As builders plan their 2014 budgets, uncertainty clouds the year’s initial outlook, based on the market-wide slowdown that ended the second-half of 2013. Observers hope that downturn was an aberration primarily due to the government shutdown, but no one knows for sure.

“Did that affect people making the biggest financial decision of their life?” commented one builder, “You’re damn straight it did.”

According to an article about 2014 budget planning in, builders in the coming year will be looking at better-located deals, making a shift to the more desirable places. Others will try to put more distance between themselves and their competitors, reemphasizing quality by putting more into marketing, landscaping, and streetscaping in hopes of making certain locations high-in-demand neighborhoods.

“We won’t do 10 subdivisions in a market,” says one planner. “We’ll laser focus on one and make it the best.”

One of the realities of the market pulse, from builders’ perspectives, is to plan for growth while protecting their interests during a downturn. The recovery that’s happened and will continue to be important in 2014 is in the second-time and third-time move-up segments. Those sectors are more discretionary and appear to have better access to mortgage credit.

One segment that has not been reenergized in the current recovery setting is first-time buyers purchasing entry-level homes. People selling those homes are expected to move up to the next echelon of demand, but that’s not happening, thus the wave of uncertainty that shrouds the New Year.

Forecasters say that 2014 will go down as part of the extended recovery trajectory exiting The Great Recession. The premier counteractive strategy is clear: Be better than the rest.