MANATEE -- Manatee County's most prolific homebuilder is not only capturing record sales this year, but also the imaginations of industry experts evaluating homes entered in the 2014 Parade of Homes in Manatee & Sarasota counties.
With 17 home models entered in this year's Parade, Neal Communities and its affiliated companies took home 11 overall awards from a Thursday night recognition dinner at the Hyatt Sarasota. Categories were divided based on the cost of building the homes. Industry professionals not affiliated with any of the participating builders judged the entries.
Put on by the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association, the Parade of Homes has opened 93 model homes in the two-county area over three weeks. The event is intended to stimulate new home sales for the 42 builders participating. Homes entered into the event ranged in price from $199,000 to nearly $2.5 million. They are located throughout Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Alan Anderson, BIA executive vice president, said the opinions of the 74 judges working this year's parade matter to the participating builders.
"It's recognition for the builders' efforts and their hard work and their financial investment in putting out a great model," he said.
Neal, based in Lakewood Ranch, won awards across a range of categories. In the 25 single family home award divisions, the company took five overall category wins, including one for its $261,900 Eventide 2 in Lakewood Ranch's Central Park neighborhood, and another for its $1 million-plus Dominica II in The Concession.
The Lakewood Ranch builder also won a category for the best multifamily construction for buildings containing fewer than three units. Neal-owned Waterscapes Pools & Spas took another four wins for the company for its pool designs.
Leisa Weintraub, Neal vice president of marketing, said the recognition is a valuable, third-party evaluation of the work the company does.
"They're a validation to the team because we work so hard to design our plans and our models and decorate them," she said. "And of course you love to win."
Other winners stood out. Sarasota builder Nutter Custom Construction took a best overall award for its sole entry in the parade, the $1.42 million Windward model in the Lake Club in Lakewood Ranch. Winning the second-highest number of overall category awards was John Cannon Homes, which won for models it built in The Links at Rosedale, the Lake Club and the Concession. Other multiple overall award winners were Homes by Towne, Sam Rodgers Homes, Medallion Home, Lee Wetherington Homes, Allegra Homes and M/I Homes.
Every single family and multifamily category included additional individual awards for best curb appeal, best master suite, best floor plan, best kitchen and best architectural detail.
Parade judges also scrutinized overall developments. It awarded Legacy Builders the overall win for communities with under 100 home sites for its downtown Sarasota project, The Homes of Laurel Park. Minto Communities won in the 100 to 200-home category for its Harbor Isle development on Perico Island. London Bay Homes was the winner for communities with 201 to 500 home sites for The Founders Club in Sarasota County. For communities over 1,000 homes, Lakewood Ranch Communities repeated its performance from 2014 with the victory in that category.
Coast to Coast Pools of Sarasota was tops in the swimming pool division, garnering five overall awards. Judges also gave out honors for landscaping, tapping ArtisTree of Venice for five of the seven awards in that category.
In the only category that lumped all the parade homes together, Classic Homes by Clayton took home the best overall green award for its Sonoma model. Homes considered for the award offered amenities including insulated block, high efficiency appliances and air conditioning systems and energy efficient doors and windows. Some also received third-party green building certifications.
The Parade of Homes will continue through Sunday. All homes on the tour are open to the public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.