MANATEE -- More than 1,000 visitors are expected to attend Manatee-Sarasota's annual Parade of Homes starting Saturday. This year's parade includes 68 model homes, nine more than last year -- another indicator that the economy is improving, organizers say.
With the economy looking up, people are becoming more willing to make a major investment, like buying a home, says Alan Anderson, the vice president for the Home Builder's Association Manatee-Sarasota.
"We believe this is the buying season," said Anderson, whose target demographic is the baby boomers. "They are looking for the lifestyle."
That lifestyle includes golf, sunny beaches and fishing -- all things most retiring baby boomers want to enjoy.
Visitors will have a variety of homes to view and at a price range of $100,000 and up, between Feb. 23 and March 10. The showcase of homes stretches from Palmetto and Parrish in the north to Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch in the middle, and North Port in the south.
Neal Communities, a community housing developer for three decades, is one of the many companies showcasing their new models. Lesa Weintraub, the company's vice president of marketing, said Neal Communities has 12 models across 12 communities for people to view. The company has been a participant for at least 20 years.
"You get excited about showing what you do," said Weintraub. "People can look forward to a really exciting event."
The excitement for the event has even reached social networking, with the Parade of Homes Facebook page.
"There will be a lot for people to see," Weintraub said.
In addition to potential homebuyers looking at the models, 60 judges will be evaluating the homes in 16 categories. The judging will
commence during the first weekend of the parade.
The winners will be announced the last weekend of the 16-day event.
Anderson said the many categories exist to ensure judging is fair among the homes.
"You wouldn't want to have a $100,000 home being judged against a $1 million home," Anderson said.
"It's all about showcasing the builder's product."