Scroll down to read stories on this year’s Parade of Homes, including the Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders’ video promoting the industry and event, this year’s first Ideal House and a look inside one of the 18 villages to be featured in the Parade.
By Laura McAlister
The Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders has a message, and it hopes it will go viral.
As part of the 2012 Parade of Homes, the association has released a short video on YouTube called “Creating the Magic in the Magic City.” According to the three-minute clip, the magic is in the home industry, which is making a comeback, homebuilders say.
“Despite everything that Jefferson County has been through, we want people to know that the homebuilding industry is alive,” said Brooks Harris, president of the association and co-owner of Harris & Doyle Homes, Inc. “The industry is alive and vibrant. There are plenty of builders out there building, and they’re selling.
“Don’t buy into all the media hype. It’s still a great time to buy a house.”
About 100 homes and 18 villages will be featured in this year’s Parade of Homes, set for the weekends of April 21-22 and April 28-29.
Alicia Huey, vice president of the homebuilders association and owner of AGH Homes, Inc., said the parade will include a wide variety of homes in all price ranges featuring the latest home design trends.
Despite some of the bad publicity the Birmingham area has received in the past, she said, the homebuilding industry is going strong, and there’s never been a better time to buy in the Birmingham area.
“That’s what we wanted to show in this video,” she said. “It was very exciting working on it and putting together a story. There have been struggles, and we’ve been through a lot, but we do feel we’re coming out of the recession. There are lots of exciting projects out there, a lot of innovative ideas, and it’s affordable.”
The video was modeled after the Chrysler commercials featured during the Super Bowl the past two years.
It starts by noting some of the tough times the area’s been through recently – political bickering, budget cuts, tornados – but then goes on to discuss the how the community is making a comeback.
“Where’s the magic?” a deep voice asks as images of the city flash by. “It starts at home … We’re not sitting on our hands. We’re putting them to work.”
Then the video moves from the city to neighborhoods like Liberty Park, Ross Bridge and Chace Lake, where homes are being built.
“This is not just about houses and homes,” said Mark Williams, vice president of marketing for Signature Homes, which helped produce the video. “It’s about the infrastructure that makes Birmingham and Hoover great. We want to get the message out that it hasn’t been bad here for a while.
“In fact, we had our best year ever last year.”
In addition to Signature Homes, RealtySouth also pitched in to help fund the video, which was created by Vulcan Media.
Brooks said the association is using social media and QR codes to spread the video, which is posted on YouTube.
He said he hopes it will not only promote the Parade of Homes but also spread the message to a younger generation that now is the time to buy in the Birmingham area.
“The video is something we’ve never done before,” he said. “I hope it works. We really want to get it out in a viral fashion and get it out in social media. Now is a great time to buy a house. Prices are low. Interest rates are low. It’s really the perfect storm.”
Alicia said this year’s parade features some truly innovative designs, whether it’s energy efficiency or utilizing smart phone technology that is surprisingly affordable, especially when coupled with the low interest rates.
“People really just need to go and see what’s out there,” she said of the houses featured in the Parade of Homes. “I think they’d be surprised by what they could afford. I tell people a home that cost $175,000 three years ago would have a monthly payment $300 less now because of interest rates.
“There are some great and exciting things out there. Consumer confidence is really the issue we face now. A lot has changed in the last three years.”
Parade’s Ideal Home Incorporates Latest Technology
By Laura McAlister
While many buyers might think they can’t afford their ideal home, the Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders wants them to think again.
For the first time, the association’s annual Parade of Homes will include the Ideal Home, built and designed by Signature Homes. It is now under construction in Hoover’s Chace Lake subdivision and will be open for viewing during the Parade of Homes set for the weekends of April 21-22 and 28-29.
According to Mark Williams, vice president of Marketing for Signature Homes, the Ideal Home has six characteristics, with affordability topping the list. The other five are signature style, environmentally friendly, technology, outdoor living spaces and weather safety.
“A lot of people think these are things they could never afford or they’re too far in the future,” he said. “This is a home designed for really everybody, and with today’s interest rates it’s never been more affordable.”
Though a price has not been determined for the Ideal Home, Mark said he suspects it will fall in the low- to mid-$300,000s. Lots of perks come with this house, too.
For starters, Mark said it’s got what they call their “signature style.” The home has an open floor plan and a huge master bedroom and bath on the main level with double walk-in showers and a large walk-in closet. It has hardwood floors on the main level, and the kitchen comes equipped with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops.
The outdoor living space is open and is designed for entertaining. A large stone patio has a fire pit as well as a gas grill.
