The 20 top-selling master planned communities in the country sold 13,180 homes in 2014, accounting for 3 percent of single-family new-home sales, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting. But while those numbers indicate a drop from 2013—both a decline of 12 percent in units sold as well as a 0.5 percentage point reduction in market share—the group still outperformed home sales nationwide, which were down 20 percent at the end of the year, according to JohnBurns’ monthly survey.
Among the top sellers, active-adult communities had a strong showing, with The Villages, near Ocala, Fla., topping the list with 2,601 sales, nearly twice that of its nearest rival. Nocatee, in Jacksonville, Fla., came in at No. 3, thanks largely to the strength of its active-adult offerings; and Rancho Mission Viejo, in Orange County, Calif., (No. 13) attributed a third of its 451 sales to the active-adult crowd.
“These developers have created great places to live, but at the same time the numbers are a testament to how the demographics of our country are changing and how that population is a strong component of the buyer profile in the market right now,” says Ken Perlman, senior vice president of consulting at John Burns.
Timing also seemed to play a role. Several of the communities that showed particularly strong sales during 2014 had started infrastructure early on in the recovery, the report said. And foreign buyers—particularly those from Asia—held powerful sway in Orange County, Calif., where Pavilion Park at Great Park (No. 17) found success with that demographic and The Irvine Ranch (No. 2) saw sales slip partly due to competition for these buyers.
Seven of the communities on the list hailed from Houston, more than any other metro area, and Houston-based Johnson Development Corp. claimed more spots on the list than any other developer.
The report blamed the nationwide slowdown among master planned community sales last year on a combination of factors: delays in lot availability, communities nearing sell-out, a slower market, and higher new-home prices. Among the 20 communities that made the list, however, the consulting firm said that, for the majority, segmentation and using consumer research to develop new home designs were what made the difference. PB