Master-Planned Communities

Top 50 Master Plans Benefit from America’s “Great Reshuffling”

Jody Kahn

Jody Kahn

January 21, 2022

All 50 of the top-selling master-planned communities that achieved a place in our annual ranking are winners, as they sold at least 460 new homes in 2021. We identified three related trends while finalizing the ranking, including regional shifts, long-term rankings versus “one-time wonders,” and the impact of development delays. In fact, the development delays constrained lot supply and new home sales in many of the busiest housing markets in the country, contributing to regional shifts.

We expect a master-planned community to have:

  • A range of home sizes, types, and prices and a variety of builders (with rare exceptions for especially large and well-segmented communities)
 
  • Consistent themes, such as signage, landscaping, lighting, street names, mailboxes, etc.
 
  • Shared or reciprocal amenities and activities for a variety of lifestyles
 
  • Branding and marketing that give the community a unique and well-recognized identity
 

Florida master plans dominate the Top 50

The Great Reshuffling sparked by the pandemic accelerated in 2021 as work from home and hybrid schedules extended, major employers relocated, and home buyers migrated for affordability and proximity to family. The reshuffling contributed to shifting regional sales among the top selling master plans.

  • The Sunbelt captured most Top 50 rankings. Booming job markets and more affordable housing drew many buyers to Florida, Texas, and the Southwest last year. Second home purchases ticked up as buyers flocked to states offering lower taxes and warmer weather. With COVID-19 still impacting daily life, others moved closer to family and selected communities embracing health and outdoor living.

    Nocatee (#14) in Jacksonville and Bridgeland (#17) in Houston embody many of these themes and each offers an array of homes, amenities, and price points that attract buyers.

 
  • Fewer Austin, Southern California, and Northern California master plans ranking among the Top 50 year. Texas master plans still account for 22% of the top 50, despite lot gaps and builders metering sales. Notwithstanding Austin’s intense new home sales and pricing, three master plans ranked among the Top 50 this year, down from five one year ago due to community sell-outs and lot delays. Seven Houston master plans and four in Dallas made the Top 50 list, unchanged from one year ago.

    Three Orange County master plans (Ontario Ranch, Irvine Ranch, and Great Park) made the top 50, while San Diego’s Otay Ranch dropped off the ranking as many sections sold out in early 2021. River Islands in the Stockton MSA is the sole Northern California master plan to make this year’s ranking, aided by work-from-home policies and lot supply.

 
  • More Las Vegas master plans ranked in the Top 50. Summerlin and Valley Vista ranked among the top 5 selling master plans, each securing more than 1,000 sales in 2021. In Phoenix, master plan sales were spread among numerous communities with roughly 300 sales each in 2021, compared to Las Vegas, where sales were concentrated in a few master plans. Eastmark secured the highest Phoenix ranking at #27, with 643 sales.
 
  • Sarasota: the little metro that could. Demand continued to blaze in this smaller Southwest Florida metro with impressive sales at Lakewood Ranch and Wellen Park. These colossal master plans dominate their petite market, benefiting from an influx of in state and in-migration buyers.
 

The battle for a spot on our Top 50 list: the veterans vs. the rookies

The Veterans

We started ranking top-selling master plans in 2010, a year when the combined top 22 sold 9,672 homes compared to 23,839 sales in the top 22 this year. These outstanding mega master plans made our list then and now:

 

Hit or Miss

MPCs often pop on and off of our list, usually because of the availability or lack of lot supply. Examples this year include:

  • RainDance (Greeley, CO): Debuted on the list in 2019 but did not qualify in 2020
 
  • WoodForest (Houston, TX): Made the list from 2011–2018 and re-qualified this year
 

The Rookies

In some cases, the close-out of long-standing projects like Highlands Ranch and Central Park in Colorado, which contributed to the rise of Sterling Ranch, or the addition of a new builder in communities like Valley Vista and Tamarron, propel master plans onto our list. We congratulate the following communities, which made our Top 50 list for this first time this year:

 

Development delays restricted lot supply in 2021

Although lot availability and timing always impact our Top 50 ranking, the labor and materials shortages created bigger development hurdles in 2021. Gaps in lot supply caused some master plans to fall short of the new home sales threshold. Our builder and developer contacts expressed frustration over a broad array of development challenges:

  • Understaffed and backlogged jurisdictions drag out the planning and approval process
 
  • Engineers and land planners are overwhelmed with work, and some turndown new assignments, even for longtime customers
 
  • Site development contractors lack enough labor to efficiently complete sitework
 
  • Jurisdictions are slow to inspect and approve completed sitework
 
  • Long waits for PVC pipe stemming from the resin shortage and staffing shortages in factories
 
  • Utility companies are behind on installations
 
  • Moratoriums are springing up, especially in the Southeast, as cities experience growing pains
 
  • Water and sewer demand approaches capacity in several metros, including Denver, Salt Lake City, and Charlotte
 

Our 2022 outlook remains positive for master plans

We expect master plans to remain appealing to home buyers seeking their lifestyle, with access to good schools and privately controlled amenities. As the pandemic remains top of mind, buyers may be slow to give up private backyards but will also value opportunities to safely enjoy outdoor activities within their communities. We expect development delays to persist in 2022 and our ranking next January will likely reflect where lot supply flourished, and which master plans ran short.

Top 50 ranking finalized

A handful of developers provided 2021 new home sales revisions since we first released our Top 50 master plans ranking, creating some shifts. These movements occur each year as developers provide us with their annual sales totals in the first days of the new year, subject to audits and late reports from the active builders.

Our experienced consulting team helps developers maximize sales by segmenting master-planned communities by life stage, price range, and lot size and offering a lifestyle built around the amenities and a community identity. For more consulting or information, please fill out this form.

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About The Author

Jody Kahn
Jody Kahn
Senior Vice President of Research Surveys
Jody delivers timely and accurate insights on housing market trends at the metro, regional, and national levels. She combines statistics and commentary from JBREC’s independent surveys with data trends, forecasts, proprietary indices, feedback from consultants, and decades of housing experience to give clients insights that support business decisions.

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