When the recession hit Naples, Fla., a high, high end resort/second home community, housing prices there dropped up to 50% and housing activity didn't just drop it vaporized. But, last week, when I was driving down the main beachfront roadway in Naples, this is what I saw: scores of pickup trucks and no fewer than a dozen new homes under construction ranging in price from $10-million to $25-million .

I've never seen such a concentration of super expensive housing activity. It seemed to me a sign that the rich are getting richer...not to mention hundreds of probably previously unemployed construction workers and previously demoralized building product dealers.

When the recession hit Hanley Wood (owner and publisher of BUILDER magazine), all of the company's businesses suffered but none so much as our stock house plans business. It almost vaporized; sales dropped by 75% or so almost overnight.

But, finally, this year the business is showing signs of life again. Overall house plan sales are up 26% year-over-year, and plan sales to builders are up by even more, 35%. (Check out the links to see the 5 best-selling plans.) This seems to me a sign that the middle of the market, not just the top of the market, is also improving. As it is, the typical plan sold mirrors pretty precisely the median size and price of overall housing activity. Moreover, consumers who buy house plans are what most builders would consider their bread and butter customers, married, middle income buyers.

All of which is to say that the anecdotal evidence in Naples and at Hanley Wood points to significant improvement in the housing market.

Top 5 Best-Selling House Plans

  1. Tavern-Like Features
  2. Perfect for Entertaining
  3. Country Curb Appeal
  4. Tons of Room to Expand
  5. Hill Country Neo-Prairie Style C-Shaped Home