Kurt Faust was president of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association board of directors 30 years ago. There was no full-time paid staff, no permanent location and no meeting room for volunteers to gather and plan events.
And yet Faust and his brother Eric, along with their friend and business partner, Keith Gorges, had something else going for them — the audacity of youth. That, and the respect and admiration of their peers, for the most part also 30-somethings, enabled them to invent something out of whole cloth, the Haciendas — A Parade of Homes.
Thirty years later, the lanky and laconic Faust, except for the nearly white shock of hair, seems ageless. He’s still producing spectacular creations with his brother and Gorges. Their company, Tierra Concepts, has more Grand Hacienda wins, the crowning achievement of the parade’s competition, than any other Santa Fe builder. They won again in 2021.
My involvement started in 1996 in the first phase of Tierra Contenta as a superintendent for Bruce Thompson Homes. We were building the Tierra Madre subdivision for developer Don Altshuler and got the competitive bug. Altshuler wanted to sell homes, and we wanted to promote our construction outfit.
Our entry, grouped in the lowest price tier, swept every judging category. Categories then, as now, were mostly for elements of design such as best kitchen, best master suite and best outdoor living space. Construction superintendents had little or no influence on them. One award, however, best craftsmanship, is coveted by builders and their employees. We won that one, too.
By the summer of 2008, a few short weeks before the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the implosion of Santa Fe speculative home building, the annual event was limiting itself to 40 homes and turning away builders begging to get their homes on the tour. In 2009, there were 40 homes, but the mood was desperation as builders sought to offload every speculative home at any price.
That also was the year I stopped building and began managing the association as its executive officer. By 2010, the association was a shadow of itself. There was serious talk of canceling the entire event. Barely mustering double-digit entries, the parade limped along, but with a difference.
High-end speculative homes, once the primary reason for being in the parade, were gone. Instead, the homes were built for clients planning to move in after the parade was over or who relented to entreaties by their builders to showcase their work and allow hundreds of strangers to traipse through the front door.
For the most part, that still is the case. Speculative building is making a comeback, but these days it is more about finding the next client. In many ways, that has upped the ante and improved the craftsmanship of builders. Now it’s not so much about selling the safe Santa Fe “vanilla” house as it is selling builders and their companies.
This year there are 14 homes in the parade. It’s back as a live tour after a virtual hiatus in 2020 and a trepidatious and masked event in 2021. The Tierra Concept guys are back for another go and a few newcomers, too.
I’m especially heartened to see Homewise and Habitat for Humanity back showcasing their superior construction and commitment to efficiency and affordability. The parade is a true spectrum of new home construction.
The self-guided tour goes on from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and picks up again Friday through Sunday.