4 questions for a pro


Over the past two decades, David Hunihan has been involved with real estate and new homes sales in a variety of capacities. He is now director of sales for Neal Communities, one of the area's most successful homebuilders. Last November, he also became president of the Home Builders Association Manatee-Sarasota, which sponsors the annual Parade of Homes and will have 65 new model homes on display this weekend. This is Hunihan's 20th year participating in the parade, and he's excited about its prospects, which he shared with correspondent Chris Angermann.

Q:What is the HBA?

A:We're a professional trade association and advocate for our industry. Our membership is made up of about one third homebuilders and the other two-thirds, associates — that is, building-related businesses, such as plumbers, painters, site graders, pool companies — and also attorneys, lenders and Realtors.

As the housing downturn hit, our membership was hurt — a lot of the companies went out of business or felt they couldn't afford the membership fees and left. The number of builders with models diminished, so that the Parade of Homes shrank. But we never went away, and this year we're starting to see builders that haven't been here before or moved out of the market and are coming back.

Q:What do you consider the purpose of the Parade of Homes?

A:I always felt that it is a great awareness and marketing tool for our industry. It's a means for a relatively small builder to have access to a big marketing plan for a small amount of money. There's newspaper and television support. And our website, which lists all of the participants, is live year-round. Larger companies like ours, or a national builder, get the same benefit, because we can enter many properties.

The parade generates a lot of activity. Over the years, we have determined — and we'll be looking at statistics again this year — that it absolutely delivers qualified buyers to the participants' doors and results in additional sales. Builders that are savvy from a marketing standpoint, if they win awards and advertise that fact, can get a bump even after the parade.

Q:What is the purpose of the awards?

A:A big part of the event is to make it competitive. Let's face it, the builders all have an ego and take pride in what they do, and they like to compete against their peers. The first day (today) will have judging in a variety of categories, which are defined once we have all the entries. It's done by price point — there's usually only a 10 percent swing between the lowest and highest price in each category — so we get an apples-to-apples comparison.

In each category, the builders compete against each other for things like architectural detailing, curb appeal, best floor plan and best master suite. There is also a "best overall" for each category. Winning that is a nice feather in the cap for a builder. We also have other categories, including best materials, best merchandizing, and best master-planned community. Then there is an awards banquet where all the winners are announced.

Q:What about the consumers?

A:It's fun! Some of the individual builders offer prizes. And there is an additional benefit: It's really hard sometimes for people to figure out where to start looking for a new home. For average consumers, the Parade of Homes gives them the opportunity to see a wide range of products and a wide range of communities, know how to get there, and be able to look at floor plans and maps.

Q:What do you see in the future for home building?

A:There are three categories of communities for new homes: Those that are expanding, like Rosedale and Lakewood Ranch; those that are brand-new, like our Grand Palm in Venice; and those that are coming out of hibernation — where the builder or developer took it dormant because of the downturn, or didn't make it and sold to an investor or a bank. They're being resurrected, if you will.

Over the past three years, we've seen some tremendous expansion. Take a community like Woodbrook off Lockwood Ridge Road, which we opened in November 2011.

People came here in February 2012 and saw some activity. Now they're back, and the community is half sold out, people are living there, and prices have gone up 10 percent in the past year; and they ask, "What happened; how did I miss it?" They had no idea we would come back so strong.

A lot of people feel that Sarasota was ground zero for the bust, and I think we're also one of the communities coming out of that. I think, over the next year, we'll see a minimum of 10 percent increase in new-home pricing, and we'll start to see the resale pricing go up as well.


Last modified: February 22, 2013
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