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McClatchy-Tribune  08/24/2014 5:05 AM ET
Homearama returns in high style after 11-year break [Detroit Free Press :: ]

Aug. 24--The once-popular showcase event for new houses and design trends known as Homearama is returning to metro Detroit this week after an 11-year hiatus.

The Ultimate Homearama 2014 will start Friday and run through Sept. 14 at the new Pinnacle luxury estate subdivision off Silverbell Road in Oakland Township. There are six newly built houses on public display ranging from $1.8 million to $3.5 million.

Homes in the $1 million-plus price point have seen a significant rebound in demand since the market's collapse six years ago. That's good news for some real estate agents and builders, who like the business, and also a sign that wealthier people are feeling confident enough in the local and state economies to invest in high-end home purchases.

Since late 2012, sales of new and existing $1 million-plus houses in metro Detroit have been on a roll. There were at least 210 such sales last year in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties recorded by Farmington Hills-based Realcomp, an all-time-high figure that doesn't include private or for-sale-by-owner transactions.

"This is probably the highest-end Homearama that we've ever had," said Michael Stoskopf, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Southeastern Michigan, which is putting on the event with presenting sponsor Gorman's Home Furnishings & Interior Design.

Homearama has tended to signal a more normal housing market that isn't experiencing a boom or bust. The event stopped in the late 1990s when builders found they had so much business that they didn't need a Homearama to stir more. It picked up after the early 2000s recession and stopped again during the housing boom and resulting crash.

Frank Moceri, president of the custom homes division of Auburn Hills-based Moceri Companies, which built three of this year's six Homearama houses, said the recent buyers of his new $1 million-plus houses have tended to work in health care or automotive-related industries.

"We're seeing a lot of newer, younger physicians buying homes," Moceri said. "The financing for physicians has loosened up also -- the banks love doctors, and they have some great incentives for doctors to buy new construction homes and that's been great for us."

The region's last Homearama was in 2003, at the start of the housing boom that ended in a bust. The price tags for the houses in this year's event reflect the upscale Pinnacle subdivision and a desire by builders and decorators to go all out with crowd-pleasing amenities.

Tickets are required to attend this real estate extravaganza, and parking is available at the Oakland Christian Church at 5100 N. Adams Rd. (There is no parking at the event site.) Tickets to a charity preview event on Wednesday have already sold out.

Homearama began in the area in the 1980s as an opportunity for local builders, decorators and landscapers to show off their work -- and attract more business -- by erecting a mix of fully-furnished houses in one location.

The annual events were held throughout the metro region and drew tens of thousands of visitors who came to admire the houses, fancy furniture and latest appliances and trends. Those who weren't shopping for a new house could still pick up ideas for future home improvements.

"Just like the auto show, you can show up in a Chevrolet and still look at the Cadillacs," said Tom Lias, president and chief operations officer at Gorman's Furniture, which has furnished three of the six new houses on display.

Although each Homearama property carries a significant price tag, the houses were designed to be a buffet of various styles and amenities that people can pick out and do ... la carte without plunking down big sums.

"We created (the) houses is such a manner where there's bits and pieces of all areas of the house that you actually could do in your own room, your own house, your own lower levels," said Dominic Tringali, the architect for the three Moceri houses.

-- 1. THE PINECREST, by Moceri, 6,689 square feet, $1.8 million

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