You could almost feel it, couldn't you? The seismic shift that shook the country last fall and sent our collective consciousness in search of the safe side? All of a sudden, savings accounts, home-cooked meals, and clipping coupons are the new national pastimes, while luxury-on-display has become so 2005.

The media picked this up right away. In newspapers and on TV, you still see stories of sagging sales at upscale merchants, yachts abandoned on their moorings, and luxury cars spurned for small, fuel-efficient ones. Even The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing ( declared that by December, the demand for luxury homes had turned cold with the weather.

But does the end of bling signal the end of the custom home market? No way. Custom home building has never been about that. Service and craft are the foundation of a custom builder's business, and those qualities never go out of style. Still, there's no denying that for most custom builders, business has taken a steep plunge since autumn. That's borne out by Senior Editor Meghan Drueding's research for “Staying Afloat”, a comprehensive look at the current state of the custom home building business.

To get a sense of how the housing crisis has affected custom builders, Meghan contacted dozens of you from all over the country. She made a special effort to interview builders who had experienced rough business environments before, so we could pass on their lessons learned. She also spoke with consumer researchers and advocates and with industry economists to find out where custom building is headed. Her story is one of the most important CUSTOM HOME has ever published. I urge you to read it to learn what other custom builders are doing to survive—and how their (and your) businesses are likely to evolve in the future.

There's another important story in this issue you shouldn't miss: our annual Custom Builder of the Year profile. This year the honor goes to Horizon Builders of Crofton, Md. The company's houses have been called the best-built in the country, and its business plan is one that's based on a rock-ribbed foundation of trust, fairness, and superb customer service. As you'll see, Horizon's principals, Joe Bohm and George Fritz, have taken the basics of custom home building and transformed them to high art indeed.

When the earth seems to be shifting beneath your feet, it's good to be reminded that attending to the basics is the first step toward securing the future of your company. There are ideas for taking that step and more throughout this issue. I hope they will help you plot your path and start walking with confidence as we pass through this turbulent period.