Fall heralds the start of school, Vikings games and picking apples at the orchard. It’s also high season for home tours, when dozens of architects, builders and remodelers get to show what they can do.

With three different events on this month’s calendar — the Parade of Homes, the Homes by Architects Tour and the Remodelers Showcase — the welcome mats are out every weekend in September.

This rite of fall is part gawkfest and part matchmaking event for serious shoppers seeking the right builder, architect or kitchen layout. But which tour is right for you? Here’s a snapshot of each event. We’ll also profile some enterprising homeowners and their projects — with lots of photos — in upcoming Sunday Homes.

So slip off your shoes and pull on some blue-paper booties. It’s home-tour time.


What: More than 300 new model homes — many furnished and decorated — are open across the Twin Cities. Keen on green? The Green Path Energy Efficient tour features 140 sustainable homes.

When: Noon-6 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, through Sept. 29.

Cost: Free. For a $5 donation to the Builders Outreach Foundation, you can get an inside look at three “Dream Homes” priced at $1 million-plus.

In a nutshell: The granddaddy of the home tours started in 1949 with 12 dwellings, and peaked at 1,249 in 2006 during the housing boom. The Parade offers an inside look at everything from a St. Louis Park condo starting at $140,000 up to a 5,500-square-foot Colorado-style retreat boasting several floor-to-ceiling stone fireplaces, priced at $1.87 million.

The builders, all members of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), showcase many homebuyers’ top-of-the-list features — open floor plans with centrally located spacious kitchens, lower-level entertainment spaces decked out with sophisticated, upscale bars and high-tech home-automation systems. Visitors can gather ideas on colors, finishes, furnishings and lighting in the decorated spaces.

How to get started: Pick up a guidebook with maps at Holiday Station Stores, or visit the BATC website at www.paradeofhomes.org.


What: 23 remodeled or newly built custom homes designed by architects for homeowners who currently live there.

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 21-22.

Where: Twin Cities metro area and western Wisconsin.

Cost:. $15 in advance online (at www.homesbyarchitects.org) until 4 p.m. Sept. 20. Tickets are available at homes during the tour for $20, or $10 for an individual home.

In a nutshell: The Minnesota Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) event was launched in 2008 to showcase the talents of the state’s residential architects.

This year, there are nine remodelings and 14 new homes representing a variety of styles and budgets, ranging from an updated kitchen in a century-old Georgian-style home to an ultra-modern family home with panoramic views of Lake Minnetonka. Not sure what an architect brings to the table? They’ll be in the homes to answer questions.

Architect Ashley Mitlyng, chairwoman of the tour committee, said the number of visitors has grown dramatically each year. “People are discovering that bigger is not always better,” she said. “Working with the quality of space rather than the quantity — that’s where an architect excels.”


What: Tour 88 homes — some with remodeled spaces, others newly built after a home was torn down.

When: 1-7 p.m. Sept. 27, noon-6 p.m. Sept. 28-29.

Cost: Free. For a $5 donation to the Builders Outreach Foundation, you can get an inside look at three “Dream Remodeled Homes.”

In a nutshell: The wide variety of remodels have addressed many common homeowner headaches since the event was launched by BATC in 1988. This year, projects range from creating an outdoor connection with a new porch, knocking down walls to make a great room and a total renovation of an 1880s barn. Kitchens are still the most popular project — all but seven of the homes feature some kind of kitchen update. The showcase is also a chance to see new products, materials and the craftsmanship of remodeling pros, who will be in the homes to answer questions. Check out the free seminars on how to renovate a classic bungalow, top 10 kitchen design mistakes and the art of home TV.

How to get started: Pick up a guidebook with a map at Holiday Station Stores, or visit the BATC website at www.paradeofhomes.org.