“We wanted this house to include a lifestyle of luxury,” he said. “It’s also energy efficient, or really environmentally friendly.”
The installation of the house is 40 percent more efficient than that of the average home, Mark said, but that’s not all.
The Ideal Home could also be considered a “smart” one in that it makes use of smart phones and other gadgets like iPads to control heating and cooling.
“If it’s cold you can cut the heat up on your way home on your phone,” Mark said. “It’s really about the comfort of technology, too.”
The heating and cooling are just the start of what this Ideal Home can do through an iPhone or iPad.
The lights, security and even music throughout the house can be controlled with mobile devices. The house also has docking stations installed so mobile devices can be easily and conveniently charged.
The Ideal Home is so smart it can even track who’s entering it through the touch key lock. Instead of using a key, homeowners can enter a unique code to enter the house.
“That allows you to keep track of who’s coming and going,” Mark said. “If you’re a working parent, it will text you when Charlie comes home.”
When it comes to safety, the house has cameras near outdoor entries, so owners can use their mobile devices to see who’s at the door.
Another safety aspect of the house is a storm shelter in the garage.
While the Parade of Home’s Ideal Home is in Chace Lake, Mark said it’s one the company can build just about anywhere. It’s called Signature’s Logan home and has four bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths with about 2,300 square feet.
“This is a model that we could put anywhere,” he said. “We can put it in Chelsea or Calera or Regions Park on 280 or North Hampton in Ross Bridge.”
Signature Homes is donating the proceeds from the sale of the Ideal Home to the Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders. For more information about the Ideal Home, visit http://www.birminghambuilder.com.
Style in All Sizes
Liberty Park Parade Homes Show Luxurious Living
By Laura McAlister
Liberty Park will show off luxury homes on both large and smaller scales at the 2012 Parade of Homes.
Once again, the Vestavia Hills community will showcase homes in its Heritage Hills and Hampden Place neighborhoods. According to Ben Gardner, estimator and purchaser for the builder, Lifescape Builders L.L.C., all the houses offer luxury living, just in different sizes.
“The plans are somewhat similar,” he said. “They all have a sitting room upstairs and open floor plans. The Heritage Hills homes are just on a grander scale.”
The Heritage Hill homes are priced in the $700,000s and have four bedrooms and four and a half baths. There’s also lots of room for growth in these houses.
All the houses have basements, said Tom Patterson, construction manager of Lifescape Builders, the second level of the homes have about 1,200 square feet of unfinished space.
“You could easily make this into a million-dollar house,” he said during a recent tour of the Dunham, one of the models which will be open during the Parade of Homes.
The upstairs of the Dunham has three bedrooms and three baths plus a common sitting area at the top of the steps. There are also laundry rooms on both the main and second levels.
The spacious master bedroom and bath are on the main floor, which has hardwoods throughout.
The master bath has his-and-her vanities with a walk-in shower and Jacuzzi tub. The flooring is porcelain tile.
The den and kitchen are really the showstoppers of this house, Tom said.
The kitchen and breakfast nook open to the den.
The kitchen is equipped with state-of-the-art Wolf Sub-Zero appliances and granite countertops. In addition to the breakfast nook, there’s also a large island in the center of the kitchen with an additional sink and seating.
“There’s tons of storage space, too,” Ben said. “That’s what most people love is all the cabinet space.”
And if the cabinets don’t provide enough storage, there’s also a large walk-in pantry adjacent to the main level laundry room.
The den has built-in cabinets surrounding the fireplace and opens out to the large deck. While the yards are smaller at Heritage Hills, decks offer plenty of room for outdoor entertaining.
The den and kitchen also have entryways into the living room/dining room in the front of the house. The space offers plenty of room for a formal dining and sitting area and, as in the rest of the house, has three-piece crown molding.
All the homes in Heritage Hills have three-car garages.
In Hampden Place, the homes have all the luxuries of Heritage Hills, just on a smaller scale, as Ben said, and smaller price tags. The homes in Heritage Hill are in the $523,000-$650,000 range.
While these houses also have three-piece crown molding and hardwood floors throughout most of the main level, the Hampden Place homes are about 3,500 square feet. The kitchen and living spaces are smaller but still have the same attention-to-detail style as the Heritage Hill homes.
They are also centrally located in Liberty Park, close to the schools, pool, park and lake, Ben said.
The Hampden Place houses are typically slab homes and have one laundry room on the main level. While the houses are a bit smaller, the yards are larger in Hampden Place, Ben said.
“They’re still very much luxury,” Ben said. “They’re just scaled down a bit.”