In most people's minds, West Virginia and luxury are hardly synonymous. So what is Toll Brothers, a decidedly upscale big builder, doing in Martinsburg, of all places?

They're trying to capture the legions of would-be buyers who are fleeing to the Mountain State in what could be a futile attempt to escape the Washington area's super-inflated housing prices. With more and more people moving to West Virginia, Martinsburg is “the next logical market for us,” says senior marketing manager Louise Valdov.

But isn't it ironic that Toll, which bills itself as “the nation's leading builder of luxury homes,” is targeting folks trying to get away from high housing costs? Not necessarily, Valdov says. “We gear our prices to the region where we're building. If the going rate is at one level, that's what we're going to come close to.”

Truth be told, West Virginia isn't all that far from D.C.—about one to two hours by car. And Martinsburg “is especially convenient,” says the Toll executive. The town is linked to major employment centers along three Interstates—70, 81, and 270—and is served by a commuter rail line that ends at Washington's Union Station.

PASTORAL LUXURY: Pennsylvania-based luxury builder Toll Brothers has taken its upscale product to the far-out hills of West Virginia. However, the builder argues that the market is on the rise as frustrated Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia residents look for ways to find value in the pricey market. In Martinsburg Station, Toll plans to offer five different collections, including large- and moderate-sized single-family homes, duplexes, and townhomes in the 895-unit master planned community. According to chairman and CEO Robert Toll, the company, which traditionally serves the move-up and empty-nester markets, plans to offer a broad selection of homes in the state that was put on the map by folk singer John Denver—in individual projects as well as master planned communities.

First up will be Martinsburg Station, an 895-unit master planned community with five different collections, including large and moderate-sized single-family houses, duplexes, and townhouses. The property also will feature a clubhouse/community center, a pool, tennis courts, and tot lots. A spring 2006 opening is planned, but at press time, prices had yet to be determined, according to Valdov. Build-out depends on the “robustness” of the market, but is expected to take about five years, says Valdov.

Toll acquired the site in October and now has its sights on other parcels. “We are always looking, but nothing is final,” Valdov says.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Hagerstown, MD.