By Boyce Thompson. If only best-selling communities came in a box. You'd take some land, stir in two pints of architecture, add a dose of marketing, and presto--three sales a week. Imagine the good life you'd enjoy. It may not be that simple to create a best-selling community, but there is a formula. It's all about creating value. That's the common trait that emerges from the 10 projects that we feature this month, along with the 90 others that you can analyze by visiting this link.

The complication is that value can be created in so many ways. For single buyers with children, it may come from the security inherent in an eight-home cluster. For buyers with large families, it may come from a huge home for the money. For buyers looking to move up in life, it may come from an elegant entryway that provides an escape from the busy street.

But nothing beats the classic approach: getting a great deal on land and carrying that advantage through to the house price. In two of the projects we feature this month, developers gambled and won big time on land in marginal neighborhoods. In South Coatsville, Pa., buyers couldn't believe the design features--cathedral space in the master, hardwood entry foyers--included in the base price. In Bergen County, N.J., townhomes featured a fully finished basement.

Several of the builders profiled this month worked a slightly different formula: more house for the money. C.P. Morgan sells a 3,068-square-foot home in Indianapolis with a full brick front for $153,000. And yes, that does include the lot. Buyers are drawn by homes that are large enough for big parties, computer space for parents and children, and plenty of bedrooms for the kids.

It's the same story at Fieldstone's Hamilton Farms, where Salt Lake City buyers can get a home that's 40 percent larger than other new homes on the market for the same price. They can find a home here as large as 5,000 square feet with enough space for eight bedrooms and a base price of less than $200,000. New homes in this community are actually a better deal than resales.

At Del Webb's new active adult community in Fredericksburg, Va., Falls Run, value is created by a rich brew of home prices and amenities. At a "mere" 228 acres, Falls Run is nowhere near as big as some of Del Webb's western communities. It doesn't have a golf course. But it has a 16,000-square-foot clubhouse with a year-round pool, a fitness center, a ballroom, a library, a lounge--all comforts that you'd expect in a Sun City. It also has homes with prices in the $160,000s, far less than what buyers would pay 30 miles north in the suburbs of Washington. The combination fuels 25 sales a month.

In the case of Tattershall, featured on the cover this month, value came from the floor plan and architecture. Spaces families wouldn't use, mostly formal living and dining rooms, gave way to family rooms and bigger kitchens in these California homes, located in Ladera Ranch. Compelling elevations, coupled with targeted floor plans, result in $600,000 homes selling at a rate of 10 a month. That should exceed pro-forma.

In most cases, the success of these projects wasn't an accident. It often resulted from careful market research to figure out what potential buyers really wanted, and didn't want. To find out what they valued, in other words.

Boyce Thompson

Editor in Chief