A second-floor speakeasy with its own outdoor deck, architectural lighting, wall accents, two laundry rooms, large showers and space for an office.
The amenities are many in the 30 homes that are part of the Madison Area Builders Association’s Parade of Homes that begins Friday.
But despite the varied designs, materials, locations and prices, the most important ingredient may be a nontangible they all share.
Builders say that material shortages and supply chain issues mean that more planning has become central when trying to complete a home on schedule. And with limited lots, a shortage of inventory of existing homes and plenty of customers, builders expect to remain busy well into 2023 despite rising interest rates that are around 5.5% for a 30-year fixed mortgage.
“It’s shockingly strong,” said Bill Weber Jr., a builder who has two houses in this year’s Parade of Homes. “For us, things calmed down in the month of March and then they picked right back up again. We’re booked up for quite a ways. My framing crews are booked up till November.”
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Homes in this year’s Parade range in price from $650,000 to just under $3 million and are located throughout Dane County and beyond. Ten of the homes are within Arboretum Village in Waunakee, Savannah Brooks in DeForest and Windsor Gardens in Windsor. The remaining 20 are scattered.
They include a 5,296-square-foot home in Merrimac with three bedrooms and five bathrooms built by Classic Custom Homes of Waunakee and, for the first time, a home in Iowa County. That’s where Summit Custom Homes has constructed a 3,997-square-foot home in Avoca with four bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and rooftop solar panels.
None of the remaining 18 homes are in the city of Madison but are located in suburban communities such as the town of Middleton, Verona, Fitchburg and Mount Horeb.
The Parade of Homes will be open daily beginning Friday and running through June 26. Hours are from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for seniors and children.
Chad Lawler, executive director of the Madison Area Builders Association, said he expects about 11,000 people to attend the Parade with each home receiving 2,000 to 5,000 visitors.
Rising home costs
But while builders remain busy, some home buyers are being eliminated from the process due to rising interest rates and material costs that in some cases have risen by 30%.
At this time last year, the average price of a newly built home in Dane County was $430,000. By the end of 2021 it had risen to $450,000 and is now at $470,000.
But despite the increases, 1,350 homes were built in 2021 in Dane County, the best year since 2006, though still lower than the early 2000s when 2,000 to 3,500 homes were being built a year, Lawler said.
“So even though we’ve started to make good headway, there’s still a significant gap between what was previously done and what’s being done now,” Lawler said. “Obviously Dane County has a major housing shortage but we’re barely making a dent in it with new home construction.”
A tight real estate market where existing homes can have accepted offers within hours and above asking price could push more people into building a new home. But that means being able to find a lot and a builder with the capacity to take on a new project, Lawler said. Building new, customers can choose their design, colors and amenities and live in a home that has never been occupied.
Those who for years have been considering building a home may be scared off by the rising costs and interest rates, but Lawler said those just entering the process have less sticker shock and may be more apt to move forward with a project. A visit to homes in the Parade can give potential new home buyers ideas for their own projects.
“We’ve seen some ebbs and flows in the numbers,” Lawler said. “I think the market is still strong and there are a lot of reasons to build versus having to look at existing home stock.”
Weber, with his wife, Laura, owns Bill Weber Jr. Homes, a Cottage Grove company founded in 1995 that builds two custom homes a month. The couple have two homes in this year’s Parade, one on Morning Dew Lane in Sun Prairie and another in Pioneer Pointe off Mineral Point Road in the town of Middleton that features hickory kitchen cabinets, a beverage bar, mud room with lockers, an 18-foot ceiling in the great room and laundry rooms on the second floor and in the basement.
Before the pandemic, materials such as lumber, windows, garage doors and lighting components could be ordered at about the time the foundation is poured. But now, planning is required months earlier to ensure that materials arrive on time to avoid delays.
“It’s been stressful on everybody through the entire process,” said Laura Weber.
“We’re making people pick colors two months before we start a house, and people are working with us on it and understanding of why we need to do it,” Bill Weber Jr. said. “I think the last two years have been the most challenging I’ve ever seen. And that includes the 2007 to 2009 period.”
Josh Bieber, designer and manager of Ideation Builders, has a transitional farmhouse in Pioneer Point with exposed white oak beams, massive windows to allow in natural light and dog wash in the laundry room. A few blocks away in Tumble Down Farms, Bieber has designed a unique, custom $2 million home for Anna and Atit Desai.
The couple, she a therapist and he a psychiatrist, had started looking for a home during the pandemic after realizing they wanted something different from their Veridian home on Madison’s Far West Side and that could provide more space for their 4-year-old daughter. They visited a spec home designed and constructed by Bieber in 2020, which led to conversations about Bieber designing a home for them with a specific floor plan in mind.
“It’s really fun, but there are stressors, of course,” Anna Desai said Wednesday as crews put the finishing touches on the home. “It’s been a cool experience because Josh has awesome ideas and we had ideas and he figured out how to merge everything together.”
The 6,350-square-foot home with five bedrooms and five bathrooms includes a towering contemporary fireplace, panels of hidden lights in the ceiling, a skylight over the kitchen island and a custom $5,000 vent hood over the stove. The lower level features a second full kitchen, wine room and a theater. But the second level includes a lounge with a bar, baby grand piano and soft seating. It also provides access to an outdoor deck that connects to a rooftop deck via a spiral staircase.
Bieber has been in the business for 14 years, started Ideation Builders about three years ago and is a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. Some of his inspiration also comes from homes in South Florida, but he finds himself drawn to using simple lighting to great effect, whether it be in a living room ceiling, a bathroom, basement hallway or in an outdoor railing.
“I like to use lighting as an architectural feature, just like you use windows as an architectural feature,” Bieber said. “You can spend all the money in the world on an expensive light fixture, but it’s how you use a light that matters.”