Parade of Homes reflects an upbeat trend



Last year, there were 60. This year, 65.

The number of model homes entered in the annual Parade of Homes, which begins today and runs through March 10 at various locations in Sarasota and Manatee counties, is a sure sign of the improving health of the local housing industry.

Home builders must be members of the Home Builders Association Manatee-Sarasota, and must pay $2,400 for the first entry, less for multiples, to the HBA to enter a model home in the parade. The number of models peaked at 140 during the boom of several years ago, and then plummeted to just 28 in 2010.

2013 Parade of HomesNow, builders — those that are still in business — are re-entering the parade.

What this means for home buyers is that they have more choice if they are shopping for a new house. But it also means that builders are putting bigger price tags on their houses, and may be less willing to offer buyer incentives.

"The confidence level is way up," said Alan Anderson, executive director of the Sarasota HBA. "We have to be thankful here that our housing market is as strong as it is. My counterparts in the middle of the state are nowhere near where we are. That part of the state is slow to get started again."

Anderson noted strength in the Jacksonville and Miami markets, although the latter is heavy with condominium construction.

"Here, we are pretty strong with single-family," he said. "That is definitely the flavor of the day." Or the decade.

Neal Communities tops the list with 10 entries in the Parade of Homes.  (A PHOTO GALLERY OF THE PARADE OF HOMES CAN BE REACHED THROUGH THIS LINK.) Medallion home has six models that will be judged today against the competition for design awards. National builder Lennar has four models, as does Taylor Morrison.

For the design competition, the models are broken into groups, with about a 10 percent price range within the groups.

The least-expensive model is the Faith III, priced at $110,000, at Hope Landing in Ellenton. Built by Manatee County Habitat for Humanity, it is designed to offer energy-efficient housing for low-income families. The house is green-certified and has received Aurora Awards for energy-efficient design.

The most expensive house is the $2.2 million Catalina in The Reserve at The Inlets. Built by Medallion Home, this house on the Manatee River has more than 4,000 square feet of air-conditioned space. It even has an elevator.

2013 Parade of HomesBesides an increase in the number of models in the parade, Anderson is encouraged by an increase in building permits, particularly in Manatee County, a home-building epicenter for 15 years.

"We are fortunate to be on the uptick," he said. "Last year, we grew by more than 400 building permits in Manatee County — from about 1,900 to 2,400 permits. That is our biggest jump in recent years."

Anderson said that may be a result of the increased shopper visits to Parade of Homes models last year.

"We had huge traffic last year, probably the best in 10 years," he said. "I suspect this year will be probably the same, and maybe better. We had people waiting in line to talk to salespeople last year. The big builders had more than 100 people through their models each day.

He said local residents who visit parade models may be just "curtain-tuggers" looking for design ideas, but they make mental note of the "memory points" builders spend so much time incorporating in their houses.

"As life goes on, they may downsize and look for something new," Anderson said. "But even visitors look forward to this time of year and go on the parade. The sophisticated builders who track the visits find that people who visited a model two years ago come back and are buying."

rParade23fFor the builders, the Parade of Homes is all about exposure. After all, their models are open all year. The parade is at its heart a marketing event to attract attention to "product."

"The whole premise of the Parade of Homes is to drive traffic through the models," Anderson said. "It is a way for builders to pool their marketing dollars by having entries, and then we have our big media buy, getting the magazine printed and having it in the newspapers and in the models."


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: February 23, 2013
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