What goes into the Parade of Homes?


Several weeks ago, a local new-home development held an “open house.” More than 700 people turned out. Cars lined the streets. Other developments also have had full parking lots at their sales centers this winter. If that trend holds, the 2014 Parade of Homes, which starts today and runs through March 9, should be extraordinarily well-attended.




That means new-home sales and employment for those who work in the construction business. The annual tour is the major marketing event of the year for members of the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association. Today, judges will visit the model homes and score them for the design awards competition. The builders are keeping score.

The Parade of Homes magazine, with information on each model, is inside this section.

parademainBut the event also is a chance for subcontractors to show off their work, even if they labor in near anonymity. Several Parade of Homes design award categories honor the work of interior designers, landscapers and pool contractors.

Behind the pretty pictures and posh advertisements is the sweat, skill and talent of heavy-equipment operators, surveyors, architects, masons, carpenters, engineers, interior designers and decorators, plumbers, electricians, home-automation technicians, roofers, painters, tile and flooring installers, landscapers, lighting designers, pool contractors and others, including materials suppliers.

“The subcontractors and suppliers are a critical part — probably the most important part — of the building process,” said Drew Smith, president of the BIA and a contractor since 1983. “They can either make or break the project, with regards to scheduling — getting the home completed on time — as well as craftsmanship.”

Good times have returned for the subcontractors. Although many of them were forced out of the area or into other jobs when the market collapsed a few years ago, those who are still in “the trades” are doing busy. Demand for their services is high, and it is the smart contractor who keeps the same quality crews occupied month after month, year after year.

Doing so yields a consistent product and happy customers.

“Subcontractors affect costs in a lot of different ways,” said Smith, whose company, Two Trails Inc., advises contractors on green building materials and methods.

“They can drive the cost of home building up or down, based not only on what they charge, but on how long it takes to complete a home.”

The longer it takes, said Smith, “the more it costs the builder.”

Materials selection is also critical. “If they are bad craftsmen putting up inferior products, there are repairs by a different trade. I always say, ‘Never put good work on top of bad work.’ Those issues are all affected by the subcontractor and supplier trades.

“Without the subcontractors and suppliers, you can’t build a house. And without good, quality people, you can’t build a quality product.”

Smith said builders are dealing with a severe labor shortage, increasing the time it takes to build houses. The collapse of the construction market six years ago sent many skilled “subs” elsewhere in the country for work.

Insulation installers, roofers and drywallers “are the weakest link at this time,” said Smith, “as well as experienced plumbers, electricians and air-conditioning technicians.”

Builders who keep the same crews on the job can keep quality at a high level.

“A good subcontractor base that is familiar with your product not only saves the builder time and money, but also produces a more quality product,” said Smith. “They are used to what that builder demands and expects, and what their standards are.

“Builders who are having to constantly change subcontractors are always having to retrain them. That constant learning curve slows the project down and ends up costing the builder more money, and not getting as quality a product.”

Quality is one thing. Buyer appeal is another — an essential part of a builder’s profitability.

“You could build the absolute best home in Florida,” said Smith, “but if it is not decorated properly, you may not sell very many homes. It is that pizzazz that catches the initial eye of the buyer.

“Interior designers, landscapers and pool contractors are the folks who accentuate the home, give it their final curb appeal and give the models that pizzazz that helps the builders sell the homes.”NOTEStart. “quote.”


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 21, 2014
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