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BuildChat: Bryce Johnson, executive vice president at the HBA of Fargo-Moorhead on this year's Parade of Homes


Across the country, home shows act as a show-and-tell for local housing markets by showing the latest trends in construction and design, but also telling the story about consumer confidence. For this week’s BuildChat, we interviewed Bryce Johnson, the executive vice president for the Home Builders Association of Fargo-Moorhead. We wanted to hear what Johnson learned from this year’s Parade of Homes, which ran April 30-May 8.

If the Parade of Homes serves as a barometer for the local housing market, what can you glean from this year’s event?
The feedback from builders on this year’s Parade of Homes was very positive. Consumers were positive and enthusiastic about buying or building new homes. We have heard of several homes sold off of the Parade traffic.

How has the Parade of Homes changed over the past five years?
The event has remained strong with 40-60 homes in the spring showing.

Four years ago, the HBA began producing a high-quality magazine/guide to go along with the event. It features a detailed map and full color, 3-D renderings of all homes entered on the Parade. Builders can also choose to include floor plans, their logos, and upgrade their half-page listing to a larger size if they desire. A website was also developed that showcases homes on the Parade. The Parade is also now on Facebook promoting the event to the public and creating more traffic to our Parade website.

The event remains free with “featured” homes valued at over $500,000 that require a $5 admission to view all. (This year there were three.) That money is donated to the Home Builders Care Foundation, the HBA’s charity that gives back to our community in the form of scholarships, skill training and housing-related projects. This year, the featured homes raised nearly $10,000, one of the highest amounts gathered (by this fundraiser) for Home Builders Care.

The Parade of Homes generally gives builders the opportunity to experiment and demonstrate unique features. What were some of the more talked about features seen from this year’s show?
Energy efficiency is a hot topic: In fact, 13 out of the 48 homes on this year’s Parade were Energy Star rated, meaning they include a variety of energy efficient features like: high performance windows, tight construction and ducts, efficient heating and cooling equipment, efficient products.

We are seeing a focus on kitchens: gourmet kitchens with specialty appliances — professional-grade. People are taking entertaining and cooking seriously.

There is also a focus on the outdoors and interacting with neighbors. For instance, our local paper did a story on the resurgence of front porches. People are also interested in developments with ponds, access to bike trails and parks.

Many builders are including features for homebodies or people who work from home: pre-wiring for sound systems, Internet, cable, theater rooms with no windows for maximum darkness and home offices.

Garages are becoming an extension of the home, with heat, A/C, special flooring, extra storage and extra large size.

There is also a growing trend in having a locker/cubby type set up for everyone to keep coats, shoes, backpacks, purses, etc. stored in an entry way from a garage (rather than the front door) or in a mud room area.

How does recent Parade of Homes builder participation compare with local remodeling shows?
While we do not produce a remodeling show, our Fall Home show provides a venue for the remodeling industry to market its products and services. The Parades are an excellent promotional avenue for the new construction market and the Fall Home Show remains a great avenue for the remodeling industry, which is very strong as a whole. The HBA is planning for a remodeling component of the Parade that would provide a way for renovation-focused contractors to market their past projects and allow consumers to see what can be done in existing homes.

Over the past few years, how have the Parade homes changed?
We are seeing more homes in the affordable price ranges with smaller square footage due to the economy. Some builders are catering to the senior-citizen population, as well as some focusing on smart design for homes that function well for families. Many homes are catering to new, young families with unfinished basements; this adds to the house’s affordability and lends flexibility to the owners when the time comes to finish off. The general size of the homes also remains consistent or even more compact (in some cases) as people downsize and have a concern for the home’s effect on the environment. We are also seeing condo-style homes built in downtown areas.

The Parade of Homes provides consumers a chance to see what’s on the market and meet contractors. But when can trade professionals learn from those who attend the show?
We see a number of vendors working in the homes with the builders to pick up leads and to continue building relationships with their customers. Any savvy vendor would look at what is going into the Parade and consider that as a valuable reason to participate. By being in the homes, they can see the consumer’s reaction to their products and observe trends of what people want to buy.