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Article posted: 2/22/2013 6:00 AM

Homebuilders target specific market segments


With the most diverse group of homebuyers ever, one size does not fit all today.

A variety of buyers compose today's market -- active seniors, empty-nesters, young professionals, singles, young families with children and first-time buyers. And they desire different products -- attached and unattached single-family homes, duplexes, row houses, townhouses and condos.

Homebuyers want communities with activities and social events, or a quiet, serene ambience. They prefer in town, out of town, country living, urban living, luxury homes, affordable homes -- and everything in between.

What's a builder to do?

Builders often divide the market into key consumer segments where buyers share similar characteristics and lifestyle needs. Market segmentation can be vital to an industry's success where people have differing needs, and this is true for homebuilders.

Builders create a community that targets a specific segment of the market or they target multiple segments within a large development or master-planned community. They build to the commonalities of each segment, customizing the community to meet its specific needs.

"We build products for several different markets," said John Carroll, president of the Illinois division of Ryland Homes. "In order for us to remain a strong player, we have to meet the demands of a diverse market."

Here is how area builders attract buyer segments today.

55 plus and empty-nesters

Many people are familiar with Pulte's Del Webb and D.R. Horton's Carillon communities with resort-style living geared to active adults. Residents enjoy lots of activities and social events while living near their children and grandchildren. Del Web is age-restricted while Carillon is not, so it also attracts other buyers.

More builders are getting in on the action by constructing homes for the largest group of homebuyers today -- the 55 and older market.

Andare at Talamore by Ryland Homes introduces its new 55 plus age-restricted resort-style community that is part of the larger Talamore master-planned development in Huntley.

At Andare, Ryland takes a fresh approach to active adult living. "Specifically, we wanted to get away from a neighborhood devoid of children," Carroll said.

"By adding a new segment to Talamore, we could keep the active-adult buyers in their own neighborhood where they don't need to worry about a big wheel left behind their car when they leave in the morning. Yet they can still participate in the larger Talamore community.

"We also have some flexibility with rules that may be a little too restrictive. We find that people want a less restrictive neighborhood where they can take their grandchildren to the pool without constraints."

Andare features single-family homes from the $150,000s with two to three bedrooms, two baths and two-car garage. Amenities include an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse, Olympic-size pool, water slide, kiddie pool, "spray and play" area and an 18-foot water slide. There is also a stocked fishing pond and an outdoor pavilion with a fireplace and picnic tables.

Sutton Ridge by M/I Homes offers a different product for active adults and retirees -- a small, private community nestled under majestic oak trees and surrounded by forest preserves in Streamwood.

The unrestricted-age community features ranch-style townhouses with brick fronts on wooded homesites with spacious open floor plans, two bedrooms, two baths, two-car garage, deck and partial unfinished basement.

Open floor plans with a large kitchen space offer an easy flow for living and gathering with friends and family who can still spill out onto the deck, said Cheryl Bonk, vice president of sales and marketing for M/I Homes. "Even when people downsize, they still enjoy cooking and entertaining in a great room.

"It offers empty-nesters a nice combination of ranch-style living in a wooded setting at prices starting at $219,990. Also, with the large windows and open plans, people can really enjoy the scenic views."

Although Sutton Ridge offers a secluded setting, it's convenient location is just minutes from shopping, restaurants and entertainment with easy access to I-90.

Young professionals

Young professionals like Airhart Construction's College Station, a cozy neighborhood of cottage homes that appeals to buyers who want an urban setting and walk-to-train and shopping location.

The homes live like a townhouse, but have no attached walls. Each house has lots of windows and full landscaping, maintenance and snow removal is provided by the homeowners' association, said Bill Whelan, marketing manager for Airhart Construction.

With prices starting at $349,900, the community is ideal for double income buyers who want to do other things rather than tend their yards.

College Station features new designs of one- and two-story cottage homes with Craftsman-style exteriors featuring two or three bedrooms, two or more baths and two-car garage. The comfortable homes offer optional floor plans, elevation choices and design flexibility to personalize the homes.

Situated between downtown Wheaton and Glen Ellyn, the location sits only a block from the College Avenue train station, neighborhood shopping and restaurants, Triangle Park and the Illinois Prairie Path.

Entry-level buyers and young families

Under its Centex brand, Pulte Homes presents Sweetwater in Woodstock, designed for entry-level buyers who want to move out of an apartment and into homeownership, said Valerie Dolenga, company spokeswoman.

"With rental rates rising, there is a lot of pent-up demand for less expensive starter homes, and the low mortgage rates now are an incentive."

The price is the lowest priced home possible, which gives people the opportunity to buy their first home because of its affordability and value for the money.

We're introducing a new product line, and it has been very well received for first-time buyers and young families. The community has a nice park and is aesthetically appealing with three ponds and walking paths.

Ranch and two-story single-family homes from $129,990 feature two to four bedrooms and one to 2 baths with a game room included in the two-story home.

Similarly, Lakewood Crossing by Ryland Homes offers village homes in Hampshire that start at $105,000, also targeted for people coming out of rental communities. We have singles, single parents and younger families with small children who want to buy their first home and may not be able to do so without our affordable pricing, Carroll said.

The community features a community clubhouse and pool, tennis courts, parks and picnic area and playground with tot lot. It's also close to expressways for ease of commuting.

Move-up and luxury buyers

Other markets include move-up buyers who want a large family home in a family-oriented community and affluent buyers who often desire a luxury home designed to their specifications by a custom builder. There are also high-end townhouses and row homes to serve this market.

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