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Spurred on by passion, charity and even profit, ambitious organizers and proud homeowners welcome in throngs on tours of their modern homes
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San Mateo Highlands organizer Linda Siguenza.

Other people are so private they could never abide strangers trooping through their innermost sanctums. Many people don't want the bother of straightening up their homes, hiding their valuables, and cleaning up afterwards.

Others worry about damage or theft. Tour organizers post 'docents' (aka volunteer guards) throughout the homes. Rip-offs on home tours are extremely rare, organizers say.

Tour organizers generally provide liability insurance in case of injury.

Still, there are people who clamor to get their homes on tours. In San Mateo, Siguenza has several queued up for the next one. "We could put on the tour every other year if it was just based on finding enough houses," she says. "But there's much more to it."

For a tour to succeed, it has to have the right houses and the right mix. "We wanted it to be a fun event, where people would enjoy what they were seeing," Siguenza says. "We have to turn people down sometimes," referring to homeowners.

Ingrid Spencer, who chooses houses for Modern Home Tour's events nationwide, thinks of tour goers as the "audience." "You need to create a day that has some unity, that is fun and informational. You want to keep people entertained for six hours."

Putting on a home tour can be tough on both homeowners and organizers. Kaaren Sipes, who showed her home on a Highlands tour, advises people who would do the same to hire cleaners both before and after the event. "So then you're not fussing about all that."

"Think about where you don't want people to go, and have enough people in the house to answer questions," she says. "There were times we had 50 people in the house."

 

UPCOMING TOURS FOR 2013

Several dates have yet to be scheduled for upcoming tours, which generally get underway starting in the spring. Here's what's in the works.

• Dwell Homes Tours generally include receptions and seminars as well as tours. dht.dwell.com

• East Bay chapter of the American Institute of Architects plans its annual home tour for fall 2013. aiaeb.org

• Floating Homes Association sponsors an annual tour of houseboats, some modern, some less so, in Sausalito in the fall. floatinghomes.org

• Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects runs home tours in the spring and fall. aialosangeles.org/content/home-tours

• Modern Homes Tours, LLC plans a Venice, California tour February 16, 2013; a Portland tour March 9; and a Silicon Valley tour March 23. Tours of San Diego, Southern California’s ‘beach cities,’ the East Bay, Seattle, and Las Vegas will be held in fall 2013. modernhometours.com

• Neutra House. This restored Los Altos house, designed by Richard Neutra, has sponsored two tours of modern homes, with another likely coming in fall 2013. neutrahouse.org

• The Northern California chapter of DOCOMOMO, which advocates for modern architecture, plans a home tour for 2013. docomomo-noca.org.

• Palm Springs Preservation Foundation will put on a 'Leisure Life' tour of condominium complexes in south Palm Springs designed by William Krisel, A. Quincy Jones, and others March 22-24, 2013. pspreservationfoundation.org

• Palm Springs Modernism Week, February 14-24, 2013, includes many tours of open houses, including this year the Fifth Annual Racquet Club Estates Home Tour, February 16. modernismweek.com

• PS ModCom (Palm Springs Modernism Committee) runs an annual open house tour in the fall in alliance with the Palm Springs Modern Heritage Fund, complete with a cocktail reception. PS ModCom runs a spring tour in May of modern homes in the High Desert, Joshua Tree, and thereabouts. psmodcom.org

• Palm Springs Modern Tours. Tour guide Robert Imber takes visitors on a guided van tour of Palm Springs architecture. palmspringsmoderntours.com

• San Mateo Highlands Eichler Home Tour will take place in 2014. Contact organizer Linda Siguenza for information or to volunteer. lin3@comcast.net