By Erica Jevons Sizemore
Featured Photo courtesy of Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock.com
Each fall, we welcome the annual Triangle Parade of Homes, a showcase by area builders of their new construction homes at all levels of finish and price point. The builders who participate compete for awards in several categories, judged on various markers, including quality, craftsmanship, and talent.
The Triangle Parade of Homes is an annual, free tour that is open to the public and the best way to view the newest homes and communities throughout the Triangle, in partnership with the Home Builders Association of Raleigh – Wake County and the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange, and Chatham Counties. Homes are open daily from 12 pm – 5 pm, September 30 – October 1, October 6-8 & 13-15, 2023.
Many of us participate by venturing out on a sunny October weekend to explore these properties. In true voyeur fashion, we might envision living in the homes on display, lazily enjoying the rear porch overlooking a new in ground pool or standing at the expansive kitchen island overlooking a stunning dining room. Or, for those thinking of buying or building a new house, we might take stock of what is trending in design and technology, get ideas, and discover unfamiliar neighborhoods or floorplans. For 2023, we have the privilege to walk 185 homes across 124 communities, representing 89 area builders. While savoring the finished product, it will be difficult for many to imagine the tireless hours of labor that went into creating the spaces and accomplishing all the sequential steps associated with constructing and completing these beautiful properties.
This Parade home located in Wexford Reserve, built by Exeter Building Company, is just one of the new homes open during this year’s Parade of Homes. Photo courtesy of The Jim Allen Group
To Build or Not to Build
New construction has been a bright spot for the Triangle area real estate market. While resale or existing home inventory is still at historical lows, the new construction market has been providing some relief to buyers. New home sales typically make up 10% of the market. However, new construction currently represents 47% of all inventory available, according to the Triangle MLS as of August 2023, and it’s expected that local sales figures will remain higher among new builds compared to historical norms. Nationally, new home sales currently represent about 20% of the market, which the National Association of Realtors (NAR) predicts will continue to rise in 2024.
Whether you are considering building a new home or simply curious about the process, this is for you. In a consolidated fashion, we briefly recount some of what went into our custom build for the Parade, a snapshot of the property we started daydreaming of nearly two years ago.
Starting the Process
As real estate continues to appreciate and empty land becomes scarcer, many builders are looking for teardowns where the homes on the property can be removed and rebuilt with new construction. We were fortunate to have already had an investment property where we could tear down an older home. Already having the property was an asset early on because we could avoid the hunt for dirt to build on, and we needed every bit of that time!
Once the lot was empty, we worked on analyzing our building constraints as dictated by Mother Nature and the local ordinances, including lot size, topography, elevation, setbacks, zoning, and impervious surface requirements. What was left was our building ‘envelope’ where the house must sit. The surveyor detailed each aspect of the land and provided it to the architect we had hired to create a floorplan meeting our needs and design ideals. You learn at the onset of this exercise that there are always several limiting factors, regardless of budget.
A Parade Home needs broad appeal to win big, and each year, the ante is raised a bit higher, showcasing the expertise and craftsmanship of the new construction featured. Unlike all other homes built, which only need to attract a single buyer, a Parade Home must attract a larger audience, so treading that line between distinct and universal is likely the hardest challenge for builders and designers of these masterpieces. To do so, Triangle Parade of Homes builders bring their A-game, so it should come as no surprise that we wanted to bring our best!
We started from scratch rather than pulling from a floorplan we had seen or found online. This process took the better part of five months before we reached the lengthy permitting exercise. Each municipality has different requirements and timing for this. You might read online that some jurisdictions will issue a permit in only a few days or weeks, but ours took a solid six months, so read up and speak with others who have built in the area to know for sure. You can imagine our excitement when we finally got the alert we were approved to get started; after daydreaming for nearly a year, now things could get real!
Embarking on a new build is full of excitement and anticipation but often can be frustrating when things don’t go according to plans. No different than any other project you may have attempted at home, it’s common to be waiting on or chasing busy subcontractors or vendors to keep things on schedule. Further, Covid taught us the hard way to be patient when it comes to deliveries and availability of goods. Many, including home builders, also learned to be nimble and adjust as needed to avoid extended delays. Maintaining timeliness is one of the most difficult parts of the process, and we endured a lot of ‘hurry up and wait.’
Even with the most detailed plans, it’s common to miss something or find that in a 2D drawing of your new home, there’s more left to decide ‘on the fly’ to keep things moving. You absolutely must be partnered with a strong builder who has experience and brings creative problem-solving to each discussion. Part of the issue we have arises from social media platforms like Instagram. We are exposed to an endless amount of information and media each day. When you build, you will find yourself canvasing for even more images and inspiration to use in drafting the details of your dream home. And rather than knowing the price tag or logistics of each photo on our Pinterest board, we simply have a picture-perfect idea to recreate. Case in point: the beloved ‘groin vault’ we added to the stairwell in our house. You read it right: a groin vault produced by intersecting two barrel vaults at right angles. What is a barrel vault would be the next most logical question, and it’s much easier to show you a photo than to attempt to describe it.
