Courtesy Miles Donovan

As the world came crashing down around the housing industry during the recession, not every builder despaired. A good number, in fact, used the downturn to rethink and improve parts of their businesses. And as market conditions start to turn somewhat positive, builders are embedding those improvements into their operational models. The following stories take a closer look at how builders across the country have reconfigured the way they do business. Some bolstered their cash flow by diversifying. Others upgraded obsolete floor plans, and, in doing so, gained a new appreciation for what their customers could contribute to home design. Technology became even more important to many builders as they mined data-driven market research to decide where and what to build, and relied on the Internet as their liaison of choice to not only attract shoppers but to stay in contact with them throughout the purchasing process.

One thread connecting all of these builders is their willingness to adapt to new realities and move forward without losing their identities. “We are nimble, and we do things our own way,” says Rod Mickelberry, regional president for Cardel Homes in Colorado, a high-end home builder that, by making subtle changes to its product, lot size, and prices, tripled its “A” locations. — J.C.