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SUNSET BEACH—Brunswick County is now home to a national award-winning builder of Southern-style homes.
Southern Living magazine has named local home builder Jeff Sanderson, founder and president of Whitney Blair Inc., the 2008 Custom Builder of the Year—the first builder in North or South Carolina to be so honored.
He will be featured in the magazine’s November issue.
Sanderson found out about the honor when it was announced at the Southern Living Custom Builder Annual Conference in Alabama.
“It’s such an honor, because most of the awards for builders are based on the product—the house. The Southern Living award is based on the builder—the company.”
The Southern Living Custom Builder Program is an invitation-only network of nearly 100 builders across the country. Southern Living selects the builders based on their reputations, quality of design and construction, and integrity and stability in the locations they represent, according to a news release from the company.
As part of the selection process, an independent surveyor interviews the builder’s clients and subcontractors to make sure customers are satisfied and the highest quality materials are used.
As a Southern Living Custom Builder, Sanderson has approval to build houses from Southern Living plans and the magazine’s approved architects, and Sanderson says he’s received many calls from potential clients in other states based on that status.
“To be in Brunswick County and be selected, it’s just an honor,” Sanderson said. Whitney Blair’s renovated office at the corner of N.C. 179 and N.C. 904 is an example of the kind of construction his office specializes in, although, in this case, the project was a complete remodel.
The building was previously the home of the first Sheltered Treasures Thrift Store, which provides funds to the Providence Home teen shelter, and the top floor was a separate apartment.
Sanderson could not tear down the building because it’s a nonconforming use in its zoning district, so he did the next best thing—spent a year gutting it and completely overhauling both the interior and exterior.
“I walked away a couple of times and said ‘No way,’ but I kept coming back,” he recalled.
Now, the cedar-shingled building showcases many of the elements of Sanderson’s custom homes, including the latest in flooring options, cork and bamboo.
The former apartment is now a large conference room with a kitchen, where Sanderson leads building management seminars for local builders. And even though he’s seen a decrease in the number of houses being built the past year or two, Sanderson is continuing to work and remaining positive.
He says people haven’t stopped building new houses, they’ve just slowed down.
“They want the best products in their price range, and they’re more selective, so you’d better be the best,” he said.
With lumber and labor prices at an all-time low, he’s optimistic that buyers are considering building new houses.
So, what do today’s customers want in a new home?
Sanderson says more open spaces, particularly “great rooms” combining the kitchen and family room are popular, and outdoor living spaces are becoming more popular in Brunswick County, with people asking for kitchens and outdoor fireplaces.
For the past two years, Sanderson has received the National Association of Home Builders’ and Professional Builder Magazine’s Best in American Living Award, and the 2007 state STARS award for best detached single family home costing more than $1 million.
sarah shew wilson is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.