Home builders in Cape Coral are enthused about their work again, and rightly so. Home sales in the Cape are on the rise, as are the prices, as the industry rebounds from the lengthy recession.
Last week, the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association handed out its annual awards for the 18th Builders' Showcase of Homes in time for the public showing this weekend and next. Model homes are open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays as well as noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
"This year's showcase is progressively different from just three years ago," said Moe Beneke, CCCIA executive director. "The economy is coming back and what builders have done is a snapshot of that in Cape Coral."
The Kensington by Paradise Harbor Group, located on the corner of Pelican Boulevard and Cape Coral Parkway, won the prestigious Top Honor award in this year's CCCIA Builders’ Showcase of Homes.
The showcase magazine, which lists each model home's address, is available throughout Lee County as well as at each model and online at www.CCCIA.org.
Three independent judges scored all of the models in each individual price category back in December in order to arrive at the award winners. Two new specialty awards were presented for the first time to the best pool contractor and interior designer.
"Interior design has a major impact on how the house looks to visitors and deserved to be recognized," said Beneke. "Pools are more unique these days and can make or break a house so that needed to be recognized as well."
Custom Pools by Design won that specialty award for its entry with Ramos Builders' Tropical Palms Villas home. Cherie Clark Interiors was rewarded for its work at Paradise Harbor Group's Kensington entry. The Kensington model also was judged the showcase's overall Top Honor winner.
"We have 23 models in the showcase from 22 builders," said Beneke. "The price range of those homes go from the mid-100,000s to a million, so there is a wide range of homes to see."
The showcase introduces two totally unique homes to the market. One is built to high standards of handicap accessibility and the other is "Zero Energy."
"The handicap accessible modifications by Ramos Builders is totally seamless. You don't notice the modifications," said Beneke. "This is the second year for the Zero Energy model by Ravenwood Homes, which means there is no electric bill. Totally green."
Ravenwood employs a building scientist for its energy efficient home's plan, which is engineered to be as cost effective as possible. The scientist determines the maximum insulation necessary, for instance, to be the most efficient while keeping costs down by not over-insulating.
"In two years the house has not used one kilowatt from LCEC," said Dave Wishtischin of Ravenwood. "In fact, the meter runs backward. We get a rebate check from the electric company."
It's all in the methodology of the construction. Ductwork placement, trusses, windows, doors, and then the solar system takes the home to zero energy status.
"I think the showcase is a great thing," said Wishtischin. "The house took five awards last year and two this year, which speaks to the difference among the judges. Last year it was a more mature group while this year was a younger group."
Wishtischin suggests the showcase should add two categories to the judging.
"I'd like to see them add an energy efficiency category and one for how well built and quality of materials a home has," he said. "I hope to have another model home up for next year."
Building wheelchair accessible homes is not new to Ramos Builders, which has built at least four others. The award-winning home in this showcase was a design specifically for the ultimate occupant.
"It came out so nice that we entered it in the showcase," said builder Ed Ramos. "The most noticeable feature in the home is the wider door openings, but it doesn't scream out at you. Wall switches are a bit lower and there are no visible ramps even though it is wheelchair accessible."
Ramos said this particular floor plan likely will be used again because of the way it looks.
"There is more demand for four (or five) bedroom homes now, with two master bedrooms," said Ramos. "More people are living with extended families due to the aging population, caring for a mother-in-law or other elderly family members."
Ramos, who says he has resisted having a model center in the past, entered the showcase for the first time.
"It's always nice to be recognized for the features in the homes," said Ramos, who designed the floor plan in cooperation with the owner and his own staff. "This helps create an awareness for more barrier-free living."