Could Martha Stewart help buffer KB Home from a decline in the housing market?


KB Chief Executive Bruce Karatz thinks so.


The L.A.-based homebuilder's first Martha Stewart-branded community was unveiled last week in North Carolina to a strong response and already the company is scouting several locations for the line in Southern California.


The company's 650-home community in Cary, a Raleigh suburb, has drawn interest from some 3,800 families.


"With that kind of response (in Raleigh), we now want to extend it to many other cities," said Karatz, who expects to announce in 30 days a Martha Stewart location in Southern California.


KB Home announced in February that it plans to build 1,800 of the Martha Stewart-designed homes in Southern California; Atlanta; Houston; Charlotte, N.C.; Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla., and Daytona Beach, Fla.


Stewart was said to be intricately involved in designing the residences, which are modeled after her own East Coast homes in Maine; Westchester, N.Y.; the Hamptons and Connecticut.


Stewart influenced everything from the design of windows and the angle of breakfast nooks, to the tile and fixtures used in the kitchens.


"She has been hands-on, sleeves rolled-up and really has put her thumb print on the design and look of these homes," Karatz said.


The homes range in size from 1,400 to 4,000 square feet, and for the North Carolina market have been priced at $200,000 to $400,000. Building the specialized Martha Stewart homes is more expensive, Karatz said, but the added components help separate the residences from others.


"While there are many added costs, it was money very well spent," Karatz said. "There's nothing frivolous about the design elements she added. These are quality additions that enhance lifestyle."


Karatz acknowledged that adding the Martha Stewart brand to its line-up of homes has been an advantage in a housing market that is slowly cooling off amid climbing interest rates.


"While that wasn't our primary motivation, there's no question that these Martha Stewart communities create excitement in a marketplace than is less buoyant than it was," he said.

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