Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Parade of Homes touts builders in Lakes Region and beyond
Since most of the interest for this year's tour was centered around Lake Winnipesaukee, it comes to you courtesy of the Lakes Region Builders & Remodelers Association, one of nine chapters affiliated with the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of N.H.
The first stop in the parade, a 2,300-square-foot single-family home built by Northstar Contractors in Sandown, is nearly 80 miles from the second home in Bristol. But from there, the tour becomes a series of shorter hops that organizers hope will attract visitors already on the road enjoying the glories of autumn foliage in New Hampshire.
There's only one home for sale among the seven in the parade, which began Saturday and continues through Monday. Sales come later down the road in this parade, which offers a showcase for the designers, builders, landscape companies and other vendors who worked on the homes.
That kind of marketing investment has paid off for Cargill Construction Co., which built the two homes it's featuring - in Meredith and Moultonborough - for people who first connected with the company during a previous Parade of Homes a couple of years ago.
'You can really display your craftsmanship firsthand,' said Liam Cargill, who serves as vice president of the design-build company his father, William, founded in 1971. 'People can look at your website or hear about you through word of mouth, but this is an opportunity for someone who is interested in buying something to see what we're capable of doing.'
Cargill specializes in high-end, custom-built homes, a niche in the market that has served them well during the housing downturn. Such clientele, who are typically cash buyers, remain active, he said.
'We've been really steady through the recession,' Cargill said. 'It's certainly not what it was in '05, but we haven't had any down time. We've pretty much maintained five, six houses a year.'
But these days, sometimes those homes are outside the Lakes Region, such as one the company is working on in Cohasset, Mass., a couple of hundred miles away from its core market.
'We're moving further than we typically would. It's difficult. It takes a certain kind of project manager who is willing to travel,' Cargill said. 'In the past, if someone would have said, 'Would you come to Massachusetts?' we would have said no. But it's a good-size project.'
Belknap Landscape Co., which took the lead in organizing the tour, also has had to adjust its focus to remain successful in the current environment, said Dale Squires, the Gilford company's marketing manager. Belknap ramped up its community relations efforts and focused on finding biddable projects at the state, county and municipal levels, he said. Typical work for the company can include planting thousands of tulips and lilies in public spaces, such as roadway medians and parks, armed with volunteers from the Boy Scouts, Boys & Girls Club and other youth groups.
'Our answer to the demise of the housing market, which certainly impacted us, was to get up and go out and find it,' said Squires, who serves as executive officer of the Lakes Region Builders & Remodelers Association.
While Belknap has worked on some of the homes in previous parades, it actually wasn't involved in any of the projects on this year's tour, Squires said. But just as the builders and designers hope the tour will keep their companies top-of-mind for potential buyers, Belknap is counting on getting work down the line.
'Builders tend to have their favorites,' Squires said. 'They'll get a particular service provider under their wing, such as a favored electrician. Getting in the door is tough unless you bring some value to the table.'
The Lakes Region Parade of Homes continues from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Monday. Tickets are $5 (12 and under admitted free) and are available at each Parade home. Proceeds benefit the WLNH Annual Children's Auction. Go to nhparadeofhomes.com or call 228-0351 for more information. Visit unionleader.com for full coverage that first appeared in Friday's Avenues section.
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Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or email@example.com.