Every year I come back to my house after the Parade of Homes ready to sell: to just paint the place, call a realtor and move onto something bigger, more glamorous and full of technical innovations or luxury amenities that my homebuilder never dreamed of 27 years ago. I'd love two dishwashers, an enormous laundry room with an electric eye that turns on the light when I step into it, a wine cellar, and a kitchen island that looks like a vintage piece of furniture I inherited from some stately English aunt.
It's probably the same with everyone who treks through some of the 129 homes decked out in glory by the Home Builders Association of Sarasota and Manatee Counties. University Park realtor Linda Harrington says that during the February Parade, more than 150 visitors a day came through the new Anchor Builders model-the Grand Floridian-at Sloane Gardens. Multiply that by two weeks and you have an idea of how many other folks went back to their current domiciles here and in other parts of the country with the intention of selling and starting over in a brand-new home.
Anchor Builders owner Roy Dupuis had a buyer for his Grand Floridian the first week of the Parade. The buyer, who wanted to move in at the end of the season, was willing to pay the asking price for the furnished model (the Marc Michels group of Winter Park did a superb job with the interior design). But the hopeful and qualified buyer didn't get the house. Dupuis needed a two-year, lease-back arrangement so that he could continue to show the house to prospective home buyers. So, no deal. And using the model to sell other homes is paying off for Anchor. The company already has a contract to build the 6,219-square-foot Grand Floridian in Bradenton.
The official Parade is over until next February, but most models are still open for your browsing pleasure, and there's every reason to spend an afternoon or two checking out the latest innovations in home building and design.
The fun-and education-comes in trend spotting. The best way to remember which technical innovations you want to incorporate into your Southwest Florida lifestyle is to carry a notebook and jot down ideas as you progress through model homes. Never trust your memory. With 129 homes to consider, you'll just confuse yourself without proper notes.
Some of this year's noteworthy features include disappearing-edge swimming pools enhanced with other water treatments-waterfalls, fountains, reflecting ponds-that make up the "water feature" of the home. A water view, whether it's natural or landscape fabricated, seems to be of the utmost importance to people new to this part of Florida. Ideally, homeowners want to enter through regal front double doors, look across the small sitting room and see water. Outdoor living areas are becoming larger and ever more luxurious, too. The formal "living room" as we knew it 20 years ago has all but vanished.
Another trend is the return of wallpaper, although these new coverings are so luxurious they resemble Fortuny cut-velvet fabrics. There's more built-in cabinetry than ever, and the exquisite detailing transforms practical storage units into fine furniture. Window seats are part of this trend, and they're charming, since each builder does them slightly differently.
Wood flooring is challenging tile and marble, with bamboo being the charmer of the season. But I'm impressed with the hickory plank floor in the Arthur Rutenberg Rhapsody model at the Country Club at Ashland in Lakewood Ranch. Bigger laundry rooms, more elaborate front doors (with glass and ornamental iron work), two-story homes to maximize views, larger bonus rooms, luxurious outdoor kitchens and bathrooms that appear to have been lifted from European palaces or international spas seem to be routine when you reach the $600,000 home and up. Paint colors this year are a holdover from last-lots of gentle sage, buttercream, warm ivories and a few deeper Mediterranean hues that are a riff on terra cotta. But Anchor Builders has the paint winners in my opinion. (We love the robin's egg blue in the Grand Floridian.)
Everyone has their favorite features. The fun is to mix and match to customize your personal expression of fine living. Pick a builder who impresses you and then bring out your list of the best of the best from the model homes you've inspected. The elaborate outdoor fireplace with its rope columns at Pruett's Villa Mediterra is certainly something to covet. And John Cannon's Nariah is the model to study if you want your outdoor living spaces to be as important and luxurious as your indoor ones. Who wouldn't want the double-sided fireplace in the master bedroom/sitting room of Arthur Rutenberg's Rhapsody model (which also features 5 1/2 baths)? By using the Parade of Homes as a guide for what is available, beautiful and practical in this part of Florida, you can have the home of your dreams in no time. At the very least, you'll go back to your own abode with terrific ideas for renovating.
AND THE WINNERS WERE
Awards from the Home Builders Association of Sarasota and Manatee Counties are presented in categories established by monetary value of the dwelling and are given for attached villas, condominiums and houses. The coveted plaques are presented for excellence in architectural detail, curb appeal, floor plan and for design distinction of various rooms of the home such as kitchen, bath, master suite as well as floor plan and a category called overall winner. Energy efficiency and environmental sensitivity are also recognized with awards. In the 2003 Parade, Lee Wetherington was the top winner with 23 awards. Medallion Homes accumulated a total of 16 awards and Bruce Williams earned 14. This year 53 builders participated in the big Parade.
The price categories start at $137,000 and top out at $2,500,000. Here are the winners in the categories beginning with $540,000. You'll notice that some builders win awards in multiple categories, making their models true standouts and increasing traffic through those homes. You'll also notice that sometimes there's more than one winner in each category. Be aware that the judging prices are lower than the "model as shown" prices in the Parade literature. That's because costs of the lot, developing fees, pool package, driveways and walkways are subtracted from the "model as shown" price to reach the judging price.
Neal Custom Homes' Chatworth model in University Park is a winner for Curb Appeal. Homes by Towne picks up an award for Master Suite for its Monarch V at Greenbrook Trails at Lakewood Ranch. But the impressive winner in this price category is the Sevilla II model by Peregrine Homes at Blythefield at the Country Club at Lakewood Ranch, which collects top honors for Kitchen, Floor Plan, Architectural Detail, and Overall Winner.
Lee Wetherington picks up the award for Curb Appeal at his Provence model located at Ashland at the Country Club at Lakewood Ranch. This model also wins for Master Suite, Floor Plan, Architectural Detail and Overall Winner. John Cannon's Allora VI at Silver Oak on Palmer Ranch wins for Kitchen and Floor Plan in this price category. Additionally, Cannon's Allora VII at Blythefield at Country Club at Lakewood Ranch triumphs as a best Floor Plan.
Marc Rutenberg Homes has a popular and distinguished model at University Park Country Club called the Woodbridge. It wins top honors for Curb Appeal, Kitchen, Floor Plan, Architectural Detail and Overall Winner. Also in this price category, Bamboo Building & Development takes a supreme award for the Master Suite in its Casa Mar model home at Silver Oak on Palmer Ranch.
Anchor Builders of S.W. Florida's Grand Floridian at Sloane Gardens at University Park Country Club wins in the categories of Master Suite, Kitchen and Overall Winner. Also, Anchor's Claremont model at Portmarnock at the Country Club at Lakewood Ranch wins for Floor Plan and Architectural Detail. And Pruett Builders takes the grand prize for Curb Appeal with its Villa Venezia II at Blythefield at the Country Club at Lakewood Ranch.
In this, the most upmarket category for the 2003 Parade, the big winner is the John Cannon Homes model Nariah at Portmarnock at the Country Club at Lakewood Ranch. This majestic edifice scores for Curb Appeal, Kitchen, Master Suite, Architectural Detail and Overall Winner. But it isn't quite a clean sweep. The Rhapsody by M. Pete McNabb at Portmarnock at the Country Club at Lakewood Ranch wins for best Floor Plan.