Tampa Bay Parade of Homes ready for spectators
More than 100 communities in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties will feature homes in the 2008 Spring Tampa Bay Parade of Homes, March 1-16, with 132 models on display. "That's a larger number of homes in the parade than we had when the housing market was at its peak three years ago," says Peggy Templeton of Templeton Development, president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association, which sponsors the annual event. Parade of Homes models will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday during the 16-day event. "The Parade of Homes provides home buyers with a variety of homes from which to select," Templeton says. "It's a marketing event that allows home buyers to pre-qualify themselves in terms of location, price and home type."It helps to facilitate ease of shopping for a new home," Templeton says, adding that some people even plan their Florida vacations to coincide with the Parade of Homes. "If they're planning to move here at some point or want to look for a relative who may want to retire here, it's a great way to explore the area and home options." Almost 70 home builders will showcase the latest in home designs and trends, many of which are incorporating "green" features this year, says Trisha Randall, parade chairwoman. Features such as high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, low-energy lighting systems, double pane windows and "water-wise" lawns are growing in popularity with home buyers, and more builders than ever before will highlight these features at this year's Parade of Homes, she says. In fact, the showcase home - the Cellini by Homes by John C. Fowke - is a "green build" home, says John "Chuck" Fowke, founder of Homes by John C. Fowke. With a custom Tuscan courtyard design, the recently completed Cellini model, priced at $1.26 million, features 3,446 square feet of living space. When the expansive courtyard of the home in FishHawk Ranch is included, its square footage grows to nearly 6,000. "The outdoor area is incredible," Fowke says, describing the Cellini's walled in courtyard that includes an outdoor stone fireplace, kitchen, fire pit and swimming pool complete with tiered waterfall and spa. "It has a very Mediterranean feel," he says. A detached guest suite/office and covered lanai area are included as well. Features such as a 15-foot ceiling in the master bathroom and interior balconies with a view of the grand room make the home unique, Fowke says. A panel of independent building experts, who will choose "best feature in home" awards for each home, as well as overall "best of show" winners, will judge models featured in the Parade of Homes. Red ribbons with notations on the back will signify "best feature in home" awards selected by a panel of three judges, Randall says, adding that those ribbons may alert parade-goers to take special note of those features. "Judging is important because it affords builders the opportunity to have peers from out of the area judge their product," Randall says. "It provides a platform for evaluation of models and the builders' products. Judges also make notes that are passed on to builders, which help builders improve their product or tells them that they have a great product." Homes are judged on criteria such as curb appeal, floor plan, price range, design, landscaping, materials, outdoor living spaces, architectural detail, workmanship and overall presentation. "The Parade of Homes enables builders to showcase new products, new designs and new features. It's an opportunity to unveil new product," Randall says. In addition to the TBBA, sponsors include M&I Bank, The Tampa Tribune and Bright House Networks. The TBBA is a 1,600-member professional group serving Bay area construction-related businesses. For information, call (813) 873-1000 or visit www.tampabayparadeofhomes.com.
Hot Wheels: Kids are driving Pinellas County's car-theft epidemic. It's a dangerous, sometimes deadly, game.