LAKEWOOD RANCH -- With real estate sales on the Ranch heating up, the 16th annual Lakewood Ranch Tour of Homes is coming at the perfect time.
"If our sales traffic year-to-date is any indication, we should experience an unprecedented turnout for this annual event," said Jimmy Stewart, LWR Communities vice president of sales.
As of Aug. 31, there were 418 new home sales in Lakewood Ranch in 2013, a 5.3 percent increase from the same time frame in 2012. That represents 55 percent of all homes sold in this master-planned community in East Manatee.
This year's tour kicks off Friday and includes a wide range of communities, including models from the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, Country Club East, The Lake Club, Central Park and Greenbrook. Listed prices range from the high $100,000s ("The Valor 2" in Central Park) to $1.35 million ("The Alezio" at The Lake Club).
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New additions to the tour can be found north of State Road 70: Bridgewater, the newest village in the Ranch; and the second phase of Esplanade Golf and Country Club, an active lifestyle community. Also making their tour debut are models in two new neighborhoods in Country Club East: Haddington and Windy Hill.
In all, 41 models from 15 builders will be included on the tour, which runs through Nov. 17.
The tour is planned to coincide with a full slate of events on Lakewood Ranch Main Street in the coming weeks, including Friday's Boo Fest Halloween spectacular, Saturday's International Beer Festival, the Nov. 1 Music on Main and Nov. 2's Stone Crab Festival at Pinchers Crab Shack.
"It's a way for us to showcase our community to those who aren't familiar with Lakewood Ranch, or maybe who aren't that familiar with what makes Lakewood Ranch a great place to live, work and play," said Rachel Gray, events and promotions coordinator.
Another popular draw is a behind-the-scenes bus tour highlighting agriculture and other aspects of life on the Ranch that sometimes go unnoticed, Gray said.
Prospective homebuyers can stop by either Lakewood Ranch Information Center at 6220 University Parkway or 6310 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., or at The Lake Club's sales and information center beginning Friday to pick up the new 58-page Tour of Homes Guide, which details this year's \ models and includes a pull-out map. The guide, including a map and builder floorplans, can also be downloaded at lakewoodranch.com/tourofhomes starting Friday.
Information centers and models are open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday from and noon until 5 p.m. Sunday.
Organizers think the tour could provide an even bigger boost to home sales in 2013.
"We hope a lot of people who have looked and haven't pulled the trigger on buying a home might do that this year on the tour," Gray said.
Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBartolone.