San Antonio, Texas's northwest corridor is the metro's hottest growth area and home to a sophisticated group of buyers. So, when Wall Homes made the decision to open a neighborhood in the 1,000-home master planned community of Stillwater Ranch, vice president San Antonio/Austin Ron Millican took extra pains to ensure that the company's offerings were closely aligned with the preferences of the submarket and its consumers.

Making the extra effort to understand the buyers and target their needs with new designs is paying off for the company, which opened March 8 in the community and has had 20 sales to date.

"When we went into Stillwater, I was relatively new to the market," said Millican. "I wanted to hit a home run."

Working in conjunction with Houston-based Bohlke Consulting Group, Millican looked at submarket-specific data and compared it with information about the overall metro. As a result, he was able to identify common key drivers among homes that were selling in the area.

Millican got into the configuration of the homes at a granular level--master upstairs or down, two-story vs. single-story, etc.--and then looked at how those components related to square footage.

"It was interesting," said Millican. "When you went from a 2,200-square-foot to 2,400-square-foot, single-story, three-bedroom, two-bath and looked at sales numbers across the board, some things just jumped out."

After comparing the drivers to the company's existing library of plans, he realized there were gaps in its offerings. Taking those trigger points back to Wall's design committee, new offerings were created that addressed critical drivers in the market.

"The research told us we definitely needed to target that square footage--that was the size," Millican explained. But it had to be packaged with appealing architecture and elevations, as well as some distinctive layout elements. "If we could get everything else going with that critical square footage, we had a good chance of success."

Still, maintaining the size was no easy task. "One of the challenges is that, as you tweak, plans tend to grow," noted Millican. "We were trying to be sure not to creep the plans bigger than they need to be to meet these [square] footage ranges that we had targeted. We wound up meeting them, but I will say it was a challenge."

The research and identified drivers led Millican to choose the company's Roosevelt I as a model for the community because it reflects San Antonio-area buyers' collective choices in size (2,337 square feet), price ($216,990), and configuration (one-story, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and layout features such as a morning room and covered patio).

"The model is the most popular type of configuration in the whole market, and we had nothing in our library that was exactly that," said Millican. "Size range and single-story were key drivers. That led to price, too, which was another component,...and the home width was another search criteria we were mindful of. We were sure to compare our data with what the subdivision's 55-foot lots could support."

Since the grand opening of Stillwater Ranch, more than 50% of the sales have come from the newly-developed and expanded offerings that were driven by the research.

The company sees this implementation of local drivers as key to future growth. "Since it has been successful, we are looking at ways to utilize the same tool and hit the market where it needs to be," said Millican. "Today, there is really no room to miss."