Builders don’t often build homes with downstairs master suites in the family-centric Irvine, Calif., market, since most parents don’t like sleeping a floor away from their small children.

William Lyon Homes, however, broke that rule with its new Ainsley Park neighborhood in Tustin, Calif., across the street from Irvine. One of its four floor plans in the paired-home community features a downstairs master suite—aimed at older buyers.

Just because buyers 55 and older represented only about 7 percent of the home buyers in Tustin in 2009, according to Hanley Wood Market Intelligence’s data, that doesn’t mean that the niche should be ignored. There’s profit in mining niches.

“We cast the widest net possible,” with the Ainsley Park project, says Patrick McCabe, project manager for William Lyon. “In Tustin you have a much wider market [beyond families with children] that you could possibly capture. ... Not every senior looking for housing wants something in an age-restricted community.”

While the master-down isn’t the best selling of the four, it’s holding its own, says Janet Kemmerer, Lyon’s California region marketing director. And the plan doesn’t just appeal to empty-nesters, she says. It also finds favor with parents of older children who enjoy having space away from their teens.

The community’s variety of floor plans as well as its more traditional exteriors and location are credited with helping drive more traffic to the community. “We are getting more traffic there than almost any neighborhood we have,” says Kemmerer.

Ainsley Park opened the weekend after Thanksgiving, and in the second week in December, 300 people visited the models. Lyon sold 10 homes in 10 days, Kemmerer says, and is averaging two to three sales a week.