Co-Authored by Devyn Bachman, Senior Research Analyst
Home buyers love master-planned communities. More than 28,000 home buyers purchased homes in the top 50 master-planned communities last year. While new home sales grew 9% last year, masterplan sales grew 20%! All 50 communities sold at least 314 homes last year—almost one per day.
Improving market conditions. During the year, we upgraded our market strength ratings for several metros from Normal to Strong, based on higher sales rates and increased pricing power. We saw these stronger sales and pricing trends reflected in our top 50 ranking, with Strong-rated San Diego and the Inland Empire appearing in the top 25 group.
The “barbell” demographic shift that we identified in our book (strong growth in both the younger and older buyer profiles) drove the demand as masterplanners offered more active adult and age-targeted neighborhoods, and builders pivoted toward more entry-level buyers. In contrast, average sales rates at move-up communities cooled in 2017, given the declining number of 45–64-year-old households who typically buy move-up homes. Abundant competition and consecutive years of price increases also cooled average sales rates at many move-up communities.
Notable Regional Shifts from 2016
Many Southern California masterplans ranked in the top 25. Southern California masterplans represent 12% of the top 50 and 24% of the top 25. Orange County masterplans dominated, and San Diego and the Inland Empire each had one in the top 25.
More Southwest masterplans made the top 25. Southwest masterplans claim 24% of the top 50, flat from 2016. However, improved Phoenix and Las Vegas new home sales produced more top 25 masterplans, while fewer in Denver made our ranking.
Fewer Texas masterplans made the top 25. Texas captures 30% of our 2017 top 50, dropping 2 percentage points from last year. Slower sales due to a mix of lot gaps, higher home prices, and extensive competition in the most desirable locations resulted in only two Texas masterplans achieving the top 25 ranking in 2017.
Florida’s masterplans account for 28% of the top 25, up from 20% one year ago. Though Florida’s share of the top 50 dipped by 2 percentage points, we expect more growth in 2018 as new communities in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa gain traction. Strong job growth and lifestyle that appeal to both families and retirees pave the way. The recent hurricane devastation in the Caribbean is likely to increase tourism in Florida this year, too, which will increase home
The Southeast’s share remains low at 6%, but increased from 4% one year ago with Charlotte’s Berewick and Brunswick Forest in Wilmington making the cut. We rarely see large masterplan sites in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Raleigh, but Charleston has several that were previously owned by paper manufacturers.
Other masterplan trends. Except for The Villages, we exclude from consideration masterplans with only one active builder to avoid sharing community specific information at the request of our publicly traded homebuilder contacts. Numerous additional entry-level and 55+ communities would qualify for our ranking if we removed the multiple builder requirement. Keep an eye out for sales at Minto’s Latitude Margaritaville in Daytona, Florida, where seniors were camping out for the Grand Opening just before the holidays!
We present the highlights in the order of our December 2017 regional ranking, from strongest to weakest. We rank the 10 regions monthly for our research clients, based on new home sales and pricing strength.
Las Vegas, NV
Ken Perlman, Principal Consultant, states “Summerlin continues to maintain its position as not only one of the premier masterplans in Las Vegas, but in the country. Howard Hughes has a truly diverse, life-style oriented community, integrating walkable “surban” product, single-family homes for all buyer profiles, luxury production and custom home opportunities, and some of the best active adult housing in the nation. The evolution of Downtown Summerlin has created an off-Strip retail and lifestyle anchor that is unlike any other in Las Vegas.”
Ken Perlman notes, “Eastmark has become one of my favorite masterplans to visit. DMB and its builder partners have created a community with product that appeals to all home buyers, from entry-level to move-ups. AV Homes offers one of the best active adult enclaves in the country with Encore. But the lifestyle elements DMB added are what really makes Eastmark special. From some of the best schools in Phoenix to amazing community festivals and unique family friendly gathering spots such as the Handlebar diner and the kid-friendly ‘Bus Stop’ hangout (we’ve caught some adults there too), DMB is creating an amazing community environment that goes well beyond the homes.”
