A Peek at the Parade

By staff January 1, 2006

Good news for homebuyers trying to navigate the myriad choices involved in building a new residence or remodeling their existing one: The 2006 Parade of Homes is marching into town from Saturday, Feb. 25, to Sunday, March 12.

This 12th annual Parade, a joint production of the Home Builders Associations of Sarasota and Manatee counties, will showcase nearly four dozen builders and more than 100 model homes filled with the latest construction ideas.

It's an invaluable resource for homebuyers searching for the location and builder offering the amenities and price that best meet their needs, and for those with pending renovation or remodeling projects who want a comprehensive look at the works of local service providers.

Some exciting additions premiere at this year's Parade. Bambi Spahr, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Manatee County, says that since builder-members are working at capacity filling existing orders with little additional time available to create new inventory, a new, non-model category has been added. This will provide builders with the opportunity to unveil renderings of concept buildings that haven't been constructed yet.

Another Parade of Homes first this year is that developments, communities and subdivisions will be eligible to compete in "Best Entryway" and "Best Amenities" categories. Competition raises the stakes and will certainly "increase the interest and appeal for developer-members," Spahr says.

This year, too, the Parade guidebook will be upgraded into more of a coffee table style magazine. "The Parade of Homes magazine serves as a one-stop resource for realtors and consumers to reference all year long," says Leslie Weed, special events manager for the HBA of Sarasota County. "Our geographic area has become so spread out, reaching from Parrish to Englewood, that our guide becomes an invaluable listing of new and existing neighborhoods, especially for new residents to the Gulf Coast."

Event organizers also are adding emphasis to the Web-based features of the show. Even before guests embark on their Parade route, they can visit links to participating builders' Web sites and learn more about the models and the communities where they're located, even taking virtual tours on-line.

"Virtual tours will play an even bigger part in this year's Parade of Homes," says HBA of Sarasota County executive vice president Larry Anderson. "Not only does the technology give our area visitors and residents a year-round home resource, it also gives our members a marketing benefit with value and longevity. It's the Parade that never ends!"

Technology is a recurring theme in this year's tour of the hottest new homes. According to Anderson, technology enhancements will range from safety features such as storm resistance and fire suppression to Smart House programming with integrated automation, remote multitasking, and heating and cooling capabilities.

Environmentally friendly technology applications will also take center stage in this year's Parade. As consumers become increasingly savvy about air quality tabulations, energy code ratings and resource conservation/recycling efforts, builders are expanding their offerings in this growing segment of the construction industry. The University of Florida Cooperative Extension office is offering an award category for "Most Sustainably Constructed Homes" to homebuilders participating in this year's Parade. The extension office will select superior and merit awards in three categories based on housing costs. Judges will evaluate submissions based on the Florida Green Home Standards developed by the Florida Green Building Coalition.

Parade visitors will also note that home designs are challenging the prevailing Florida ranch style that has dominated the state's landscape since air-conditioning began taming the uncharitable Florida tropics. "Homes are going beyond a place to live and are becoming distinctive destinations," says Anderson. "Themes such as Mediterranean, Bahamian, Florida Southern, modern, Key West and British Colonial will be more apparent as well as more readily available, and the appearance will not stop at the home's exterior. Furnishings, fixtures and interiors will reflect the home's overall identity," he adds.

Parade of Homes visitors receive tips and information about everything central to home purchasing, design and maintenance from decorating and landscaping to security innovations and legal or mortgage assistance. They will also be among the first to get a glimpse of Sarasota County's new 2050 growth management villages concept. The plans call for spacious front porches, common areas or town centers with car storage inconspicuously re-positioned behind buildings. Garages of the future will be totally out of sight. According to Anderson, this will have one of the most significant impacts on the next generation of design elevations, since garage fronts have historically assumed such a dominant role in a home's curb appeal.

Other novelties Parade guests can expect include more storage in the form of secondary walk-in closets, his/her storage areas, walk-in pantries, broom/linen closets and more. Kitchen design improvements promise some intriguing new features, too, including two-cook kitchens.

"Kitchen designers are incorporating more of a point-of-use concept for the home's central meeting point," explains Anderson. "This means that small refrigerated drawers will be strategically located where a cook would need them most."

And outdoor enthusiasts will be thrilled to find a new feature for pool homes that simulates a beachfront resort. A gradual slope extending into the water from the pool's shallow end means all a new homeowner needs to add is a lounge chair and beach umbrella to complete the ambient experience.

The 2006 Parade of Homes serves as one of the most important tools a homebuyer can use to help make their purchase of a home an informed one. So start marching! For more information, complete builder listings, locations and schedule, visit

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