Double the luxury: June now brings two high-end home tours

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 6, 2014 - 4:49 PM

This June brings not one, but two competing tours of high-end homes. Are there enough gawkers and prospective buyers to support both?

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A new peacock has joined the flock of Twin Cities home tours.

The newbie Artisan Home Tour features 25 homes, and the established Midwest Home Luxury Home Tour offers 14. That means there’s a whopping 39 decorated upper-bracket properties, valued at $1 million plus, for people to inspect this month.

The new tour was launched by the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC) to give its members another opportunity to show off smart design solutions and the latest features in new construction. For years, member builders have been requesting a luxury tour staged by the BATC, which also presents Parade of Homes events twice a year, said David Siegel, executive director. “They wanted to showcase the fine craftsmanship of the people [who] design and build these custom homes,” he said. This year, the BATC complied, setting up a panel of architects to evaluate plans and details of each home before giving it a spot on the tour. “The finishes are artistic and upscale,” Siegel said. “There are no fiberglass wraparound bathtubs.”

Meanwhile, the Luxury Home Tour, presented by Midwest Home magazine, is now in its 14th year.

Homes on both tours represent a mix of properties — some are pre-sold and custom-designed for specific owners, while others are for sale, with builders hoping the tour will attract upper-income buyers.

The homes, which range from 4,000 to 8,000 square feet, boast the expected amenities, including opulent master suites, dramatic fireplaces, state-of-the-art gourmet kitchens and Euro-style wine cellars. But be sure to check out some of the fun extras. In one Lake Harriet home on the Artisan tour, a man cave is outfitted with a golf simulator. In Lake Elmo, a mountain-lodge-style lower level, featured on the Luxury tour, includes an archery range. And a few homes have popular sports courts, some with locker rooms, designed to make Minnesota winters more bearable.

The Luxury Tour is offered three weekends in June, while BATC’s Artisan Tour runs nine days straight, instead of just on the weekends. Both require admission, with the Luxury Tour priced at $20 and the Artisan Tour at $25 for advance tickets.

But are there enough Twin Cities tour-goers to support two similar events held at the same time?

“Early June was the right time because that’s when many homes are completed, and we have the Parade of Homes in the fall,” Siegel said. “I honestly don’t know how many people it will draw. We’ll find out.”

Jeff Warren, president of Divine Custom Homes, would have preferred that the events run at different times instead of competing with each other. “Builders would have had an additional opportunity to market their homes,” he said. “It’s an expensive proposition to pay for two luxury tours.”

Organizers say that having enough high-end homes for two tours is a telling sign that the $1 million-plus luxury home market is on the rebound after the recession. Divine Custom Homes built only two such homes in 2012, but will complete 10 in 2014, Warren said. “People purchased lots during the recession and now they are ready to build.”

At Accent Homes, designer Jim Kuiken said the number of high-end homes built by his firm has continued to rise since 2012.

Luxe life

So what are some of the trends and pricey must-have amenities you’ll see in this year’s collection of homes? “Everyone wants temperature-controlled, cave-type wine rooms, lavishly done,” said Warren, who built the 7,000-square-foot “Rustic Elegant” dwelling with the archery range, plus a craft room just for scrapbooking, on the Luxury Home Tour.

Demand for reclaimed materials, such as barn wood, integrated into interiors is “through the roof,” he said.

Home-automation systems, which give owners control of thermostats, music, media, security and lights using smartphones and tablets, are a big investment at $50,000 and up, said Warren. Kitchens typically are equipped with high-end commercial-grade appliances. Most home designs offer open, airy spaces that flow together, with walnut flooring overtaking oak, and quartz countertops gaining on granite.

“Minnesotans still want traditional elements, such as crown molding,” said builder Kyle Hunt, whose New Country French cottage is on the Artisan Tour. “But in a more clean and somewhat contemporary mix.”

Baby-boomer buyers are requesting one-level living and accessibility features, such as oversized drawers for pots and pans, wider hallways and elevators, said Kuiken.

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  • A 7,000-square-foot home by Divine Custom Homes in Lake Elmo features a great room with a beamed ceiling and a mountain-lodge-style lower level.

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