MYRTLE BEACH — A Myrtle Beach-based real estate development and construction company’s method of building unique rental communities has led to expansion, not just along Grand Strand, but throughout the Southeast.
Founded locally in 2014 by Joe Morrison and David Wilks, Sands Companies builds both single-family homes and multi-family developments, but has recently developed a niche in the design and construction of individual cottage-style rental homes.
Wilks said he came up with the idea in 2014 while at his in-laws’ lake house in New York’s Finger Lakes region after meeting a single-family home builder who built cabins. smaller.
“I thought maybe I’d buy one,” Wilks said. “I went to his neighborhood and asked him why he was selling them. He said I don’t sell them, I rent them.
“I came back,” Joe said, and afterwards we said it was a great idea. This was actually before the national craze. We were pretty early in the game and I happened to see this gentleman in Ithaca, New York, doing this.
Wilks said the concept of single family for rent for smaller type homes launched them to where they are today, recently expanding into a larger corporate headquarters at the Galleria mall on the north end. from Myrtle Beach.
“We had no idea this was going to work,” Morrison said. “No one in the country was really doing it. We collected the money, made our first deal, and it ended up working. After that, there were a lot of followers.”
The company’s first development in the area was the 99-unit ISLE Cottages development in Carolina Forest, taking advantage of what Morrison and Wilks said was a tenant’s number one complaint at a traditional apartment complex — noise. .
“The biggest complaint in apartments is about people living below or above you,” Morrison said. “If you have children or animals, you are afraid of who is below you. And the people above you who have pets or children; you go crazy if they are loud.
The company’s expanding portfolio includes Seaglass Cottages in North Myrtle Beach and St. James Square in Myrtle Beach as well as other projects in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.
Sands Companies’ newest Grand Strand development is Swells Cottages, which has 221 rental units in Garden City, near Murrells Inlet Marshwalk. But the company is beginning to expand regionally in South Carolina and adjacent states.
Over the past year, Sands Companies has hired over 20 new employees, which has more than doubled in size. Morrison and Wilks said they recruit from area colleges, which offer specialized programs in construction and project management.
“We wanted to grow,” Wilks said. “We probably didn’t plan to grow as quickly as we did. It naturally presented challenges, but we’re managing it, so that’s probably a good thing. We obviously found a concept that works and have people willing to invest in us, made this growth possible.
Wilks said the business feels more like a family in the way it is operated.
“The interview process that we go through, we almost let our staff and employees interview potential candidates to make sure they’re a good fit,” Wilks said. “It’s almost like we’re a big family business when we’re not managing from the top down. We’re almost in the opposite direction from the bottom up.”
As for the future, Morrison said they will continue to grow the business, but where it makes sense in the grand scheme of things. They recently launched a project near Hilton Head and another in Gainesville, Florida.
“I think we’re going to continue to focus on cottage apartment communities while looking throughout the Southeast for opportunities where we think they will be accepted and where the market demands it,” Morrison said.