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5 Lessons from the Top 50 Master Planned Communities of 2019

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Master Planned Communities

5 Lessons from the Top 50 Master Planned Communities of 2019


January 8, 2020
Master Planned Community
Aerial view of master planned community and census-designated Ladera Ranch, South Orange County, California. Large-scale residential neighborhood By bonandbon - Adobe Stock

Last year was a surprisingly productive one for master planned communities. The top 50 communities sold a total of 31,000 new homes, which is a 13 percent increase from 2018. Even builders were caught off guard by the numbers, as nearly half of those surveyed by the John Burns Real Estate Consulting firm marked strong sales as the greatest surprise. Southern states dominated the top 50 list, with a majority in the South, Southwest, or Texas. And while the 55-plus market is stagnating, first-time home buyer sales exceeded expectations with the strongest sales improvement for the year, one insight that builders should pay special attention to.

Congratulations to the skillful management teams behind the top 50 master-planned communities, which sold at least 370 new homes per community during 2019. Together, the top 50 masterplans sold more than 31,000 new homes in 2019, reflecting a 13% increase from 2018. The Southwest region leads the 2019 ranking, capturing 30% of the top 50 spots and over 9,000 new home sales.

  • Visited or worked with many of these successful masterplans
  • Wrote about the appeal of water amenities and the introduction of build-for-rent homes in masterplans
  • Photographed and analyzed 12 masterplans as part of our DesignLens™ monthly newsletter and searchable database, which includes curated coverage of 60 great masterplans
  • Captured the insights of the top masterplan developers at our Housing Design Summit, an invitation-only event for executives at development, home building, building products, industrial design, architecture, and other companies interested in profitably developing the most innovative and desirable homes and communities in the country. Our next event is scheduled for February 20–21, 2020.

Following a sluggish 4Q18 characterized by slow sales and notably weaker pricing year over year, new home sales began improving in May and June of 2019. Our proprietary monthly builder survey confirms that sales gained velocity in the fourth quarter, when the industry typically sees seasonal slowing associated with the holidays. As of November 2019, average sales rates increased by a whopping 38% from one-year prior in our survey. Lower mortgage rates, continued wage growth, incentives and price reductions, and an expanded supply of new homes offered at attainable price points contributed to a strong finish to 2019.

  • 41% of builders surveyed identified stronger sales than expected as their biggest surprise of 2019.
  • However, 12% of survey participants expressed surprise that sales remain flat to slower. Numerous Southern California builders report continued slowness despite lower rates and price cuts.
  • Phoenix builders achieved steady sales through the usually slower summer months as buyers braved high temperatures to shop for new homes. For much of 2019, Phoenix was the only top 30 housing market we rated as Strong, acknowledging the sales and pricing environment.

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