Every year Charlottesville’s Blue Ridge Home Builders Association (BRHBA) sponsors the Parade of Homes giving local builders an opportunity to show off the very best in new construction. The 51st Parade is no exception. Consumers who attend will have a chance to view a wide range of home styles, prices and locations. All the best in everything from innovative technologies and energy savings (including a net zero home), to examples of what is new in the way of floor plans, color schemes and amenities will be on display.
This year’s Parade features 42 homes from 19 builders, a significant increase over last year. It also welcomes back some previous participants along with some who are exhibiting for the very first time. This is all good news and reflects builder optimism about the market for new home sales.
The Parade is free, and everyone is welcome to admire the builders’ fine craftsmanship. Every year it draws buyers looking for new homes, owners looking for creative ways to renovate existing homes and consumers who are just curious about what’s new in their neighborhood or who want a fun way to spend an afternoon. Be sure to bring all of your questions about design, energy savings, and new home trends. The site agents and builders will be available to greet you and provide whatever answers you need.
This year’s dates are Saturday and Sunday October 4th and 5th and 11th and 12th from noon to 5:00 p.m. Pick up extra copies of this and next week’s Real Estate Weekly, or visit the BRHBA website and Parade of Homes Facebook page for maps, times and information.
New Construction in Demand
Last year there were just 31 homes in the parade, compared to 42 this year. There are also more participants, 19 builders compared to last year’s 14. All of this reflects confidence in the market. “The builders are cautiously optimistic,” said Michael Guthrie, Principal Broker of Roy Wheeler Realty, Co., who added that the Parade is a great opportunity to see a large number of homes in different neighborhoods and at varying price points.
Others also expressed positive sentiments about the market. “We’ve continued to see the local real estate market improve; this has been the case for both residential resales and for new construction,” said Justin Kent with Real Estate III, who represents Craig Builders. He added that “Craig Builders has had one of their best years on recent record since the company was formed in 1957.”
“It’s been fantastic,” said Quinn Beversluis, Sales and Marketing Director for I & J Home Builders, LLC, when asked about the market for new homes. His company has gone from 25 to 30 homes built per year to 60. They are now also building at higher price points compared to a few years ago, moving from the $250,000 market to homes in the $400,000 to $600,000 bracket. This year’s Parade home is in Stoney Creek in Nelson County.
Jodi Mills with Roy Wheeler Realty, Co. described the new home market as “very strong.” A contributing factor is a low inventory of resale homes. As a result, buyers are not finding what they want and are looking to new construction. Mills represents Riverside Village, a new development near Darden Towe Park, one of two neighborhoods featured in this year’s Parade. The other one is Vegas Court near Rio Road and Pen Park Lane, being developed by Dickerson Homes and Development
A Celebration of Builders
The annual Parade of Homes is a cooperative effort between builders and suppliers who support the activities of the BRHBA. Once again this year’s Presenting Sponsor is Roy Wheeler Realty, Co., and the presenting Sponsor for the gala kick off event at the King Family Vineyards is Tiger Fuel.
“The Parade is an opportunity to showcase homes and to be part of a regional celebration of what our area’s builders are producing,” said Charlie Armstrong, Vice President, Land Development with Southern Development Homes.
“Each builder is unique,” said Kristin Sorokti, Executive Vice President of the BRHBA. “The Parade gives the public an opportunity to meet the builders and learn about new technologies and new design trends,” she continued, adding that “We couldn’t do this without our sponsors.”
About his company’s annual sponsorship, Guthrie explained that the Parade is a partnership between the BRHBA and CAAR (Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors). Over the last several years this partnership has become closer and Guthrie and his company feel strongly about the importance of supporting the Parade. “It’s what’s happening,” he said. “It’s lots of builders putting their best foot forward. When you only give one party a year,” he continued, “you want everything to be in the best possible shape. We like having our name associated with a first class event like this.”
The Best of Everything on Display
When consumers walk through a Parade home what they see is the carefully crafted outcome of a “collective local effort to build a superior product.” Kent said. “They can get a sense of what new and quality building practices, styles and materials are being incorporated into new homes
Parade visitors also can learn what is new in home building as far as technologies, color schemes, and floor plans as well as products such as tile, counter tops, cabinets and innovations in HVAC systems. Charif Soubra, Community Sales Manager for Southern Development Homes, explained that Parade goers can get acquainted both with local builders and with trends in design. One example is color schemes which are always changing. This year, for example, there is a “resurgence in grays and whites,” Soubra said.