Framing of the groin vault ceiling; Photo courtesy of Erica Sizemore
This lesser-known ceiling treatment would have been absent from our design board if it had not been for social media. Grateful for screenshots; we could share something with our framer that we could not yet label. However, it became even more challenging when he started constructing it and realized we had to raise the ceiling to achieve it. You can envision the ‘hand slap on forehead’ emoji when coming to this realization. Thanks to the dedicated attention of our project manager and amazing design consultant who put their heads together, ta-da, the groin vault was incorporated! This sort of exercise proliferated the experience from framing to tile to trim. What size of tile do you want to end the line in the shower, a full or partial piece? How high do you want the pendant placed? Would you prefer an eased or ogee edge on your countertops? Sometimes, we lucked into clear answers, while others were more difficult because we couldn’t visualize the outcome. Those that were especially hard to imagine became a bit easier with the validation of social media and Google searches – tools that came to the rescue as much as they led us down multiple rabbit holes.
A word of advice when it comes to scale: measure your rooms! The only way to truly understand how big or small a space is, is to put down the tape measure and compare it to another space you can stand in! Because during the build, the framing and sheetrock phases are very deceiving. Even when the measurements are exact and mirror what you have where you live now, the way things look before you have furnishings in place will surprise you. During framing, the house typically feels much smaller. It’s darker and much more challenging to feel a space when you can look through a wall. When sheetrock is added, things are lighter and brighter, but you may still believe you have made a mistake until you grab your couch and drop it in the living room.
When the Going Gets Tough
Having completed renovations in the past, we understand it often feels like things get worse before they get better, and it is the same in a new build. Weeks went by as the house sat framed, full of the North Carolina red clay, rain leaking through the unfinished roof just waiting on inspections and progress, and when activity finally started livening up the job site, it instead became chaos. Installers made mistakes despite diligent planning. There was a flurry of corrections and questions, and it was often challenging to keep everything straight. Occasionally, I would wake in the middle of the night and recall something that wasn’t according to plan. The good thing about construction is that the builders expect this; many were easy to fix. We got much more worried about the growing punch list than might have been necessary. In this way, custom building is not for the faint of heart. It’s easy to get worked up, as we did a few times, and obsess over the fact that our notes had not been adequately reviewed. Our project manager heard the worst of it some days, but I am confident that we weren’t their first client to stress at one point or another during the process. They direct a circus of subcontractors known to show up on a different day than planned, miss explicit instructions, and frequently forget to communicate. This is why many don’t choose to build or renovate themselves, and it is worth paying a talented builder for!
One of the joys throughout our building experience was meeting all the wonderful artisans who helped bring our vision to life. Although I had spent countless hours designing each space, it was the hands of many enthusiastic others who day-in and day-out offered their talents and enthusiasm to work on what would bring this dream to reality. Despite frequent frustrations and a steep learning curve, there was kindness and patience. In a craftsman’s eyes, they can always re-create. Mistakes could be corrected and the structure rebuilt. This was a realization worth reflecting on.
Despite the energy and efforts of everyone involved, sadly, we won’t compete among Triangle Parade of Homes with our new build for 2023. Although we started the journey just short of two years ago, our timing was disrupted by permitting delays and reorders for things like broken tiles, weather, and out-of-stock finishings. That said, it pushed us to be more innovative and brought further excitement to the prospect of what we were creating. While we aren’t far behind, we feel miles away from complete among the present dust and debris. Builders committing to this exercise each year must feel such pressure to present and be judged by thousands of lookers, all the while, an overwhelming sense of pride in meeting each challenge throughout the process with a solution that one day will be enjoyed – for those brave enough to undertake the same – a feeling to relish for years to come.
To hear more about the finally finished product or guidance with building or purchasing a new construction home, please contact Erica Sizemore at the contact listed below.
By Erica Jevons Sizemore
Broker, Realtor and Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist (CLHMS)
KWSE, Director of Luxury, Keller Williams Raleigh
Erica’s background in finance and marketing is matched with a personal passion for an unparalleled experience, love of home design and inability to sit still – always brainstorming how to better position her gregarious clients real estate investments to support their lifestyle and financial ambitions. After 12 years in wealth management at Morgan Stanley, Erica returned to real estate in residential and luxury home sales at Keller Williams Raleigh. With a love of North Carolina and all things Raleigh, she has been an active volunteer and committee chairperson at many of our local area community standouts, among them the North Carolina Symphony, Carolina Ballet, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, House of Hope NC and the RRAR Raleigh Giving Network.