Local homebuilders get ready to showcase their skills during the 2014 Parade of Homes.
STORY: Shemir Wiles
Everyone dreams of a place to call “home.” Some fulfill that dream by buying a house and transforming it into something beyond their wildest imaginations. Others desire to see their home built from the ground-up, ensuring each precious detail is executed to achieve a picture-perfect vision.
Before the first wall can be knocked down or the first concrete slab can be poured, plans must be in place. Ideas need to be shared. Finding ideas for the perfect home, however, sometimes can be difficult. Flipping through magazines may not be enough.
That is where the Home Builders Association of Lake and Sumter’s Parade of Homes comes in. Since 1979, the local Parade of Homes tour has given builders and developers the invaluable opportunity to display to consumers the latest in home design, energy efficiency, new home choices, and much more.
The local Parade of Homes took a two-year hiatus in 2010 and 2011, but the event returned in full force in 2012, signifying that the housing market was making strides toward recovery. Lake and Sumter HBA Executive Director Carolyn Maimone says she sees nothing but continued growth as the number of Parade of Homes participants and entries increase with each passing year.
“In 2013, we had 11 participants and 20 entries. This year, we have 19 participants and 32 entries. For us, it’s great to see builders willing to be a part of Parade of Homes again,” she says. “It means slowly but surely we are getting back to some type of normalcy for the construction business.”
For the first time, Mainsail Solutions is joining in the Parade of Homes to promote its new Lady Lake housing community, Green Key Village.
“We just opened our doors in late November, and we want to use Parade of Homes as an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the community at large,” says Kim Thomas, who owns Green Key Village along with her husband Greg, the community’s builder and developer.
Set on 78 acres near Lake Ella Road, Green Key Village is slated to be the first fully green community in Lake County. Each home will be solar powered, resulting in net zero living. “The goal of our net zero homes is to be energy efficient,” says Thomas. “A family will only generate as much energy as it consumes annually.”
For the Parade of Homes tour, three models will be available for viewing at Green Key Village. Thomas says those who plan to visit should expect a comprehensive educational experience.
“We’re looking forward to it,” says Thomas. “We hope to drive a lot of traffic to our village and give people a full understanding about how our homes are built.”
Also looking to reap benefits from his participation is 2013 Builder of the Year Andrew Nutt. His experience working for various other building companies has given him a firsthand view of how beneficial the Parade of Homes is for business. This year, he is looking to showcase his own company, Holly Homes.
“I’ve been in the parade before with other companies, and it is a good customer draw,” says Nutt. “Before, I didn’t have the material to participate, but I’m excited to have a remodel entered this year.”
Though some work still needs to be completed, Nutt expects the home will be ready to show by Feb. 22, the opening day for Parade of Homes. Holly Homes’ Eustis entry is a complete interior and exterior overhaul of an older home. Nutt’s goal was to make the home more accessible, making entryways and hallways wider, which can be extremely handy for people looking to live out their golden years in their own home.
“What we did was pretty extensive. I wanted to give the home great access for walkers and wheelchairs,” says Nutt. “People sometimes don’t think of having a home with all the amenities necessary for growing older comfortably. I believe this is one of our most diverse remodels, so we’re happy to be able to show it to the public.”
“We always look forward to meeting new prospects we otherwise wouldn’t have met in our communities,” he says. “Parade of Homes is a great traffic driver for people who may be in the market for a new home.”
This year, Lennar Homes will be highlighting two homes: one located in the RedTail golf community in Sorrento and the other located at Heritage Hills in Clermont.
Many of the homes slated to be on display range from the mid $130,000 to the high $570,000. A virtual entry, valued at $1,795,000, will also be available for viewing.
Maimone says builders will be showing off some of their signature touches and unique features. For example, Kevco Builders is well known for incorporating granite and crown molding into their homes, regardless of the home’s construction costs.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” she says. “The builders have niche things they do and that will certainly be front and center with these entries.”
Noticeably missing from this year’s Parade of Homes are housing communities. Though things are moving positively for the local building industry, it is still experiencing growing pains. With the inventory of existing homes for sale being low, more and more people are seeking to have their homes built. However, the labor force isn’t in place to meet the demand.
According to a recent story by the Sun Sentinel, Florida contractors said in a recent survey that they are having the most trouble finding project managers and craft workers, including pipe fitters, welders, and masons. They also lost workers to industries outside the state, particularly to the oil industry.
“Things are moving in a positive direction, but there have been a few hiccups,” explains Maimone. “When the housing market crashed, the trained labor left the state to find work elsewhere. Now that things are recovering, builders are having a tough time finding workers and materials to complete their jobs.”
As a result, Lake and Sumter HBA has been actively urging local and regional technical schools to begin pushing classes pertaining to the construction trade again.
“Homebuilding is coming back, but it’s hard for these builders to schedule projects. Houses aren’t going up as fast and that also directly affects the amount of entries we get for our Parade of Homes,” says Maimone. “These companies must have homes ready to show when the event comes around and timing can be difficult. It’s a fine line to get that entry in.”
Nevertheless, the overall outlook stays positive for local homebuilding — and for future Parade of Homes showcases.
“Our builders always report having good foot traffic and a fair amount of contracts as a result of Parade of Homes,” says Maimone. “Each year, we work our hardest to promote it and make it as big as possible. In the end, we want to give our builders a great return on their investment because when we’re successful, they’re successful.”
What is the Parade of Homes?
The very first Parade of Homes started in 1946 with The Salt Lake Home Builders Association. Since that time, home builders associations throughout the United States have embraced this annual event as a way to showcase the best of the best in local home construction and remodeling.
The Lake and Sumter HBA’s Parade of Homes is a scatter-site tour open to the public. Each year, builders display their best workmanship through newly built model and renovated homes. In return, potential homebuyers and homeowners looking to remodel can see the latest technologies and trends in a casual setting.
“This event is our largest multimedia promotional campaign and it’s fairly popular,” says Maimone. “People are curious to see what’s new, and they use this event as an opportunity to develop concepts for what they may want in their own homes. I actually had a woman call me to say she had collected our guidebooks over the years and used the ideas she gained from Parade of Homes to build her dream home. That’s what we aim to accomplish with this event. We want to inspire people to take part in the American dream of homeownership.”
This year, Lake and Sumter HBA added a new category to the Parade of Homes called the Showroom Showcase. It allows members to highlight their retail showrooms and drive traffic to their stores. “If you’re a plumber or you do flooring, it gives you the opportunity to show the public what products and services you have by opening up your showroom,” Maimone explains. “It gets the businesses that contribute to the building industry involved. We have two companies participating this year, but we hope to see interest in this category grow as Parade of Homes continues to grow.”
This year, the Parade of Homes runs from Feb. 22 to March 2. Be on the lookout for the 2014 guidebooks at Lowe’s and other locations throughout Lake and Sumter counties. In addition, those with a home subscription to the Orlando Sentinel will receive the guidebook inside their newspaper prior to the event.
For more information about Parade of Homes and other guidebook distribution locations, visit lakesumterhba.com.
2014 Parade of Homes participants
• A&M Homes
• D.R. Horton Homes
• Elite Lifestyles of Florida
• Gingerich Construction
• Harbor Hills Development
• Hegstrom Homes
• Holly Homes
• J Christopher Homes
• J. Drewes Construction
• KB Home
• Kevco Builders Lennar Homes
• Mainsail Solutions
• Maronda Homes
• Medallion Home
• Pioneer Custom Homes
• Pringle Homebuilding Group
• PSL Construction Inc.
• Royal Oak Homes