Staff photo by Allison Potter
Karen Douglas of Leaf Filter greets visitors at the 22nd annual Cape Fear Home Builders Association Home Show and Expo on Sunday, Jan. 26 at the Cape Fear Community College Schwartz Center.
This time each year, Derek Harts dons his silver face paint, tin foil hat and shiny, gray clothing and becomes the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz.”
He sells and installs metal roofs, and along with more than 80 other businesses he hawked his wares from behind a table at the Cape Fear Community College Schwartz Center, which hosted the 22nd annual Cape Fear Home Builders Association Home Show and Expo on Saturday, Jan. 25 and Sunday, Jan. 26.
With smile lines cutting creases in his shimmering face, Harts said business was good.
“I’ve been doing this about five years, and I get business every year. Normally we’ll get three to five jobs out of each show,” Harts said. “A lot of people are more open [to purchasing new roofs] than a few years ago; you don’t hear nearly as much about the economy.”
Cameron Moore, in his first month as Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association’s executive director, said outside the showroom he was satisfied with the level of traffic the show had gotten, which brought in an estimated 3,000 attendees. The two-day weekend home show was free for visitors and ran about $500 for a vendors’ table.
“[Foot] traffic has been really great,” Moore said. “We really strive to make sure folks understand that this is our local, hometown show.”
Next to Harts’ booth, a crowd gathered to watch a demonstration for Discover Waterless Cooking, where the sales representative grated carrots and celery while he condemned the prevalence of processed foods in the American diet. Other vendors featured home-improvement products such as showers, outdoor lighting, sod and turf installation, cabinet handles and sunrooms.
For Larry and Lorrie Carpenter, the home show offered inspiration for their new home, which they built when they retired to Wilmington from Charlotte four years ago.
“I came for ideas. There’s always something to improve on if you’re a new homeowner,” Lorrie Carpenter said. “We had owned property here for some time, and after we retired we finally were able to build on it.”
Unlike many other home shows, which typically feature a range of home improvement and related businesses, Moore said he was especially excited to have a range of experts giving free seminars in the college’s classrooms next door.
Dean Bennett, Brunswick Community College’s director of horticulture, provided gardening tips to about a dozen attendees. His lecture focused on underutilized plants that thrive in Southeast North Carolina’s sandy soils, including easy-to-grow choices like spinach and blackberries to save on grocery bills, as well as decorative varieties of lilies and native hydrangeas, including the smooth and pee gee cultivars.
However, he said the best thing he could do in a one-hour course was to show the class attendees how to obtain reliable information for themselves. Some of the best resources, he said, can be found at local plant nurseries.
“These are experts that have been in the field for a very long time,” Bennett said, specifically recommending Five Oaks Nursery in Wilmington and Pender Pines Garden Center in Hampstead. “Nobody knows the local microclimate like they do.”
Microclimates are just what they sound like, he said, and they can range from the near-shore sandy soils that receive salty air blowing in from the ocean, to as specific a climate as a wind tunnel between two buildings, which warrants special consideration when attempting to choose the right plant.
And with those coastal winds helping to fuel relatively drastic insurance rate increases being proposed at the state level, the expo featured a seminar to discuss the changes, along with those to federal flood insurance.
Stuart Franck, an associate insurance agent with Owens Insurance Agency & Financial Services, Inc., said he thinks there has been a drop-off in the number of flood insurance policies he has sold since the controversial Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act began taking effect last year.
“Two out of 10 policies might go through, and the other eight are walking out the door,” Franck said. “This year it has kind of been like buying the unknown, and that’s what is scaring people away.”
Wind and hail insurance, for which the state’s rate bureau recently proposed increases of up to 35 percent, has resulted in a similar situation. Franck said rate hikes in that type of insurance’s premiums in recent years have caused many builders to begin using fortified home building techniques, which can shave off about 20 percent of a policy’s premium. But, he said, that’s still a tough sell when the upgrades can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Craig Boettchner, a sales representative for Rhino Shield Ceramic Coatings, was advertising one such upgrade out on the sales floor. His table displayed samples of ceramic siding, which he claimed were far superior to vinyl, which is less reflective of heat and less durable in extreme weather.
“I was a vinyl siding salesman for years and I wouldn’t put the stuff on my house,” Boettchner said. “… It reflects heat both out and in. This is used in all sorts of extreme climates, from the deserts of Africa to Minneapolis, Minn.”
For Moore, these types of complimentary seminars and displays are what make the show so successful year after year.
“That’s really what the seminars are for,” he said. “You see them in the showroom, you can put your hands on the products, but the seminars are great because you learn about them and the speakers talk about what’s trending in homebuilding and what the new trends are.”