Homearama builds on history

Published 9:10 pm Saturday, August 9, 2014

At a subdivision near Bennett’s Creek Park, the bustle of activity to construct seven homes showcasing the latest trends is a reminder that Homearama is once more coming to Suffolk.

The construction workers are on a tight deadline — the homes at The Waterfront at Parkside must be ready for visitors to the annual Tidewater Builders Association event on three consecutive four-day weekends from Oct. 17 to Nov. 3.

It all started 32 years ago, when the doors of 15 showcase homes were thrown open in the Bayberry Woods sections of Chesapeake.

Email newsletter signup

Prices then ranged from $90,000 to $110,000 — compared to $470,000 to $540,000 this year — and planners were reportedly pleased with the 27,000 visitors.

Besides home prices, how else were things different in 1982? Disney opened its futuristic, 300-acre EPCOT park that year, Olivia Newton-John was propelling us off the couch with her No. 1 hit single “Physical,” and Michael Jackson released his “Thriller” video.

Terry Neal of Reliant Construction Corp reminisced that a master bath with a shower in it was “state-of-the-art” back then. For that first Homearama, Neal built a Cape Cod and called it “The Walton, because of the three dormers on the top and the people saying good night like they did in the TV show.”

After being completely dominated by Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, Homearama came to Suffolk for the first time in 2001, when it was held at The Riverfront at Harbour View.

It returned again in 2006, to The Estates of Pitchkettle Farms, then once more to The Riverfront in 2011. It also came to Carrollton’s Founders Pointe in 2010.

What does the history mean for homebuilders?

“I am constantly amazed at how we raise the bar each year to give our visitors a look at the best products on the market,” Sam Cohen, former president of Tidewater Builders Association and a veteran Homearama builder, said back in 2012.

“Homearama has always guided home building trends in our region.”

According to Cohen, even products for the home exterior have come a long way since the late 1990s.

“It used to be we could offer brick or siding. Now we can combine brick, stone and Hardiplank, combining more colors and textures to create so many more designs,” he said.

“It’s exciting that there are so many more options, and they’re getting more affordable.”

Another builder, Larry Hill of L.R. Hill Custom Homes, who first participated in the showcase in 1988, says Homearama has shaped Hampton Roads.

“Homearama shaped the look of a lot of the communities from ideas that came out of the shows,” he said.

Chip Iuliano of ABT Custom Homes recalls 2002 Homearama entry, The Nathaniel Lee, which “swept every award” in the Warrington Hall community of Chesapeake.

“The house caught on so well that I probably built about 40 or 50 of the home, with changes, all over Tidewater,” he said.

“It has put my company on the map. I still get business from people who saw my houses in Homearama.”

Iuliano says the most changes have occurred in electronics. “Now homeowners can lay in bed and check to see if they’ve closed their garage doors from their iPads,” he said.