A couple of hundred real estate agents milled around him in the beautiful Lodge in Country Club East when Rex Jensen was asked what was so important about the Tour of Homes Kickoff Event.
The president and chief executive officer of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch never hesitated.
"When somebody knocks on the door of our community, who do they call? The realtors," Jensen said. "So we want them to find out about all the latest and greatest (offerings)."
The Tour of Homes doesn't begin until Friday, Oct. 21, but the SMR kickoff event on Oct. 14 really started things rolling. Realtors received a sneak peak at the Tour of Homes guide and were able to visit with all the Lakewood Ranch builders.
The Tour of Homes, which features more than 50 model homes in the award-winning, master-planned community, runs through Nov. 20 with several special events to help those visiting the area learn more about the Lakewood Ranch lifestyle.
"To me, it's amazing the amount of choices we have from just a year ago," said Laura Cole, SMR's vice president of marketing. "My biggest goal is to facilitate the home buyer's journey."
SMR would like that journey to begin at one of its two information centers from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. From there, those who would like to take a tour can pick up the new Tour of Homes magazine and a model home guide. Along with models that are open daily, exclusive homes in Lake Club Village and Country Club East will be available.
Information personnel also will alert visitors to builder and community special events as well.
"If's a concentrated effort of giving somebody a sneak peak of what it is like to live here," Cole said.
Cole said some people might be surprised at the range of offerings in Lakewood Ranch.
"This is our opportunity to show there is something for everyone," she said.
Jensen said it always has been the goal of the master plan to provide housing at most levels in Lakewood Ranch.
"The first house we sold here was $89,000 in 1995," he said. "The top price then was $139,000. Then we branched out to higher products.
"We always have thought, 'What if the firefighter or the teacher wants to live here?"
Andy Sorensen, the vice president of sales and marketing for Taylor Morrison, said people who visit will find an affordable community where prices begin at $227,900 at the Vercelli Garden Condos at Esplanade Golf & Country Club.
"It's a great price to be in Lakewood Ranch and we're really excited to be able to bring that market," Sorensen said. "And that includes golf and tennis, a spa and fitness center.
"Every buyer can find something out here. And we offer other homes up to about $850,000."
Sorensen said he finds the Tour does stimulate sales. "It definitely increases our traffic," he said. "People will see price points from $200,000 to well over a million."
Steve Murray of Murray Homes offers some of those $1 million-plus homes, including a $1.85 million home those who take the Tour can check out on Staysail Court in The Lake Club.
Murray said even though he works with elite buyers with his top-level homes, the Tour serves an important purpose no matter who comes through his door.
"We're getting the word out to a broader audience," he said.
That audience might not see every builder's offering because some simply haven't completed construction yet, however, even those communities have sales centers and can offer virtual tours on computers, featuring interactive 3D programs, along with any other kind of information available.
Such is the case at Homes by Towne's Waterfront at Main Street, which offers luxury condos on Lake Uihlein. Those start at $370,000 and run through penthouse offerings at $939,000.
Zach Bouchard, the marketing manager for Lennar Homes, has a similar case at Lakewood National Terraces, where models are not yet fully constructed. The Terraces will start at $175,199 for two bedrooms and a den from 1,107 square feet to 1,284 square feet.
Bouchard said the Terraces are a quality product that will be attractive to seasonal home buyers.
Lakewood National also be offer estate homes that will range in price from $500,000 to $600,000.