Snagging buyers from custom builders isn't easy, but it can be done. Just ask the experts at Ashton Woods. Its Walden on Lake Houston country club community model, the Saratoga, was conceived as a seduction for move-up and move-down buyers who would otherwise look for a build-to-suit contractor.

The plan, targeted to well-heeled singles, mature buyers, and move-up families with children, worked beautifully. During the season, sales hit 17 per month, 60 percent of which were to empty-nesters and high-salaried singles. Buyers love the generous entry, spiral staircase, and non-boxy floor plan. But the most popular feature is the spacious 14-foot-by-21-foot master suite with retreat zone. "Buyers also like the built-in desk area in the kitchen and the upstairs game room," points out Ashton Woods sales representative Dan Beasley. The builder gave the Saratoga some particularly custom touches by preserving trees, maximizing views, and incorporating subtle interior details like rounded corners on Sheetrock.

Project Credits: Project: Saratoga Plan 742 at Walden on Lake Houston, Houston; Sales started: January 2000; Sales through September 2000: 66; Units released through September 2000: 66; Units planned: 75; Price: $219,000; Unit size: 3,226 square feet; Builder: Ashton Woods Homes, Houston; Developer: Stratus Properties, Austin, Texas; Architect: Bassenian & Lagoni, Newport Beach, Calif.; Interior merchandiser: Creative Design Consultants, Costa Mesa, Calif.; Landscape architect: Gant Plants, Sugar Land, Texas; Ad agency: In-house

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Houston, TX.