More than 100 model homes and two showcase homes are open to the public in Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Pinellas counties through Nov. 4 during the fifth annual Fall Tour of Homes, sponsored by the Tampa Bay Builders Association.
"The tour affords home buyers an opportunity to see new products, new homes, new floor plans and to get an update about what's available in the market," says Jeffry Ewing, TBBA president and president of Ladera Construction Group.
Ewing says one of the most exciting things about this year's Fall Tour of Homes is that it's happening at such a great time to buy.
"This is probably the best time than any other we've seen. Sellers and builders are motivated. A lot of upgrades are available. Interest rates are down and may come down lower. Now is a really good time to buy a home," he says, adding that new and energy-efficient products are coming out as well.
Tours of homes have grown in popularity over the years since they began nationwide about 40 years ago, Ewing says. And not just with home buyers but with people looking to renovate and redecorate, too.
"Lots of people, if they're planning to relocate, will plan their scouting during the parade of homes. That way, they have wide choices, the guidebook with floor plans and elevation, etc.," he says.
Ewing says the TBBA receives requests for the guidebook year-round from corporations relocating executives and home buyers. The free books also are available at www.tampabayparadeofhomes.com.
Showcase homes by Hannah Bartoletta Homes and Nohl Crest Homes feature all the bells and whistles you'd expect. Plus, the Nohl Crest home features environmentally-friendly or "green" building details, Ewing says.
The TBBA has been supportive of green building since the early 1990s, he says.
"Home buyers are finally understanding the benefits of green building, so builders are able to offer new concepts as it relates to green building," Ewing says, adding that this spring's Parade of Homes also will feature a "green" showcase home.
Home buyers used to be more interested in cosmetic details, he says. For example, because of financial constraints when faced with choosing granite counter tops or double-pane windows, buyers tended to go with the counter tops, he says. "Now, they're understanding more about operating costs and resale value and that there is more to having a well-designed home than just cosmetic materials," he says. "People are understanding more now how they can benefit from a better living environment."
At Ladera in Hillsborough County is the Mediterranean-style 3,790-square-foot showcase home, Montebello, by Nohl Crest. This $1.4-million (including lot) house, features four bedrooms, four bathrooms, custom one- and two-car garages and a custom Brazilian oak and iron-entry door.
The Pinellas County showcase home by Hannah Bartoletta is a 4,228-square-foot Dartmouth II with a loft. The home in the Estuary of Mobbly Bay boasts four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The $1.4 million home also includes an outdoor living area complete with spa, pool, fireplace and summer kitchen. Other features include a gated brick-entry courtyard and a 650-square-foot game room with a balcony overlooking the estuary.
About 20,000 people are expected to attend the Fall Tour of Homes, which, unlike the TBBA's Parade of Homes in the spring, is a non-judged event. The Tampa Tribune is among the sponsors.
Ewing suggests visitors get as much information as they can to get the most out of the tour. Collect brochures from models, talk to the builders' representatives, discuss energy packages and research the communities, he urges.
"Ask about the energy package. There are so many kinds of insulation packages. The tightness of the home makes for a very sound, energy-efficient environment," Ewing says. "Getting information is what it's all about."
Homes are not impulse purchases, he cautions. The Fall Tour of Homes is a resource to allow for pre-planning and making an intelligent decision, he says. "It's almost an educational tool for home buyers."
Models will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. For information, call (813) 873-1000 or visit the Web site.