Story By Hilary Brady
Photography By Chris Campbell
When Annah Norris was growing up, her family didn’t have a house to call their own. Now Annah owns a home and finds great pleasure in bringing others’ home buying dreams to fruition. As a teen, Annah had great appreciation for what others her age took for granted, like a good breakfast. Now others appreciate her ability to relate to — and desire to help — the people that are walking in the shoes that she once wore. Growing up, she didn’t have a lot. But it’s that struggle that showed Annah what really mattered in life: family, love and pursuing one’s dreams.
A Rich Life
Annah hails from BlackMountain, N.C., a quaint mountain town rich with history and Southern hospitality and located 15 miles east of Asheville. Born into a family that struggled financially, Annah says she was not at all poor. A scenic town rich with beauty and two parents rich with love produced a remarkable woman rich in life.
“I had a small childhood,” says Annah. “I had a great family, we just moved around a lot. Never had a house or any furniture of our own; we lived with friends and out of suitcases for years at a time.”
When Annah left Black Mounta in to attend college at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., to say she experienced culture shock is an understatement.
“I grew up going weeks at a time wit h as little as a Pop-Tart for breakfast,” says Annah. “Kids at Wake were dropping thousands of dollars to fly to Aspen for the weekend. Life there was different for sure.”
Annah graduated from Wake with a degree in English and education, soon after accepting a job as a high school teacher in Greensboro. Working full-time as a teacher and also juggling two part-time jobs, one as a coach and another as a tutor, Annah’s sights were set on her ultimate goal: purchasing her first home.
“There was a new community near the high school where I worked,” she recalls. “I remember going up there all of the time to just walk through their model homes. I just loved everything about it and spent a lot of time there. I would bring my friends and my family to the models; I knew the exact floor plan that I wanted and I made that my goal.”
With a dream and dedication to achieving it, Annah soon earned enough money for a down payment on a new condo.
“When I first bought my condo I had a futon and a mattress on the floor, but I had my house,” Annah says with a smile.
It was the insightful observation of a sales agent that prompted Annah to take a leap into a territory that seemed farfetched but would soon prove to be perfect.
“I was sitting on the floor of the model home picking out colors for my condo,” recalls Annah, “and the agent said ‘You should think about what you’re doing.’ It wasn’t long afterwards that I left teaching and started working as an onsite sales agent for the community.”
That sales agent may not have known about Annah’s challenging childhood, but he did see her deep desire to become a homeowner, the sparkle in her eyes when finally obtaining something that she has wanted for so long: a place to call home.
It was his prompt that set Annah on a path to using her past to help others’ futures.
Love at First Home Site
Brad Norris, an executive in the Greensboro restaurant industry, was in search of a new home. One of the stops in his house-hunting excursion was Annah’s condo community.
“I was working when he came by looking for a house,” says Annah. “And that’s how we met!”
Brad and Annah married in May 2005 and just four months later, the two had packed their belongings, quit their jobs and moved to Ocean Isle.
“I worked a lot,” explains Annah. “A lot. I mean I worked all the way up to the day before my wedding. One of the ladies I worked with offered and persuaded me to take a break and stay in her condo in Sunset Beach. And so we went!”
Brad and Annah were enjoying the getaway, driving around town and getting lost for fun. The couple crossed the bridge to Ocean Isle Beach where they stopped downtown to get ice cream. It was that experience that sold the couple on their next steps.
“All I had was a debit card,” says Annah. “And they only accepted cash. I had already started eating my ice cream and I felt horrible! The sweet girl told us not to worry about it, to just come by the next day and settle up. And then something happened at the post office the next day that showed me that people here are just different. I thought, ‘What is going on? People are so great here!’”
On the way back to Sunset Beach after a day of exploring, Annah spotted an open house in the community of Ocean Ridge. She gave Brad last-minute instruction to check it out, he wheeled into the neighborhood and, as Annah puts it, “That was the beginning of a whole new thing! We bought a house that day!”
In September 2005 Brad and Annah moved to Ocean Ridge, where Annah joined the community’s sales team. After realizing that his wife loved her career and made a decent living at it, Brad chose to follow in her footsteps. Brad assumed the role as sales assistant with Rivers Edge Plantation.
After a few years of living and working in the Ocean Isle community, Annah was connected with Bill Clark Homes, a real estate developer and new homebuilder with offices in Wilmington. In January 2008, she joined the team as a sales manager. Still living in Ocean Isle and commuting two hours each day began to wear on the couple.
“So we moved to Wilmington,” says Annah. “But that didn’t last long. After just a few months, I woke up in the middle of the night in hysterics. I was pregnant, so that didn’t help, I’m sure. But I knew that I wanted to be back in Ocean Isle. I wanted to raise my family there.”
Happy at Home
Annah and Brad are now enjoying their home in Parker’s Pointe, a beautiful community located on the Intracoastal Waterway near the bridge to Ocean Isle Beach. Annah remains with Bill Clark Homes, and Brad now runs his own general real estate company.
“I have a great job,” says Annah. “It’s worth the drive. Plus, I get to go home and have a vacation every evening and every weekend.”
Now sales and marketing director for Bill Clark Homes, Annah has her hands in home design, pricing and marketing as well as managing and training the sales team for a division with 16 Carolina communities stringing from Sunset Beach to Jacksonville.
“I love doing what I do,” says Annah. “Especially working with communities in Brunswick County. There are people here who work their whole lives to buy a house. More than most people, I know that is a really big deal. And I let it be a big deal. I love helping build houses for people and helping them make it a home through their furniture and design choices. I didn’t have any of that growing up. So this is truly a dream.”
Brad and Annah, who started their family two and half years ago with the birth of their daughter, Addison, pour all of their hearts into making their own house a home. Not only for their daughter, but for others in need as well.
“I don’t spend my money on clothes and jewelry,” says Annah. “All of my effort is in making a home for my family. I’ve got everything I have wanted in my life, and, while we are so careful not to spoil her, my little girl is going to experience it. That makes all the work worthwhile.”
“And soon we want to start fostering,” continues Annah. “It’s been on my heart for years and years. Growing up, I had so many people helping me. People would anonymously fill my locker with groceries, pay for my sports uniform because we couldn’t afford to. I remember being a recipient of a lot growing up. I worked really hard but I obviously didn’t get here on my own; a lot of people helped me. We have been so blessed, given so much. It’s time now that we give back to others, to love others so that they can experience love like I did.”