If you missed last week’s Parade of Homes you have another opportunity this Saturday and Sunday, October 12th and 13th from noon to 5:00 p.m., when once again all the homes will be open.
This year’s Parade of Homes is even bigger and better than last year’s. There are more homes and more builders representing neighborhoods and price points from Zion Crossroads and Palmyra to Crozet and from Ruckersville to Nelson County. Prices range from $200,000 to $1.25 million, and you can tour a net zero home, a real breakthrough in green technology.
If you plan to buy or build in the near future, the Parade of Homes offers an overview of what is available in today’s new home marketplace. It is also a way to get to know different neighborhoods and to converse with builders, all of whom have a unique view of new construction.
Even if you have no plans to move, visit the Parade of Homes and ask questions about energy saving technologies and design features to use when you renovate your present home. The Parade of Homes is a relaxed, no pressure way to spend time getting to know your local real estate market and dream about what is possible. Bring a friend and enjoy the day.
The Parade of Homes is free. This issue of the Real Estate Weekly has the information you need to plan your route. You can also visit the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association (BRHBA) website and Facebook page for information about the homes, neighborhoods and builders.
A huge benefit of visiting the Parade is learning about the builders and their agents. In addition, these professionals are available to answer questions about design, technology, floor plans, the neighborhoods and energy savings.
For people preparing to build, it is important to “research everyone to see who you will click with,” said Charif Soubra with Southern Development Homes. “Building a house is a four to six month proposition and since homes are very complex, something will go wrong during that time. The process works best when the builder is someone the buyer can work well with,” he said.
Of course anyone visiting the Parade will have questions about price. For an overview, visit a variety of homes at different price points to view the kind and quality of amenities that go with each. Be sure to visit the very upper end homes, even if they are out of your price range, since they offer many amenities all in one place.
Questions about the price for a particular project are more difficult to answer as there are so many variables involved, said Quinn Beversluis, Sales and Marketing Director for I & J Home Builders. For example, does the house have unfinished square footage? Is there a garage or a basement? He suggests the best way to answer this question is to start with a budget and work back from there.
People moving from out of state may have a whole different set of questions than someone who has lived here for awhile, said Jeff Robertson of Echelon Homes. A frequent one is whether or not we heat with gas here. Many people moving from up north are used to gas heat and want to know if that is the most efficient for this area.
Energy savings is always a “hot button,” especially in Charlottesville with its high level of environmental consciousness,” said Jodi Mills with Roy Wheeler Realty Co. Mills represents Riverside Village (one of two neighborhoods featured in this year’s Parade) which is an EarthCraft certified community. “People want to know about the dollar amount of savings to expect,” she continued.
Whether you are buying a new home or retrofitting an old one with energy saving upgrades, the Parade is the place to get answers. According to Greg Slater with Nest Realty, who represents Stanley Martin Homes, “the overwhelming majority of builders in our marketplace now feature energy efficient construction methods as a core part of their offering.”
Energy savings come from using many different technologies from insulation to better windows to highly efficient light bulbs. A big one of course is the HVAC system. “We continue to be impressed with the advances in high efficiency HVAC systems,” said Justin Kent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate III, and representing Craig Builders. “These systems utilize variable speed fans and multiple zones to more effectively and efficiently heat and cool a home than ever before,” he continued.
Take advantage of all of the expertise of the builders and agents in Parade homes by asking them how you can benefit from some of the many energy saving innovations.
This year’s Parade offers the opportunity to learn about and view what is called a net zero home; one which “makes as much energy as it consumes,” said Doug Kingma with Kingma Development, Inc. This concept is measured using a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index where a home built to code has a score of 100. In most cases ratings on older homes will exceed 100, while those built with energy efficiency in mind will be less than that.
A decent HERS rating is between 60 and 70, while one in the 50s is very good, explained Mark Brement with Bramante Homes. Bramante has a home in the Parade that Brement is proud to say has a HERS rating less than 20, not quite net zero (which would be a score of 0) but close. This is a “very tight built home,” he said, which is “generating its own power to eliminate its carbon footprint.”
