LAKEWOOD RANCH — Neal Communities will be featured as “America’s Best Builder” in the March edition of the national industry trade publication, Builder Magazine.

The Lakewood Ranch company was the only builder in the country to receive the award that closed between 100 and 500 homes last year. Three other developers that fit different size categories earned the same honor for their respective classes.

“We really do feel honored,” said Leisa Weintraub, creative director and vice president of marketing. “If they don’t feel any of the applicants fit the bill, they don’t always give the award. I think that’s pretty indicative of their high standards.”

The builder was judged on a number of categories ranging from home design to company finances and marketing.

It was the first time Neal Communities applied for the award.

With houses ranging from cottages in Forrest Creek to $1 million mansions in Lakewood Ranch Country Club, Weintraub said the company’s variety of homes has helped it better withstand the housing bust than many others.

Neal Communities closed on 376 homes in 2011, with more than 400 gross sales.

The company reported total revenue last year of $126.3 million.

The developer is moving forward with plans this year to build a massive Grand Palm subdivision in Venice and a smaller 140-site community on State Road 70 in Manatee dubbed Fairfield.

Neal Communities also runs a title company, mortgage company, pool company and interior design service. The developer has built more than 8,000 homes in Southwest Florida.

“Winning this year is even more special,” Builder Magazine Editor in Chief Denise Dersin said in a statement. “Despite many housing industry losses, the America’s Best Builder program drew a strong field of candidates, of which Neal Communities was determined to be the best in its class.”

Read more here: