Melanie Balog column: Beauty in the eye of the beholder when it comes to housing

The wishy-washy nature of the Interstate 526 completion means a lot of homeowners are in limbo.

Maybe even more so after the release last week of a study commissioned by the Coastal Conservation League to see how property values would be affected by the road's completion.

This was all brought about by the Charleston County Council's somewhat nebulous offer to compensate homeowners affected by the road. The survey, incidentally, did not identify any magic pot of money from which to make those payments, which is probably what folks were most interested in.

There's no question the burden is on the homeowners, but take a minute to think about the real estate agents who work in that area. They're required to disclose facts about prospective properties to their clients, like mold in the home, or termites.

“However, with regard to I-526, such a disclosure would be premature,” said Meghan Byrnes Weinreich, marketing and communications director for the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors. “Charleston County has not decided on the path of the roadway, so there is no credible way to determine whether a property will be affected or not.”

But that doesn't stop 526 from coming up in conversations between Realtors and their clients, she added, as it probably has for the past 20 years or more.

Location, location

What people say they will do when it comes to buying a house, and what they actually do, are not always the same. For instance, a majority of survey respondents estimated it would take about 10 months longer to sell a house within 1,000 feet of the parkway than if the same home were farther away.

“I question the question,” Weinreich said. “There are so many market factors that determine days on market — current inventory, how badly that person wants to be in that area.” In other words, if you really want to live on James Island or Johns Island, you may be willing to make trade-offs about the specific location.

Likewise, survey respondents expected a discounted price on a home that's closer to a main road than 3.5 miles. That might sound reasonable, until your first grocery store trip or rush-hour commute.

“Many people live a lot closer to major roads than 3.5 miles,” she said.

The Gateway to Charleston homes near the Highway 17 off-ramp on St. Philip certainly are a good deal closer than that, and they seem to have sold pretty well.

More time

It takes one look at the James Island connector and the properties surrounding it to see that some of the fears raised in the study might be unfounded, or at least slightly inflated.

Property values probably haven't decreased significantly since the connector was built, she points out, and that's a great deal of waterfront property.

Now, it's true none of this may necessarily help the homeowners like the ones featured in reporter Diane Knich's story this week.

“It'll take the actual planning of the roadway to determine how the properties are going to be affected,” Weinreich said.

The only thing they're buying right now is time.

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