In an economy that's been battered by a recession, what do people want to do on a sunny weekend?

Look at new homes and home-remodeling projects, of course.

It may be hard to believe, but organizers of the 2010 Parade of Homes say that, though the number of entries in this year's Parade is down, they're bracing for a crush of people who want to walk through the new homes and remodeled houses on display today through May 2.

"People still like to go out and look at what's new, what's remodeled," says Marion McGrath of Jonathan McGrath Construction. "We were slammed with people during last year's Parade. And the interest has not waned."

The number of entries in the parade is down significantly from the heydays of the 1990s, when 100 entries were common. This year, there are 48 , including nine remodeling projects and nine custom homes.

The latest trends in new and custom homes include courtyard-style entrances and backyard living spaces with pools, cabanas and outdoor fireplaces.

The recession has changed what consumers want from homes. "The American public, especially the baby boomers, are wanting to simplify their lives and their debt," says Bill Silliman of Reiche & Silliman, a custom home-builder and former president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Orlando. "They want smaller square footage, but they want the new floor plans with courtyard entries, and a place where a mother in law or a college student can live."

Consumers unable or unwilling to sell their current homes are interested in remodeling. Starting with a 1963 home in Longwood, Jonathan McGrath Construction renovated the space by knocking down two poorly-done additions, adding a master suite and relocating the kitchen.

"People want the kitchen to be the heartbeat of their home, so they can look out and watch the kids in the swimming pool or help kids with their homework while they're in the family room," says McGrath.

In the design-specialty showcase, Central Kitchen & Bath is showing the kitchen renovation of a house on Lake Sarah in College Park. The 115-square-foot kitchen couldn't be enlarged without demolishing exterior walls. So the remodeling team used design to make the space look bigger and brighter.

"That's one of the reasons we really like this house: It's small," says Dina Graham of Central Kitchen & Bath. "Everybody does these big, grand Parade kitchens, but someone could see this and say, ‘Maybe I could do something like this in my home.' "

See for yourself

2010 Parade of Homes

What: 48 homes priced from $154,990 to $8 million
Where: Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties
When: New Homes and Communities April 17-May 2; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. (Custom homes open only on weekends.) Design Specialty, Remodel and Green Certified Remodels open April 24-25, noon to 5 p.m. only.
Cost: Free
Guides: Official guidebook available in this Sunday's edition of the Orlando Sentinel, at all Publix locations and online at

By Linda Shrieves