However it’s not just the homes that are important. The Parade also “highlights communities which are as important as floor plans and design,” Soubra added.
Consumers may be surprised at some of the technology and products that are now standard in many new homes. Products which in the past were associated with upper end homes only are now accessible at lower price points, Soubra said. As examples he mentioned bamboo flooring and cabinets built without formaldehyde.
Similarly, Craig Builders homes all come with ceramic tile floors in kitchens and baths along with low water usage toilets and scald guard faucets, Kent said.
The Parade is “a good opportunity to see what buyers want in new homes and how the builders are responding,” said Greg Slater, with Nest Realty who represents Stanley Martin Homes.
Even if you have no plans to buy a home anytime soon, visiting the Parade can be a fun and educational way to spend Saturday and Sunday afternoons. For many it’s an annual event. Mills said this year is her fourth time to participate and every year she sees a lot of new faces but also many that she remembers from past Parade weekends. Often it is groups of women with a plan of action, she explained, adding that often they attend Martha’s Market first, and then follow that with a visit to the Parade.
People who plan to stay put, and want to renovate their existing home, can also benefit from attending the Parade. “The Parade is a great opportunity to engage the builders and site agents and learn more about trends in new construction that also apply to remodeling,” Slater said. Many people are engaged in remodeling projects that are not just cosmetic, he continued. “Energy retrofits are very popular and the Parade builders are a good resource for information about this topic,” he continued.
New Home Trends
Floor plans with a first floor master bedroom continue to be very popular, Slater said.
Mark Brement with Bramante Homes agrees adding that the master suite is very important especially for Boomers who, he continued, have different needs from younger families, and no longer want to climb stairs. Also, empty nesters are often happy with just three bedrooms although in some situations they may opt for a fourth bedroom with access to a full bath. This can double as an extra guest room or often is used as an office, Brement added.
Brement is in business with his son, who he said, relates well with the younger families. Often these buyers prefer having all of their bedrooms on the second floor so parents can be near their children.
Some features, such as open floor plans without formal living areas and outdoor living spaces appeal across the board to all age groups.
Energy efficiency continues to be a big concern for new home buyers and those renovating existing homes. “Most of our builders are taking an overall approach to energy efficiency and establishing a HERS rating for their homes,” Slater said. He explained they accomplish this by incorporating such features as more insulation, energy efficient windows, highly efficient HVAC systems, and energy saving light bulbs and appliances.
Jeff Roberston with Echelon Homes sees a trend towards using more foam insulation. They not only use it in exterior walls but also on roof rafters. The idea is to seal the envelope, but also allow for circulation of fresh air. He suggests asking builders a lot of questions. “Technology can vary tremendously and everyone has their own spin,” he said.
Come prepared with your questions for Parade builders and site agents. “We have a strong push today to educate consumers about energy savings. The use of energy efficiency technology impacts the whole market,” Slater said.
How to Get the Most from Your Parade Experience
To get the most from the Parade “visit a wide price range of homes in different communities,” Kent said. Viewing homes in a variety of different communities and at different price points gives a good overview of trends in the local real estate market.
The Parade is a great opportunity to engage the agents and builders in each home, Slater said. This will allow you to learn as much as you can about current trends in the marketplace and about each builder’s approach to the building process.
“Don’t be afraid of the site agents,” suggests Bob Hauser, President and CEO of Stonehaus, LLC, developer of Belvedere. “The Parade is not an intense selling situation. The builders’ representatives are knowledgeable professionals who are there to answer your questions and are all about meeting people. So plan to stay, talk and get to know the neighborhood.”
Jay Kelleher, also with Stonehaus suggests looking through the list of homes and “really highlight and visit the ones with new design and new technology.” He also advises taking your time with each one.
Look for Parade information in the Real Estate Weekly, and at the BRHBA website. In addition you will find information about Parade builders and their homes at the BRHBA Facebook page, Sorokti said.
Celeste Smucker is a writer, blogger and author who lives near Charlottesville.