The Lee Building Industry Association’s (BIA) 36th annual Parade of Homes is moving down a new path this year due to the severe lack of models in Southwest Florida. For the first time, there are no high end custom builders participating. They have no models since they are sold now usually before the drywall even gets up. Instead, the BIA is trying something new by allowing some showrooms to be part of the parade. There are also six standard production builders showcasing models.
“Entries are down this year, because so many are sold,” said Savanah Phillips, events and marketing director for Lee BIA.
Phillips hopes people will attend the parade and take a look at the showrooms to get ideas for their own homes.
“People looking for ideas of redoing their homes,” Phillips explained. “In the past it has always been houses, but we switched it up this year because we knew we would be low on the houses. You kind of have to evolve. Throwing in those showrooms adds that new aspect.”
Bruce Zachritz, showroom director at Monark Premium Appliance in Bonita Springs, is eager to be part of the parade for the first time.
“I am excited about it,” Zachritz began. “It is something I have been pushing. All the custom builders use our showrooms for their clients. This way the public can come though on the tour and see some of our ideas. It’s an idea place.”
The showroom is set up to look like rooms in a home. For example, people can see a kitchen with modern sleek white cabinets and the refrigerator and freezer hidden behind them. They can also see a more traditional kitchen, a wine refrigerator and other appliances.
“It’s a win win,” Zachritz said. “They get ideas of what their builder can do for them. I am partnering with remodelers and developers, but we are open to the public. They can buy like a builder right from us. We will staff our sales people and be open as a courtesy to the Parade of Homes.”
Florida Design Works in Fort Myers is another showroom participant.
“We are really excited because the Parade of Homes has always been a wonderful event, so to be able to take advantage of an established event we are so excited,” said Jennifer Horvat, marketing director. “Our showroom is already set up to be a one stop shop for homeowners. Anything we can do to be part of the community is important to us. We are part of the fabric of the neighborhoods.”
Horvat said one thing people will appreciate is that they have a lot of things in stock and can get it to a customer quickly.
“When you walk in, you will know what is in stock and what can be delivered immediately,” she explained. “We have millions of dollars in options ready to go.”
There are also 24 models to tour. Taylor Morrison, Pulte, Lennar, DR Horton and Mattamy Homes will be featuring their unsold models.
Justin Wood, director of sales for Pulte Group, says that benefits his company, that will have 10 homes entered.
“Anytime you have less busyness that can distract people to other things, it definitely benefits us,” he said. “It is refreshing to have a much more similar process. We are all production builders and we share that similarity.”
Scott Schilling, area sales manager for Lennar, agrees.
“I think it helps us,” he said. “People still want to buy homes. They are driven to us.”
Gary Aubuchon, owner of Aubuchon Homes, still wanted a small part in the event so his sold model, the Carlton, will have a virtual tour on the BIA Parade of Homes website. Aubuchon said the benefit of a virtual tour is that people can see it 24/7 and not just during event times.
“There has been movement toward the virtual world where people can go online and take a virtual tour of a model that was built at one time or one that was never built, but is a virtual reality,” Aubuchon explained. “I think there will always be a place for Parade of Homes because people always want to touch and feel, but I think going forward, the emphasis of Parade of Homes will be less than it has been historically.”
Aubuchon now has another model on the drawing board, but not yet under construction.
Ryan Morgan, marketing specialist for Florida Lifestyle Homes, said their model went under contract during the drywall stage so they have nothing for the Parade of Homes.
“It happens almost all the time now,” Morgan said. “We don’t have the inventory right now. We do have several upcoming projects, but nothing finished.”
The lack of custom models left the Parade of Homes without a cover house so Phillips came up with a new idea. Gulf Western Roofing is this year’s platinum sponsor and cover design.
“They are the face of the parade,” Phillips explained. “They are the top sponsor and they are helping make this parade possible.”
Last year there were about 40 homes in the BIA Parade of Homes. Phillips said the pandemic made that number lower than in previous years, but not as low as this year.
“It is usually 50-60 in a typical year, but nothing has been typical the last two years,” she concluded.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Lee Building Industry Association (BIA) Parade of Homes
WHERE: Locations throughout Lee County see map on website
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday Feb 19 and noon-5 p.m. Sunday February 20
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Parade of Homes marches down a new path