Local homes tour keeps Austin weird, housing affordable

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Thanin Viriyaki

From tree houses to converted metal storage units, the only thing the houses featured in the Weird Homes Tour have in common is the attention they attract from passers-by.

On April 22, 10 eye-catching Austin homes will open their doors to the public. The tour showcases artistically or architecturally unique homes in Austin while giving local artists a platform to sell their work. A portion of the revenue collected from ticket sales goes to nonprofits dedicated to creating opportunities for affordable housing. Tickets are currently on sale for $30, while VIP passes are going for $45.

The Weird Homes Tour is the brainchild of entrepreneur power-couple David J. Neff and Chelle Neff, both of whom are successful businesspeople.

But the Weird Homes Tour isn’t just an invitation to live vicariously through a stranger’s grandiose home decor. At it’s heart, the tour is ultimately philanthropic.

“(We’re) really into giving back and supporting nonprofits in town,” UT alumnus David J. Neff said. “When we started this business, we knew we needed to give back (to the community) through this business towards affordable housing.”

Ten percent of the revenue from the Weird Homes Tour is donated to local nonprofits like Foundation Communities in Austin, which is committed to affordable housing. David J. Neff said affordable housing is important in a city like Austin, where the costs of living are only rising.

Since its debut in 2014, the Weird Homes Tour has spread to Houston and New Orleans. David J. Neff said the homes featured in the tour are weird in the sense that they should leave people with a new perspective on how they could structure their own living space.

In addition to donating to local nonprofits, tour manager for Weird Homes Kevin Shaw said the company also gives back to the community by providing local artists with avenues to sell
their work.

“Because most of the homeowners are artists, we allow them to sell their work on the tour,” Shaw said. “It’s a great revenue stream for our artists.”

Austin artist Katy Nail is a returning homeowner for the Weird Homes Tour whose house is dubbed “The Art Dome.” Nail said she is able to sell some of her art through the tour, but the main reason she loves Weird Homes is that it gives her the chance to share her unique home with others.

“It’s a real special place,” Nail said, adding that its previous owners claimed it had healing powers. “Living in a dome structure is so different and so fabulous and I want to share it, that you don’t have to live in a square home.”

The Weird Homes Tour not only highlights the innovation and creativity of Austin’s architects and homeowners, but also tries to be innovative in and of itself. David J. Neff said the company recently dipped its toes into the world of virtual reality technology with the help of a local business by making a virtual tour of one of the Weird Homes available online.

“We’ve always been experimenting with different technology formats,” David J. Neff said. “We usually just do photos, but out of the blue, Above Interactive reached out to us. We were very lucky.”
Through innovation, style and art, Shaw said the Weird Homes Tour is meant to bring people together and celebrate weirdness.

“The people that own these homes are just as unique and weird and wonderful as the homes themselves,” Shaw said. “It’s a great way to learn about the character of Austin, and to inspire people to think outside the box.”