“We’re kind of like the Chamber of Commerce for the housing industry,” Ellis explained. “We work with and represent anybody involved with the home building industry throughout the Charleston region. But we also represent the homeowner.”
David Ellis wants the people of Mount Pleasant and Charleston to know that the Charleston Home Builders Association is not just a resource for home builders but for home buyers, too.
Ellis said the CHBA receives phone calls regularly from future home buyers with questions about various builders and how to select one. The CHBA does its best to answer the questions or to point callers in the right direction for more information.
“We get them off on the right track so they’re as well-informed as they can be when they go into the buying process,” said Ellis.
Another way the CHBA serves the home buyer is by advocating for affordable housing.
“Charleston is attracting jobs, and the houses we build are where the people with those jobs go to sleep at night,” said Ellis. “Everybody can’t live in a $1 million home. We want to make sure we’re in a situation where we can provide affordable homes to those in our community.”
This is a challenge for the Charleston area, which has limits on how big it can expand due to its geography yet is growing by approximately 45 people every day. Despite a surge in new home building in the last few years, buyers are facing a tough time, with low inventory and high home prices. The median list price was $360,000 for homes in Charleston – $518,000 in Mount Pleasant – as of the end of June, according to Zillow. Those figures both are significantly above the national median list price of $259,000.
Ellis and his colleagues at the CHBA attend planning meetings in Mount Pleasant and Charleston to advocate for the home builders they represent directly and the home owners they’re ultimately building for.
“We do a lot of advocacy,” he said. “We want to make sure that rules the cities are passing with respect to growth are fair and balanced.”
“The councils come up with an idea of what they want to do next. Then, as an industry, we say, ‘This is what we think.’ Or, ‘What you’re trying to do may bring unintended consequences.’ Or ‘There may be a better way to do what you’re trying to do,’” said Ellis. “We want to be part of that dialogue.”
In addition to providing a voice for home builders in the area, the CHBA supports its members by holding educational classes, helping them grow their businesses and offering opportunities to network and socialize with others in the industry.
The CHBA was founded in 1959 and currently serves 400 members. Ellis stepped into the role of executive vice president of the CHBA in April, replacing former Executive Vice President Philip Ford, who left for a similar role with a building association in Fort Myers, Florida, after 14 years with the CHBA.
Ellis came to Charleston with nearly 30 years’ experience under his belt in leadership roles at various home builders associations in the Southeast. Most recently, he spent 12 years as executive vice president of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association. Before that, he spent seven years in a similar role with the Collier Building Industry Association in Naples, Florida, and 10 years as the associate director of the Northeast Florida Builders Association in his hometown of Jacksonville. In 2014, Ellis was recognized by the National Association of Home Builders Professional Women in Building as Executive Officer of the Year.
How does a smaller city like Charleston compare to the bigger cities he’s used to living and working in?
“Smaller cities generally have the same problems that bigger cities do, just on a smaller scale,” said Ellis. “Transportation issues, or infrastructure issues or how to grow the right way.”
At the same time, he recognizes the unique challenges Charleston faces when it comes to building and accommodating more people.
“Here, how do you preserve the historical integrity and at the same time provide opportunities for continued growth?” he asked.
So far, in the four months since he moved to the Lowcountry from Atlanta with his wife and two daughters, Ellis has been impressed with how the Charleston area has responded to the massive growth the area is experiencing.
“It appears to me that they’re doing a great job keeping up with transportation and infrastructure,” he said.
Ellis is impressed in particular with how Mount Pleasant has held on to what makes it special.
“Mount Pleasant is a beautifully maintained community, and the community works very hard to make sure to keep the integrity,” he said.
Hopefully, with the help of the CHBA, it will continue to do so.
By Erin Danly