LAKEWOOD RANCH Manatee home builders dominated their nationwide counterparts in the awards given from the annual Parade of Homes and they also netted strong sales from the event.
Lakewood Ranch-based Neal Communities and Arthur Rutenberg Homes won three overall winner awards for their single-family designs, while Medallion Homes of Bradenton received three as well.
Local builders took home just about every top honor from the 16 different single-family home categories. The honors were presented during a ceremony Thursday night at the Lake Club in Lakewood Ranch.
Participating builders also reported heavy foot traffic at the homes showcased this year, another sign that the improving housing market has more shoppers interested in buying new.
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“This has probably been one of the busiest years we’ve seen in a long time,” said Alan Anderson, executive vice president of the Manatee-Sarasota Home Builders Association. “All in all, it was a good jump start to our season.”
The HBA sponsors the Parade of Homes each spring a two-week marketing bonanza to stir interest in new homes and showcase the industry’s latest and greatest.
The parade, which ends Sunday, opened the doors for
the public to tour 60 model homes built by 25 different developers in three communities: Lakewood Ranch, Harbor Isles on State Road 64 and Legends Bay near Bayshore. One remodel also was featured.
As part of the event, 54 housing experts with no stake in the outcome judged the builders on their models, with categories ranging from the best kitchen to floor plan, curb appeal and architectural detail. An overall winner also was given for the different price points.
Aside from the near hometown sweep of the single-family section, area developers also had success in the multi-family and subcontractor contests.
Neal Communities, Taylor Morrison, Gibraltar Homes and Minto Communities each notched a multi-family award.
Gaetano Pools and Coast to Coast Pools had the most success in the swimming pools category. A company owned by Neal Communities also won several awards for interior design.
“We take the parade very seriously and really try to be prepared for it,” said Leisa Weintraub, vice president of marketing for Neal Communities, which has 10 models in the show. “We think it went well.”
Neal Communities sold 54 homes in February, more than 50 percent above the level of a year ago.
Although the company couldn’t pin point exactly how many came as a result of the parade, Weintraub estimates a good portion were seeded there.
The event drew 140 potential buyers in its opening weekend alone. A full attendance number has yet to be compiled.
Similar to Neal, Medallion Homes also sold at least 10 properties from parade tour takers this year. The builder expects the event to lead to many more in the coming months.
“We think everyone enjoyed a better parade than last year, that’s for sure,” Medallion Homes CEO Carlos Beruff said.“The jury is still out on how many bought homes, but at least people came to look.”
Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman.