MANATEE -- The sales offices for home builders across the county are preparing for their busiest time of the year.
The Home Builders Association Manatee-Sarasota will open its annual Parade of Homes on Saturday -- a two-week marketing bonanza aimed to boost foot traffic in models and showcase the industry’s latest and greatest.
Developers hope the event builds buzz among potential buyers to further accelerate the recent upswing in new home construction. And they’re not complaining if they nab one of the parade’s builder awards along the way.
“New home interest has already been strong through the natural process,” HBA Executive Vice President Alan Anderson said. “This will bump that up tenfold.”
The parade will open the doors to 60 model homes built from about 25 different developers in three communities: Lakewood Ranch, Harbor Isles on State Road 64 and Legends Bay near Bayshore.
Builders say interested buyers from across the nation plan their vacation around the event to scout what sets the homes apart, from new designs to green technology. Each model will have a sales representative on hand to give tours.
The event begins Saturday and runs until March 4. Last year, buyers signed about 25 contracts during that window, but developers said the impact spreads much wider, with sales coming months and sometimes years down the road.
“It’s usually a very busy time,” said Leisa Weintraub, vice president of marketing for Neal Communities, which has 10 models in the show. “We see an increase in both the people just interested in looking to get decorating ideas, and we obviously see people more serious about buying.”
As part of the parade, the association will present awards to participating builders in a number of categories ranging from curb appeal to kitchens and the overall floor plan. The models will be judged by 54 home experts with no stake in the game.
A Parade of Homes magazine, detailing each of the models, will be inserted in the Bradenton Herald’s Saturday edition.
A exclusive preview tour also will be presented to area real estate agents Friday.
Industry officials said the marketing boost couldn’t have come at a better time.
Residential construction already has began its climb from out of the downturn, with 361 new residential building permits issued in Manatee County between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31.
That tally represents a 31 percent jump over the same four-month period in 2010-2011 and 22 percent increase from that span in 2009-2010.
It’s also a 160 percent surge from 2008-2009, according to county records.
The number of residential building permits have risen each year since 2008, with 1,109 new permits issued in 2011.
Realtors attribute the resurgence to a drop in existing home inventory, with new homes becoming more attractive to buyers again.
The trend also has led to increases in new home sales.
“The prices have become relatively comparable to resale,” said Lee Forbes, owner-broker of Forbes Property Group in Bradenton.
“The builders have done a great job adjusting to today’s market, and buyers are seeing the value in new.”
Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095.