Many people consider it boring, but to me there are so many decisions to be made in making a great house, and so much creativity tied up into it, that I just love it.
In fact, if I had to start my life over again I would choose a career in real estate. But that’s for another post.
Because of this love, over the years I have spent a boatload of time looking at various kinds of real estate.
- Private houses. I have looked at hundreds of homes through the years just to select the handful that we ultimately bought. I think I looked (i.e. actually walked into) around 50 homes in Colorado Springs alone before I narrowed the choices down to four I liked. Then my wife (who was out of state for most of the time in our old house) drove up here and picked the “winner” (the house we live in now).
- Rental properties. I went into at least 50 (and probably more like 100) places before I purchased the three properties/five buildings/14 units that we now own and rent in Michigan. And I looked through hundreds online before that just to identify which ones to visit.
- Television. We watch HGTV and This Old House for entertainment. The former has a gazillion home-related shows (our favorites are House Hunters International, Caribbean Life, and Mexico Life) while the latter focuses on one house at a time but goes into detail about it (BTW, am I the only guy in the world who thinks Tom Silva could build a house with a paperclip, some string, and a measuring tape? That guy knows how to do EVERYTHING!!!!!)
- Online. I look at a lot of homes online. My two major sources are: 1) those “houses of celebrities for sale” articles that hit quite frequently and 2) the regular emails I get from Homeaway with “top beach homes under $250 per night” and the like.
From the details to the big picture, we love it all about real estate — seeing homes, where they are, how they are built, what they’re worth, etc. It’s just fun for us.
That’s why it’s a no brainer for us to attend the Parade of Homes each year.
Parade of Homes
For those of you who don’t know, the Parade of Homes is a collection of newly built homes that you can tour.
Some are homes people already live in, some are purchased and about to be moved into, and others are currently for sale.
All are immaculately decorated.
They are meant to show visitors what’s available in the market and are used as a selling tool for builders and real estate agents.
We started going on the Parade when we lived in Michigan. And we’ve done it for three years in Colorado Springs since we have realtor friends who give us free tickets.
By the way, many nearby non-Parade model homes will open up to Parade visitors (why not, it’s free traffic?), so we always see an extra 5-10 homes while we’re out on the Parade.
How to Do the Parade of Homes
As experienced visitors of the Parade of Homes, we know how to make the most of the event.
Our key plans include:
- Visit the homes on weekdays, never the weekends. The weekends are PACKED (we learned that in year 1) while there are only a fraction of people on weekdays.
- Start as early as possible. There’s less traffic on weekdays at 10 am than there is at 3 pm, so we start early (when it opens).
- Cluster the visits. Instead of driving all over the place haphazardly, the best way is to make a plan. I usually do this then navigate as my wife drives. With this method we can see 10 or more homes in a day.
- Don’t spend too much time in any one place. Some people seem like they are touring a museum and walk around a home at a snail’s pace. We are not rushed, but we’ve seen so much that we can breeze through pretty fast, identifying quickly whether we should spend more time at a place or zip through. This is helped by the fact that I read out the key stats (square feet, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, and price) from the Parade book before we even go in to the home.
This is how we manage to see the most homes in the least amount of time.
Colorado Springs Parade of Homes, Day 1
With the above in mind, we were off and running on the day the Parade opened: Friday, August 2.
We left our house a bit after 10 am (my wife had a workout that ran late) and over the course of the next five hours we saw 11 homes.
If you’re tracking on the website we visited homes 5-10, 12-14, and 21 (we tried to see 18, but the road is so new our GPS couldn’t locate it).
The places broke down into three basic groups:
- Homes that looked similar to our current house in style, location, and size, though they were newer, of course. These ran $200k to $400k more than what our current home cost. Needless to say, we were not impressed with these (though you can always pick up some design tips here and there in any place.)
- Very nice homes with several extras but for certain reasons they just weren’t our cup of tea.
- Spectacular homes that were over the top. I’ll talk about them in a minute.
This was quite consistent with what we’ve experienced in the past and what we saw this year as well — the Parade features “average” (though expensive) to WOW homes.
The two homes that really stood out on day one are as follows…
The first was home 6. It was stunning and among the best we saw all season.
- 6,836 square feet
- 5 bedrooms
- 6 bathrooms
- $1.9 million
- House name: Amazing Grace
- “Architecturally reminiscent of the quintessential European country house revival.”
- It’s in Flying Horse, an exclusive community in Colorado Springs
- It’s in a gated section of Flying Horse (super, super swanky) with other multi-million dollar homes
- It is on a hill with the front facing most of the development and the exclusive club (which was a few blocks away, an easy walk)
- Since it was on a hill, the back had stunning views of the mountains through the walls of glass
- It had many special touches — a good-sized greenhouse outside, a bedroom/suite for the kids/grandkids that slept eight on bunk beds, a stunning office, sewing room, large game room upstairs with balcony facing the mountains and wood-burning fireplace, and (as you might imagine) an awesome master bedroom and kitchen.
Here are a few pictures I took of the place. They don’t do it justice but at least you can get a feel for what we saw:
The second home, and the only one comparable to the first, was home 21.
- 7,133 square feet
- 5 bedrooms
- 6 bathrooms
- $2.5 million
- House name: Villa del Sol (house-of-the-sun)
- “Spanish Revival design reminiscent of an olde world Mediterranean castle.”
- Featured a European stone bridge to the gatehouse/garage area.
- Had its own conservatory with a spiral staircase leading to a lower garden room.
- The courtyard was impressive. Made of stone, you entered through an iron door with a sliding peep hole, into an outer courtyard with a brick floor before you even got to the door
- The house was impressive — made of stone throughout. I’ve seen shopping complexes done in the Spanish style that looked less impressive.
- It really was like being in a castle — even more inside than out.
- The one problem was it was located way off the beaten path in a forest/woods that had a lot of land, but wasn’t impressive looking. It featured a lot of pine trees with branches at the top but not much from the ground to 20 feet up. It’s not a look I like nor do I want to be that far out of the action/city.
Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of this place other than the front view here:
The three that were “very nice” included these:
Home 5 was probably our third favorite and included this stunningly large game room on the second floor:
But other than that, there wasn’t anything really amazing about this place. And for $1.4 million I’m expecting amazing…
That said, there was this cool classic car sitting outside:
Home 10, which was a “bargain” at just over $1 million, and home 11, that was a bit pricier at $1.9 million, were nice enough but had the following issues working against them:
- We saw them after “Amazing Grace” noted above. It was hard to compare with that place.
- These were both in a new development that had about 10 homes (if that) completed out of several hundred. The residents were going to be living in a construction zone for a decade!
- The location was way too far north in Colorado Springs for us. Really not that close to the city.
- The homes were in a wooded area that wasn’t that attractive. The views might change over time as they get more homes in there, but that’s still a long way off.
There’s nothing about either house that was really that compelling. I didn’t take one picture of either of them.
Overall, I’d expect a LOT more for $1-2 million. The two above that wowed us certainly delivered!
Colorado Springs Parade of Homes, Day 2
Day 2 was on Thursday, August 8, our next-available weekday.
On this day we saw 15 homes which are on the site as follows: 1-4, 19, 22, 24, and 26. Plus we saw four extra non-Parade homes (townhomes) next to 19 and three non-Parade homes in the same complex as 26.
There was not much to like this day. Most of the homes were either 1) much more expensive versions of our home but not in as good of a location or 2) closer to starter homes (which could work for our daughter and son-in-law if they move back here some day.)
That said, the group of townhomes around house 19 were quite interesting. They had a very cute design both inside and out. And the square footage (in the below 2,000 range) was much lower than most homes on the Parade — perfect for either us downsizing or our daughter/son-in-law.
