"Oh, my gosh. Awesome," said Beverly Smock, deputy executive vice president of the Home Builders Association Manatee-Sarasota. "Paradise Homes had 500 people in their model the first weekend. Our (design awards) judges told us 30 people were at the door waiting to get in. The traffic was tremendous.
"And I have taken more calls (from tour-goers seeking information) this year than I can recall in 16 years of doing this." Many of the calls are from out-of-state.
"It's been phenomenal," said Gary Johnson of Tivoli Homes. "We haven't generated that much traffic even in a good market." Johnson said his salesman at Tivoli's model in The Cottages at Callista Village, in Longwood Run, was "overwhelmed" on Sunday. But it must be noted that the model, the Beach Comber, was featured in the Herald-Tribune that day. "The traffic on Saturday was steady, but nothing like Sunday," said Johnson.
At John Cannon Homes, the company president said his sales people "have been hopping."
Traffic is "not bad" for the parade so far, said John Cannon. "With inventories of existing homes reducing, we're seeing more activity. They might not be finding what they are looking for in existing homes."
With Lakewood Ranch offering "good pricing" on home sites, Cannon said the price for a new home is becoming more comparable to prices on existing houses.
The Parade of Homes began at 10 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Polo Grill, where tour-goers could speak with housing-industry professionals, such as mortgage brokers, and then ride a trolley to the Lakewood Ranch models.
"It was wild," said Miranda Oswald, vice president of sales and marketing for Lakewood Ranch. "It was actually too successful. We had people who were frustrated because we had way more than we planned."
Oswald said that during the opening weekend of the 2009 event, Lakewood Ranch generated 65 new prospects. This year, there were 217 signed registrations, which could represent a body count of twice that number.
Before we conclude that the new-home market is bouncing back, it should be said that Paradise Homes served burgers in return for signed registrations.
And, there are only 28 models on the tour this year, compared to 60 last year. Tivoli's Gary Johnson speculates that this may have concentrated the traffic on relatively few models, making them more crowded.
Yet, as John Cannon said, "I always want to be busier, but definitely we're feeling better than we did a year ago." By Harold Bubil