Steve Ingram has been living and working here for over two decades. Before moving here in 1997, he was a builder in Memphis and worked for the Secret Service during the Ford and Carter presidencies.
He and Sharon, his wife of 21 years, live in Santa Rosa Beach. Mr. Ingram has two sons—Stephen, who’s 42 and currently serving as a hospital chaplain at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and 30-year-old Michael, a professional musician in the area. Rounding out the family, you’ll find two dogs, Buddy and Grover—the latter a former Beachcomber Pet of the Issue—and Lilly, “the meanest damn cat in the world.”
What exactly do you do, as far as your business goes?
It’s a one-man business, a one-stop shop. I build affordable homes and navigate through the very complicated permitting processes. After they hire me, I handle everything from that point on, walk them through the process. The main thing is, I’m trying to build homes to fit everyone’s budget.
I build what’s called turnkey houses—when it’s done, you can move right in. Everything is included in the sales contract. They can meet my representatives. All of them are local and have been with me for 15 years now. They know what they’re doing, and try to keep things on track with budgets.
If they don’t have a house plan ready, I send them to Jeff Prescott, my architect, who will design the home in line with their budget.
What do you offer that other builders cannot?
Personal service. Having open communications with each one of my customers, keeping them in the loop. I specialize in beach cottages, not monster homes. I’m doing from 3,500 square feet down, roughly. We have a lot of plans people can look at—a lot of people don’t know what they want to build.
The main thing, when they come to me, they get a lot of experience in how to design the home they want. Service from the beginning to the very end.
What is the current status of the labor market?
Part of this business is about being in command of your subcontractors. I came here when Memphis building had slowed down, and my framers weren’t working as much. I told them about the tons of building happening here, so they moved here and brought their crews down. And they’ve prospered. They don’t just work for me, but when I need them, they come. We have a good relationship. It helps that I pay them on time!
How is the market looking now as far as buying and building a custom home?
Don’t let the word custom make you think it’s expensive. Most of these houses are people’s dream homes. It’s a big deal.
I do a certain style, most of them are in the $250-300,000 range. I build on people’s lots that are already owned. Or they come and find a lot with my help. Buying a lot in Florida is risky—if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll end up in a flood zone. I try to help find those red flags. And you have to know all the rules to help people with zoning and planning in Okaloosa and Walton counties.
As far as buying now, why put it off? The longer you take, the materials go up in price.
Where can people find out more about your business?
I have an ad in Beachcomber! It helps a lot. I’ve gotten a lot of calls from that. And my website, SteveIngramHomes.com.