Let the Parade Begin

Chippewa Valley builders put their work on display for 43rd annual home showcase

Tom Giffey

C&E Wurzer Builders, Chippewa Falls
C&E Wurzer Builders, Chippewa Falls

A couple of the houses originally slated to be part of the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association’s 43rd Annual Parade of Homes had to drop out – and for good reason: They have already been sold.

And while this may cause a few planning headaches, it’s ultimately a sign that the local real estate market is healthy and that new homes are in demand.

As of April – which happened to be the home building industry celebrates New Home Month – houses in the Chippewa Valley were spending an average 65 days on the market, compared with 90 days nationally. Meanwhile, housing starts were up 6.3 percent over the previous year.

Local home builders are seeing an increase in demand because buyers are having a harder time finding what they want among existing homes that are for sale, said Christina Thrun, executive officer of the Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association. Even people seeking homes in the $200,000 to $300,000 range are having trouble finding them in the local inventory and are turning to new construction, Thrun added.

Ashley Construction, Altoona
Ashley Construction, Altoona

The upcoming Parade of Homes – which will run June 10-17 – may just cause this healthy demand to increase. “The Parade of Homes is really a way for our builders to showcase what they do,” Thrun explained. This year’s parade will include 21 homes, ranging in price from about $210,000 (four houses are under $230,000) to over $1 million (three homes top that figure). 

Geographically, the homes will be found in Menomonie, Elk Mound, Eleva, Strum, Chippewa Falls, Lake Hallie, Altoona, and Eau Claire. Only one home is technically within the Eau Claire city limits, a sign that most developable land in the city has already been used, Thrun noted.

While most of the houses on the tour were custom-built for clients, eight of them are spec homes (in other words, they were built on speculation that a buyer would fall in love with them). During the most recent economic recession, builders stopped doing spec homes because they were tough to sell, Thrun said. Now, spec homes are again becoming common, and some of those in the tour have already been sold (although they won’t be occupied until the tour is completed). 

Brunkow Builders, Strum
Brunkow Builders, Strum

Whether they’re spec or custom, the tour is sure to give prospective homebuyers some ideas. “A lot of our builders get a lot of their work throughout the year from being in the Parade of Homes,” Thrun explained. That, of course, is one of the reasons the parade has been an annual tradition for more than four decades: Unlike most other products that consumers buy – from clothing to cars – there aren’t many opportunities to browse through an inventory of multiple new homes in person.

Considering the price range and variety of the homes in the parade, it’s hard to identify trends: The parade includes everything from small ranch homes to million-dollar residences with enclosed sport courts and wine cellars. However, Thrun said she’s noticed a few themes pop up in this year’s offerings. For example, she said, many of the houses are using rustic accents, such as sliding barn door, reclaimed wood, and shiplap (the type of wall covering boards frequently used by the likes of Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame).

Mike's Custom Homes, Eleva
Mike's Custom Homes, Eleva

Last year the weeklong tour drew about 5,500 participants, about 1,000 of whom voted for People’s Choice Award winners. Tickets will be available soon (see below for details), and ticket holders who visit all of the parade homes will be eligible for some primo prizes (including $1,000 worth of woodworking). Whether you’re seriously considering buying a home or just window shopping (figuratively or literally), this is a parade worth checking out. 

Chippewa Valley Home Builders Association 43rd Annual Parade of Homes • June 10-17 • 10am-5pm Saturday-Sunday, 5-9pm Monday-Friday • tickets: $8 through June 9 or $10 at first house during the tour • visit cvhomebuilders.com for ticket sale locations and parade home locations

 

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