says Fernbach of Paramount's decision to target this market.

Just goes to show, seasoned veterans like Del Webb may have an established foothold in the Active Adult marketplace, but lured by the prospects of 76 million people coming of age, more builders than ever are adjusting their strategies to claim a chunk of business in this very active arena.

DIFFERENT STROKES In this past year, players like Pulte, K. Hovnanian, Shea Homes, and Lennar have stepped up their community counts. BIG BUILDER research shows that, at the same time, more companies than ever are looking for opportunities—and finding them. In fact, the top 25 builders ranked by active adult activity, closed on 48,333 homes in 2005. The top 10 of those are responsible for 42,242, a number that increased 62 percent over last year's top 10 total of 26,590.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.