That said, they were pricey (over $335k) and not in the best location (just off a very busy road). This builder has a similar complex north of us which is a much better location, though those homes are even more expensive (and sold out).
Anyway, here are a couple pictures of them:
Here are a couple pictures without a house assigned to them — I can’t recall which it was, but they must have been taken on this day based on the image numbers:
After seeing all these we went home as the forecast said we could have storms. Good thing we did as an hour later we had a severe storm here plus a tornado warning not far north of us.
Colorado Springs Parade of Homes, Day 3
We wanted to see a handful of homes in the northern part of the city, so we set out again the next day, on Friday, August 9.
This day we saw only four homes but had two that were winners.
If you’re following on the website, we saw homes 15-18. Here are our thoughts on each:
- 15 was a bust. It was $920k with only 3 bedrooms, few special features, and in the woods. Ugh.
- 16 was amazing! It was also in the woods but had an amazing deck, awesome theater room, and nice, upscale features throughout. Of course it was also $1.3 million, so it had to deliver.
- 17 was great too! Yes, it was $1.4 million, but it had an amazing outside area (large water feature, basketball court, and hot tub). The inside was stunning as well (of course) but the real selling point was an awesome view of the mountains. Plus this one was pretty close to shops, etc. The house itself was secluded, but there was a lot to do within a 5-10 minute drive.
- 18 was simply our house at $100k more in an “ok” area (not as good as our current location).
Here are some pictures from that day:
Colorado Springs Parade of Homes, Day 4
Our last day on the Parade was Thursday, August 15.
We had three homes in the southeast part of Colorado Springs to see plus I wanted to make a special stop (more on that in a minute).
We saw homes 27-29 today and had the following thoughts on them:
- 27 and 29 were very cute homes done in a northeast coastal feel. The neighborhood was planned and quite cute too — like something you’d see on a Hallmark movie. And since these were close to the mountains, they had great views. But the homes themselves were pricey ($535k and $625k) given that were pretty similar to ours (which is more like a $425k house).
- 28 was a “decent” home that was more like a townhome (each floor was small but it had three floors). The crowning glory was an amazing rooftop balcony with plenty of area to entertain and relax. And, of course, it had amazing views of the mountains.
Here are some highlights of these places:
After seeing these three, we went to Slice 420, home of the supposedly best New York pizza in Colorado Springs (a pickleball friend from Brooklyn told me about it). It was pretty awesome and I will certainly be back. In addition, they have an inspiring story about how the restaurant came to Colorado Springs.
Summary of the Event
Whew! I’m exhausted just detailing all that! And to think, we actually did it all! Ha!
Here are the highlights from the 2019 Parade of Homes:
- We saw 33 homes over four days. The Parade only had 29 homes, but we caught some extras along the way. 😉
- Of the Parade homes, we missed three. Two were under construction the first couple weeks when we were in that area and it wasn’t worth going back to see them. The other one was a 40-minute out-of-the-way trip that wasn’t worth the drive for just one home.
- Of the ones we saw, there really weren’t any we’d buy. The big ones were impressive but were too over-the-top for us. The smaller ones weren’t any better than our current home and were much more pricey.
- Colors of the year were gray (main) and blue/aqua (accent). This is the second or third year that gray has been the major color scheme in most homes.
- There were several hidden rooms/secret passages. We saw probably six or seven homes that had bookcases which swung open to a hidden room (no windows, could be a safe room of sorts) or led to a hallway, laundry area, etc. They were quite fun and I’d love to have one.
- Barn doors were everywhere! We probably saw 15 to 20 of them! They were on bathrooms (mostly), exercise rooms, entertainment rooms, and offices. We’re actually thinking of getting one for our house (on the door to our master bedroom area), so it was good to see these.
All in all, the Parade was another fun and inexpensive way to satisfy our longing to see real estate. We’re looking forward to doing it again for years to come.
Anyone else ever been on a Parade of Homes? Anyone else love looking at real estate?