Ken adds, “I think that in Stapleton, Forest City has created one of the best examples of ‘surban’ development I’ve seen anywhere in the country. Between community events like the Stapleton Farmers Market and the Theater on the Green, amazing built amenities such as neighborhood pools and recreations centers and access to great retail, Stapleton really does offer some of the best elements of urban living in the suburbs. I also love the diversity in Stapleton. Denver is becoming increasingly expensive, and in Stapleton buyers can find some cool and creative townhomes in the $300,000s, families can find a mix of modern inspired single-family homes or some with a little bit more of a “neotraditional” element, and luxury buyers can find amazing move-up homes, all in the same place. As we look around the country, there are few masterplans that are indelibly linked with their cities, and I think that when we talk about housing in Denver, Stapleton immediately comes to mind. That’s pretty special.”
Dean Wehrli, Senior Vice President Consulting and based in Sacramento, summarizes, “The Natomas area of Sacramento has again become one of the most attractive submarkets in the region. WestShore has tapped into Natomas’ proximity to downtown Sacramento jobs and a great living environment with comparatively affordable homes geared toward both families and active adults.”
Dean adds, “Roseville remains one of the most attractive communities in Greater Sacramento, and WestPark has enhanced that appeal. With great homes, schools, and community, WestPark was again one of the top-selling masterplans in the nation.”
Lesley Deutch, Principal Consultant, notes that “Nocatee continues to attract many Jacksonville home buyers, especially new families and retirees relocating to the Jacksonville area. The wide range of product and price point appeals to many as well as the strong amenity base and growing retail presence in the MPC.”
According to Lesley, “Bartram Park is an established master-planned community in Jacksonville, and its distinct neighborhoods and builders allows the community to attract a wide range of buyers. The proximity to jobs in St. Johns County is also a big component of Bartram’s success.”
Lesley states, “Waterset has made its mark as a well-designed, cohesive master-planned community in South County, Tampa, one of the most active submarkets in terms of new home supply across the state. Waterset’s wide product offering, strong amenity base, and good location for commuting to Tampa jobs is driving sales, as well as its attractiveness to retirees who like the relative affordability and location in South County.”
Lesley continues, “Lake Nona’s innovative product, proximity to employment and growing retail and commercial centers are driving home sales at the MPC. The Lake Nona Town Center is currently under development, bringing more restaurants and jobs to the MPC, which will allow it to maintain its attractiveness in the future.”
She adds that, “Summerlake remains one of the fastest selling MPCs in Orlando, as it benefits from multiple builders and product lines. Summerlake’s strong amenity base, relatively low home prices, and location in the rapidly growing Horizon West submarket is also driving sales.”
The Villages, FL
She finishes by saying, “The Villages remains at the top of the list. With its numerous villages and town centers spread across the masterplan, The Villages appeals to 55+ buyers who are seeking activity and prefer to be close to entertainment and retail. With its recent purchase of additional land, The Villages could potentially build another 20,000 homes.”
Riverside San-Bernardino, CA
Pete Reeb, a Principal Consultant based in San Diego, says, “Active communities in Ontario Ranch include five non-contiguous masterplan areas: Park Place, New Haven, West Haven, EdenGlen, and Grand Park. Each community includes different new home builders and different amenities. New home sales are being driven by very strong local job growth and a substantial under-supply of housing in the Inland Empire region as a whole (which is about 50% below the long-term average). In addition, new home prices in Ontario Ranch are substantially lower than new home prices in adjacent Orange and Los Angeles Counties, where many potential home buyers are priced out of the market and make the decision to move to Ontario Ranch to be able to afford to buy a brand new home.”
San Diego, CA
“Otay Ranch includes three actively selling master-planned villages: Escaya, Millenia, and the Village of Montecito. Each village has different builders, and each offers a different mix of community theme and orientation, as well as community amenities. Escaya offers primarily single-family detached homes, Village of Montecito offers more attached product and high-density detached homes, and Millenia is designed more as a ‘surban’ community with very high-density detached and attached products (including some elevator-served plans) in a more mixed-use setting incorporating office, retail, and hotel uses. Home prices in Otay Ranch tend to be lower than comparable size homes in other parts of San Diego County, helping to drive new home sales.”
Orange County, CA
Adam Artunian, Vice President, Consulting, mentions, “Comprised of numerous neighborhoods and product offerings, the Irvine Ranch continues to offer family buyers everything on their checklist: proximity to employment, excellent schools, safety, and recreation amenities.”
Adam adds, “Great Park Neighborhoods is the most highly amenitized master-planned community in Orange County. The community also benefits from an excellent location (near employment and retail amenities) and some of the most highly rated schools in the state.”
