This past weekend, my wife and I visited several properties in the local Parade of Homes. For those not familiar with such a thing, this is where the local builders association members get together and show off one or two of their crown jewels. Around here, the Parade of Homes consists of about ten residences and involves six or eight builders. The homes can either be new construction or extensive remodels and are usually showpiece homes.
We stopped to see six of the homes in this year’s event. Of those, four were just ridiculous in terms of size and luxury. One was your basic, average home. The last was the one we truly wanted to see as it was being billed as a “utility bill free” home, decked out with a large solar panel array.
We’ll get to the solar one in a moment. First, I wanted to share a few observations about these luxury homes. Just a glance into these homes shows the owners have little concept of how the “real world” operates. The first home we visited featured a great room that combined a kitchen, dining area, and sitting room and had a 35 foot ceiling. I shudder to think what it would cost to heat and cool just that one room alone, especially considering the huge wall of windows along one side. Yeah, it had a fireplace but I highly doubt that will do much good at all in a power outage in the middle of January. Many of the homes were set up in a similar manner, with tons of dead air and wasted space.
The second things I noticed was in the garages and basements. I didn’t see so much as a single crescent wrench, let alone a workbench or power tools. If there was even a small toolbox somewhere, it was very well hidden given that my wife and I were poking our noses into every cabinet and closet in each home. We weren’t being nosy, no pun intended. We were looking for storage ideas we might be able to adapt in our own home. Most of the homes had large pantries, which made me drool, but again much of it was wasted space. These homes are all about showing off what you have, rather than using space efficiently. And apparently showing off any sort of DIY skills just isn’t part of that lifestyle.
Only one of the homes had much of any yard to speak of and that one is located in a brand new subdivision. That was the only one that had any space for even a moderate sized garden. Well, I take that back. There was a home that was located on a horse ranch and had plenty of space for gardening, but it was all being used for the horses at the moment.
From a defensive standpoint, yeah, not so much. Way too many LARGE windows for my liking.
Ok, on to the solar home. That one was definitely worth the entire trip. I’m going to say there were 30 panels on the roof, though I’m not sure what size they were. The builder said the panels generate enough electricity to power everything in the home without a problem and they sell enough excess power to the electric company that the dividends pay the natural gas bill. So yes, this home has no utility bills to speak of. The home was fairly small though, around 1800 square feet I think. Three bedrooms, two full baths, and a full basement that was mostly finished. It also featured what they called “whole house automation.” Basically, you can run your climate controls, your entertainment, even your door locks from a remote control or your smart phone. An example he gave was if you’ve been away from home all day, you can use your phone to adjust the thermostat as you leave work and the house will be cooled off or warmed up when you walk in the door. Not something I’d necessarily want or need but still, kind of neat.
Despite the extensive solar power being generated, there was no battery backup. All excess was being shunted back into the grid. The homeowners had no interest in a backup system so the builder didn’t put one in. I don’t quite understand the thought process of the owners but if it were me, I’d of course want the batter backup system.
All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The weather was perfect for driving around to see these homes and it was certainly nice to get away with my lovely bride for a few hours away from the kids. But it was disheartening to see these people who obviously earn WAY more money than I waste it on such nonsense. I mean, several of these are million dollar homes. If I had that kind of purchasing power, I’d certainly not waste it on 35 foot ceilings and tube slides from the main level to the basement.
Well, then again, that tube slide did look pretty damn sweet….