Although the urban housing boom continues to play a role in shaping Charlotte’s identity, it’s also true that not every major development involves a new high-rise apartment building or row of luxury condominiums. A significant portion of Queen City residents remain dedicated to owning single-family homes. For them, the real action isn’t taking place at commercial intersections but along the shaded streets of Charlotte’s residential hotspots.
Thanks to the increased desirability of neighborhoods close to Uptown, coupled with the rising cost of purchasing a home, we’re seeing a lot of new construction and major home renovation, which is quickly changing the residential face of the city. Homeowners that may have considered selling are choosing instead to invest in improvements to their current property. And many real-estate firms are demolishing small, abandoned, or outdated homes to attain properties for larger new homes. This is turning areas that were once uniformly made up of small bungalows and brick cottages into a hybrid of traditional, contemporary, and modern stylings. It’s also giving some historic areas a much-needed facelift.
Who’s behind all of this work?
Listed below are five custom home builders who are helping to change—and preserve—Charlotte’s most in-demand neighborhoods. They’re the companies whose signs are posted like a second mailbox in front yards throughout areas including Sedgefield, Elizabeth, Plaza Midwood, and others. They’re building new homes on razed lots, and renovating 1940s structures to accommodate the wants and tastes of homeowners in 2018. They’re the craftspeople who are defining the Charlotte aesthetic, one house at a time. And for readers who are considering a major remodel or new build, they are the experts who can make it happen.
Owner(s): Rod and Kathy Spence, Ken and Ellen Smith
Year founded: 1999
Services: 40% new construction, 60% remodel/renovation
Neighborhoods to spot their work: Elizabeth, Dilworth, Plaza Midwood, Eastover, Cotswold, Belmont, SouthPark
Details: Brothers-in-law Rod Spence and Ken Smith, along with wives Kathy and Ellen, founded Banister Homes in 1999 and have since built and remodeled hundreds of homes throughout Charlotte—including the city’s first LEED-certified home in Dilworth in 2007, according to their website. Together, the family-team of four creates Energy Star certified custom homes with a focus on contemporary styling and livability. Banister homes typically feature open-space floor plans with large kitchen/gathering areas, telescoping doorways leading to outdoor living spaces, and personalized master suites. But as Kathy Spence points out, each is unique to its owner’s choices. “More and more,” she says, “we’re seeing a highly customized approach from homeowners. Today, bigger isn’t always better. It’s about building a home that reflects the personality and lifestyle of its owners.”
Owner(s): Ryan and Nate Meeuwsen
Year founded: 2014
Services: 100% new construction
Neighborhoods to spot them in: Elizabeth, Chantilly, Myers Park, Cotswold, Plaza Midwood, Dilworth
Details: Tapered porch columns, large overhangs, and lots of detailed woodwork: these are some hallmarks of the early-century Craftsman style that characterizes many of Charlotte’s historic neighborhoods. They’re also signature features of every custom home built by Carolina Craftsman Builders. Co-owners Ryan and Nate Meeuwsen specialize in creating new homes that retain the look of 1920s-era Craftsman-style houses, but are designed to better accommodate today’s homeowners who desire more open-area gathering spaces, more bedrooms, and multi-generational livability. According to Ryan, the beauty of these updated features is that they blend seamlessly with Craftsman homes that were actually built 100 years ago. The resemblance is so close, in fact, that people often mistake homes built by Carolina Craftsman Builders for a restored original. “We hear people say all the time when they’re touring one of our new builds, ‘What an amazing renovation job,’” Ryan says. “They don’t realize they’re standing inside a brand new home. To me, that’s the highest compliment we could receive.”
Owner(s): Ben Brookhart
Year founded: 2007
Services: 50% new construction, 50% large-scale additions and renovation
Neighborhoods to spot them in: Chantilly, Plaza Midwood, Elizabeth, Cotswold, Villa Heights, Sedgefield
Details: Originally founded in 1999 in Boone, NC, Timberline Homes relocated to Charlotte in 2007—just in time to experience the total collapse of the housing market. Owner Ben Brookhart survived his early years in the Queen City by taking on small remodeling jobs, developing client relationships, and gradually increasing the scale of his projects as the economy rebounded. Although challenging at times, Brookhart admits now that building his business from the ground up this way enforced some important foundational values. “You have to earn your reputation in this industry,” he says. “We made ours by focusing on quality workmanship, straightforward communication, and honesty.” That focus continues to serve him today, as Timberline Homes has reached its highest production levels yet. But despite huge demand for the company’s thoughtfully conceived, architecturally balanced homes, Brookhart limits operations to no more than eight projects at one time, explaining, “It’s how we control quality, and ensure that our work is of the highest standard.”
Owner(s): Brett Taylor
Year founded: 1997
Services: 80% renovations, 20% new construction
Neighborhoods to spot them in: South Charlotte (especially SouthPark, NoDa, Plaza Midwood), Villa Heights, Wesley Heights
Details: As the longest-standing custom home builder on this list, Hopedale Builders has a track record that’s backed up not only by its number of years in business but also by its long list of construction industry awards. Company owner Brett Taylor translates more than two decades of experience into building custom homes and performing complex, high-quality renovations of every variety and size, from bathroom-only to the entire house. According to Taylor, Hopedale specializes at solving the kinds of challenges that come with the territory of renovating old and historic homes—which, he says, more often than not, only reveal their flaws well into the process, after half the house has been torn apart. “Our knowledge and creativity are really what set us apart from other builders,” he says. “Without both of those things, you just can’t pull off the level of project we’re used to taking on.” For its work over the years, Hopedale Builders has received awards from agencies including NARI of Greater Charlotte, the Remodelers Council, and the Home Builder Association of Greater Charlotte.
Owner(s): Steve Sebrell
Year founded: 2007
Services: 50% remodel, 25% addition, 25% new construction
Neighborhoods to spot them in: Commonwealth Park, Merry Oaks, Madison Park, Elizabeth, Plaza Midwood, Chantilly
Details: When Steve Sebrell founded DPS Construction in 2007, it was with the idea of purchasing old houses—unique ones, like the depression-era cottages and mill homes throughout his favorite East Charlotte neighborhoods—and restoring their original charm. Unfortunately, like another builder on this list, the economic downturn forced him to change his business model, but his enthusiasm for some of Charlotte’s lesser-known communities like Commonwealth Park, Merry Oaks, and Madison Park remained. Today, DPS Construction offers award-winning home addition and remodeling services, and completes many new builds every year as well. Sebrell says that starting his business during the Recession, when competition for jobs was extremely high, helped form his client-centered approach. “The one thing almost every customer tells me,” he says, “is that until they hired DPS, nobody listened to them.” To further help communication, Sebrell creates item-by-item proposal breakdowns that detail every project expense, and uses a construction management software called Buildertrend to connect homeowners with every DPS Construction employee involved in the work on their home.