BRADENTON -- Real estate professionals say they're seeing something at the 2013 Parade of Homes they haven't seen in a while: serious buyers.
Neal Communities' Sales Director David Hunihan said many people have delayed making decisions the past few years because of the economy. "But they see the market starting to come back. Other folks experienced their own short sale and are now able to enter the market as enough time has passed for them to buy again. We have one community that opened in November 2011 and it's already half sold out."
The 2013 Parade of Homes kicked off Saturday and runs through March 10. The tour offers views of 65 furnished model homes and three communities throughout Manatee and Sarasota counties.
More than 20,000 people are expected to view the homes during the two-week event.
"We have sponsored this event for the past 30 years," said Alan Anderson, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Manatee-Sarasota Counties.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, top trends in new construction include expanded amenities, innovative modifications and the end of formal living spaces.
Anderson noted that formal dining and great rooms are still requested in higher end homes. "Outdoor living spaces continue to be important at all levels of single family housing. People move to Florida to be outside."
Neal Communities is showing 10 model homes in Bradenton, Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, Parrish and Venice. Hunihan remarked, "A great emphasis has been placed on amenities. People are very active and want to interact with
neighbors socially and from a fitness standpoint. We're also seeing an emergence of nooks and small spaces as Internet alcoves."
Hunihan added that though consumers are more conscious of "green building," they aren't necessarily willing to pay the full costs. Builders are incorporating green developments into larger communities so the entire neighborhood supports the price -- making it more cost effective for the buyer and builder.
Parade home prices range between $126,000 and $2,210,000. The majority of models are on the eastern edges of the counties; however, Carmen Tiana of Taylor Morrison is showing a condominium in northwest Bradenton.
"We're seeing really serious buyers on new construction this year -- not just window shoppers. Some are second home purchases, for others it will be their main residence. Folks are tired of trying to deal with short sales. And, with interest rates still at near-record lows, borrowing money is very inexpensive right now," explained Tiana.
She wrote up an offer within the first hour of the Parade of Homes' opening.
Low inventory of pre-owned homes, an increase in construction costs and an emerging demand that outweighs supply are starting to push real estate prices up.
Becky and Ron Fagley, from Erie, Pa., have been searching for a house, saying they have been renting for the last couple years and feel now is the time to buy because prices are on the rise.
Most models are open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. There is no cost for the self-guided tour. A complete listing of the homes on parade can be found at www.paradeofhomesinfo.com.