Increase in attendance creates optimism for future sales

The 2018 edition of the Parade of Homes of Manatee & Sarasota Counties concluded Sunday with builders beaming about the number of home shoppers it attracted.

“We were real happy,” John Cannon said. His luxury custom home building company, John Cannon Homes, racked up an increase in traffic with more than 2,100 visits to his models, with each group or individual tour counted as one visit.

“We enjoyed a very successful parade,” said Gregg Carlson, chief executive of Lee Wetherington Homes. “Our traffic during the parade increased by 200 percent over last year.

“The numbers vary by community, so we don’t have a specific breakdown. But we had strong activity in all of our communities and are working toward several contracts as a result,” Carlson said.

“The primary measure of success," said Pat Neal, chairman of Neal Communities, "is introducing new homes to people in Manatee and Sarasota counties. In this way, it has been very successful. The reactions have been good.”

Medallion Home vice president of sales Andy Kern reported solid traffic. “We estimated 400-plus potential home buyers came through our doors — with Sundays being the busiest days throughout the parade time frame.”

All four companies performed well in the annual awards competition staged by the parade’s organizer, the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association. Cannon won five “best overall” awards and an additional 27 honors in individual and sub-contractor categories ranging from best kitchen to best floor plan.

Wetherington took three best overall titles along with 18 other awards.

Neal Communities had one best overall victory and Neal Signature Homes, a custom-home builder, earned two. Neal Communities added two top trophies in the multifamily categories. All totaled, Neal companies won 34 awards.

Medallion Home took two best overall titles among its 13 awards.

“We are extremely proud of the accolades we received at this year’s Parade of Homes,” Cannon said. “We’re trying to evolve and excite people,” he said of his company’s home designs and its newer West Indies influence. “It’s fun to do new and exciting stuff.”

“I am really pleased with where we ended up,” Neal said.

“Having four new model homes ready and receiving recognition from our industry peers in the judging means a lot,” Carlson said. “Our team devotes a lot of time to designing, building and merchandising each model. To know that judges from outside this area recognize our efforts tells us we got it right. Couple that with the fact that people who visited the models are falling in love with our designs and that several are likely buyers.”

Whether foot traffic through model homes translates into sales is tough to figure today. “It takes time to get to the point of sale,” Cannon said.

Neal said he is focused less on sales and more on impressions over the debut of new models.

“We do not really look to get contracts from the Parade of Homes,” he said. “Remember, we are introducing our properties to people for the buzz and for Aunt Susie and to show our designs and the interior design.”

Medallion Home scored with a premium offer on its seven tour models. “We had over 30 home buyers take advantage of our Parade of Homes incentive — a $4,000 custom closet package,” Kern said.

Carlson is looking forward to signing contracts. “The parade traffic during this year’s event included what I view as more actual future customers than in recent years. Our process takes a little longer because we work first with individuals to personalize our plans for their specific needs."

Cannon works the same customized way, taking clients through the company’s design center so they can select everything from flooring and countertops to plumbing fixtures and exteriors.

“We build homes for families to live in and enjoy, so the strong positive response from parade visitors this year has been especially gratifying,” Carlson said.

Medallion found a key piece of county infrastructure holds great potential. “In Parrish, our Cross Creek community had more than 60 visitors,” Kern said. “The new Fort Hamer Bridge has made a big difference in bridging the gap between great location and affordability.”