The banquet hall at the Westin at Tarpon Point was filled to the hilt Thursday as the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association recognized its Builders' Showcase award winners.
More than 60 awards were up for grabs on the 20 models from the 16 builders that competed - a big boost from the eight that took part last year, and from 2009 and 2010 when the association didn't have the awards.
For those who took part, it was further proof the housing market is ready to bounce back.
"Tonight we're celebrating the fact that these people have stayed with us when the market was down," said CCCIA Executive Director Mo Beneke at the dinner. "They're building beautiful houses, and Cape Coral is back and we're happy."
Judges went to the homes in the Builders' Showcase and graded the houses, with awards going out for best pool, best kitchen, and best bathroom, among other things, in seven categories, with one particular model being named best in show.
Judges had to try to ignore the extras that many of the houses had and go by what a base model would feature, which, Beneke said, was a tough chore because they walk into a home where half the house is upgrades.
"We look at the floor plan without the add-ons and take away the value of the land and compare apples to apples," Beneke said. "Some builders show the bare bones, while the others go the other way."
"The quality out there is incredible. The new ideas people are coming up with is amazing," said CCCIA president Anthony Greco. "Last year we had to beg people to enter the showcase. This year we had to make room for them."
Most of the showcase homes picked up some hardware. Irina Prell of Elysian Homes culled two trophies for her efforts on the Casa de Luxe. The company had relied on remodeling to survive during the downturn.
"We're excited. We're competing against very good builders. This tells me business is picking up and the industry is so much better," Prell said. "We've had such an influx of customers. We've signed 10 contracts in the last two weeks."
Meanwhile, Tia Farhat of PGI Homes earned trophies for her Signature 300 model for best floor plan, best pool, best bath and best overall in her group.
"We've built nearly 3,000 homes and not one of them the same. We're seeing more traffic; things are definitely up. We're very excited and happy to be a part of it," Farhat said.
The big winner was David Gydosh of Tundra Homes, who swept all the awards with his Costa Del Sol and took home the Top Overall Model. Gydosh said it was a team effort.
"We had a lot of people working on this. My daughter helped design it and we had a good design team. It's a little outside the box," Gydosh said. "It shows a lot of hard work, and we have a lot of good trades people and it's a good feeling."
The open-to-the-public showcase continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and then again next Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Next weekend's hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
A Builders' Showcase guide that lists the builders, details each model's location, and includes a showcase map, is available at the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at the foot of the Cape Coral Bridge and also online at CCCIA.org .