According to Adam, “Rancho Mission Viejo offers something for all buyer life stages, with successful age-qualified neighborhoods selling alongside numerous family neighborhoods. The masterplan continues to attract new home buyers looking for a more affordable alternative to the more expensive masterplans in nearby San Clemente, Lake Forest, and Irvine.”
He also states that “Baker Ranch’s success has exceeded expectations owing to strong execution, excellent schools, and a convenient location. At Baker Ranch, Shea Homes and Toll Brothers offer well-designed homes as price points that target the heart of the market.”
Lesley Deutch, Principal Consultant, remarks, “Lakewood Ranch has successfully integrated production builders and custom builders to provide a masterplan with strong segmentation, providing all product types from townhomes to luxury custom estate homes. The MPC is benefiting from its wide reach of buyers—from families working in Sarasota and Tampa to retirees and second home buyers from across the country.”
She adds, “The West Villages continues to see strong sales velocity, as its location in rapidly growing Sarasota, and its relative value to other masterplans along Florida’s southwest coast continues to attract buyers. West Villages’ location in Venice also offers access to some of the country’s top beaches and retail and entertainment options of downtown Sarasota.”
David Jarvis, Senior Vice President, Consulting, summarizes, “Riverstone is one of Fort Bend County’s most exciting places to build a custom home. The masterplan contains uniquely oversized lots up to one-half acre located behind gates and some with lake views. Fort Bend ISD schools serving Riverstone are some of the most sought after in the area. The developer notes strong sales despite flooding related to Hurricane Harvey.”
In addition, “Aliana again ranks as one of the best-selling communities in Texas. As Aliana matures it has added schools and retail, making the community that much more attractive. Aliana offers several one-of-a-kind subdivisions such as Perry Homes Valencia product designed with the Asian culture in mind.”
Next, “Cross Creek Ranch offers nearly 30 miles of trails connecting pools, parks lakes, and playgrounds. If you are interested in getting back to nature, Cross Creek Ranch is for you.”
He adds, “Bridgeland offers homeowners some of Houston’s most unique amenities with 3,000 acres devoted to open space and recreation such as kayaking, fishing, and boating on 900 acres of lakes and waterways, trails through the community, and even wildlife observation areas. Additionally, the community’s full-time activities director maintains a calendar of events, classes, and workshops just for those who call Bridgeland home.”
David also mentions that “Wildwood at Northpointe attracts home buyers with its miles of greenbelt trails, scenic ponds, and pristine common areas throughout the community. Wildwood offers a great value to young and growing families.”
Amie Stiener, Consulting Manager, notes, “Cane Bay continues to be one of the most impressive and well-kept master-planned communities in SC. With three great schools, an abundance of retail shops, dining and medical services, walking trails, six ponds, and a YMCA, home buyers of all age groups continue to flock to Cane Bay Plantation. A community of this size and scope, while maintaining its natural aura on a 300-acre lake system, will be hard to duplicate.”
Amie adds that “the Berewick community had a revitalization post the recession after the Charlotte Premium Outlets opened in 2014 in Southwest Charlotte. With townhomes and single-family homes to choose from within 12 villages, Berewick has survived for over a decade and proven to be one of the best locations near key highway corridors and the Charlotte airport, with more growth and demand coming to the area.”
Amie notes, “With builders upheld to architectural standards, Brunswick Forest is a carefully laid out master-planned community with pocket parks and common areas nestled on a championship golf course. Eight villages are home to traditional bungalows, single-family homes, cottage homes, villas, and townhomes. The 18,000-square-foot fitness and wellness center boasts impressive amenities, while the 100 miles of walking and nature trails are idyllic for any type of home buyer.”
Dan Fulton, Senior Vice President, states, “Willowsford’s performance over the past two years shows the power of segmentation and proper positioning. It’s also enjoying the fruits of an improving housing market in the DC suburb of Loudoun County, Virginia. The community enjoys natural geographic diversity, selling from four disconnected villages in two submarkets. NVR’s entry into the community introduced strong product and price segmentation, and the community now has single-level and two-level homes that range from $700s to well over $1.2M.”
The Midwest and Northwest regions had no masterplans in the Top 50.
We connected with developer, builder, and capital source contacts at 370 master-planned communities nationwide.
We invest significant time and effort to identify all top-selling masterplans; however, some developers and investors choose not to participate. John Burns Real Estate Consulting congratulates the developers and home builders that achieved our top 50 ranking. Please contact Jody Kahn at email@example.com or Devyn Bachman at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on any of the top masterplans. They can connect you to the appropriate person.