In terms of the dollar amount of energy savings, Kingma explained that a home with a HERS rating of 50, would cost half as much for its power as one rated at 100. This could mean a $150 monthly bill instead of a more typical one of $300.
Ten years ago Kingma was instrumental in bringing EarthCraft to our area through his involvement with the BRHBA. At that time builders were excited about achieving a 30 percent increase in energy efficiency. Over the years energy efficiency has increased even more and HERS scores continue to drop. Recently Kingma decided it was “time to do a net zero spec house.”
To accomplish this, he worked closely with John Semmelhack of Think Little, an EarthCraft and certified passive house consultant, who developed a plan taking advantage of a long list of energy efficient technologies from insulation, to windows to a water heater that uses a heat pump. They also used led lighting throughout which costs only a tenth of a regular bulb to operate. The result is a 2,550 square-foot house with a projected HERS rating of 45. The addition of 36 solar panels that generate the home’s energy supply, brought the HERS score to 5.
Kingma explained that the score was based on a five person household. With the reduced amount of energy used by a single person or a couple, the anticipated score would be close to zero.
For more information visit Kingma’s Parade house in Keswick, or attend one of his evening seminars which he will be hosting there between the two Parade weekends.
The Parade is a Cooperative Effort
Fifty one years of successful Parades reflects lots of cooperation between the BRHBA, the builders, their associates and the REALTOR® community represented by CAAR (Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors).
“The next best thing to a customer coming in the door of a builder’s new home is a REALTOR®,” said John Scott, sales rep with Builders FirstSource.
Michael Guthrie, Principal Broker of Roy Wheeler Realty, Co., whose company is the Parade’s presenting sponsor, also expressed genuine appreciation for the good relationship between agents and builders, describing it as a close partnership. The builders “work hard on their models,” he said, “and we support them.”
In order to introduce agents to Parade homes, the BRHBA also sponsors the annual REALTOR® Home Tour which, this year, happened between the two Parade weekends. This special event, exclusively for REALTORS®, is designed to get as many of the agents as possible into the builders’ homes and familiarize them with the new floor plans and technologies.
“The REALTOR® home tour gives agents an opportunity to see the homes and enjoy more personal one on one time with the builders,” said Kristin Sorokti, Executive Vice President of the BRHBA.
Of course the REALTOR® tour also gives agents a chance to network with each other and learn what their respective clients are looking for in homes and neighborhoods.
Builders, agents and other associates also look forward to networking at the annual Parade kick off event at the King Family Vineyards.
At one time, Guthrie explained, the kick off event was about builders receiving awards. However several years ago there was a “paradigm shift” and awards were eliminated when the committee realized they were not creating friendly competition. Rather, the winners would stay and party and everyone else would go home, Guthrie explained. “Now when we get together at the King Family Vineyards, it is a chance to network, enjoy each other’s company and be grateful for all our business.”
Why Buyers Like New Homes
A big advantage of building a new home is the flexibility to personalize the space. While this has always been true, it has become more so in recent years.
The new homes market has something for everyone, Guthrie explained, “and there is much more flexibility with the builders than there was five or six years ago.” It used to be that a builder would have some models and buyers could choose colors or cabinet styles or type of siding. “Now they can change room configurations,” he continued which could mean anything from eliminating a wall to create a bigger kitchen to moving the laundry room upstairs.
“Floor plans that suit lifestyles remain vital to the conversation and buyers are looking at spaces differently than in years past,” Slater said. “They want the right spaces and often see multiple new uses for traditional rooms in the home…and are also looking longer term for how the use of those spaces may evolve as they look down the road.”
Jay Kelleher of Stonehaus, developer of Belvedere, explained that their homes are designed to “appeal to urban buyers who want clean design and nice finishes, but are price sensitive.”
Whatever your needs or desires, a new home allows you to move in and have everything right the first day compared to a resale home which may require renovation or retrofitting to get it to the same place.
Take advantage of this great opportunity to attend this weekend’s Parade. Bring a friend, and enjoy the day. More details are available in this edition of the Real Estate Weekly and at the BRHBA website and Parade Facebook page. Or consult your favorite REALTOR® for more information.
Celeste Smucker is a writer, blogger and author who lives near Charlottesville.