Housing market improving as top-end Summerville area village in final stage for father-son developers
By JIM PARKER
The Post and Courier
The Murphrees endured two market slumps since launching the Summit neighborhood off Parsons Road near Summerville 24 years ago.
The first time the community “went through a drought” was in 1992-93. It lasted about a year, says John Murphree, who with son Mike Murphree developed Summit.
From that time on, sales would climb year after year as homeowners bought the large .68 to 1.1 acre lots and lined up custom builders who crafted swanky homes. The upscale village grew to about 120 residences as backers completed the first sales phase and all but two lots in the second phase.
The market was so strong that the Murphrees accumulated a waiting list of 200 people for the third and final building phase, expecting to offer 52 lots priced at $150,000 or more.
“It was really good,” the father says, “until 2008.”
In short order, the super-heated national housing market lost its spark. Buyers couldn’t afford mortgage payments, home construction waned and prices sank.
Summit’s expansion plans were put on indefinite hold. The slump carried into 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. Finally, toward the end of last year and into early 2013, the housing market stabilized. It now seems to be in recovery mode.
During those down years, the established Summit neighborhood stood up well. Throughout the community are sprawling brick- and clapboard-sided homes with interior appointments and grandiose perks such as, in one case, five garages. The last half dozen resales fetched prices from $425,000 to $650,000.
“The homeowners association and ARB have done a nice job,” John Murphree says.
Meanwhile, the family venture, named 2nd South Properties and Construction Inc. because the Murphrees are neighbors on 2nd South Street in Summerville, prepared the remaining lots in the second phase and 52 spaces in the last section on 50 acres. They’ve readied the land with power grids and water and sewer lines. Roads are cleared. Lot prices are at $99,900, 35 percent below the peak.
With the market picking up, the partners are back in business selling lots. “We sold one this year,” Murphree says. Still, he acknowledges that the lot turnover rate isn’t expected to surge instantly. “This is a move-up,” he says. “People have to sell their house.”
The move-up market is showing signs of a turnaround, so the father-and-son partners expect they can sell properties at their current prices and up.
“We don’t want to give it away,” says John Murphree, who grew up on a farm near Lake Keowee in the Upstate and moved to Moncks Corner to work for the Soil Conservation Service 54 years ago. His wife is from the Charleston area — “one of the gals got me,” he quipped — and he would move onto a job with the Army Corps of Engineers. From there, he got into real estate development. His early projects include Okatee near Goose Creek started in 1974, the upscale Newington neighborhood in Summerville two years later and Tramway in Berkeley County in 1979.
In 1989, Murphree and his son bought land that once included a soybean field and kicked off Summit.
Mike Murphree grew up in Dorchester County and played football at Summerville High for John McKissick-coached teams in the 1980s that went 41-1 and included future NFL running back Stanford Jennings — who would be in a Super Bowl with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Driving his 2006 Chevy Silverado pickup on the dirt roads of the final phase earlier this week, Mike Murphree nodded to his dad in the backseat on how he ended up as a developer.
“I grew up with this fella. I learned to operate the equipment,” and stayed on the job. Today he is 2nd South’s managing partner.
The father and son are hands off when it comes to the lots they sell in Summit, which is a mile from downtown Summerville and close to shopping centers off nearby Central Avenue. The neighborhood has a few standards. Homes must be at least 2,400 square feet, and the developers preserve as much of the forest as they can. That way, buyers “can pick specimen trees” for their yards, Mike Murphree says.
Homes are a minimum 30 feet apart and are at least 62 feet from the street. John Murphree says his farming background taught him to appreciate ample space.
“I think it’s good to have one place where you don’t have to shake hands (with your neighbors) through the windows,” he says.
Lot buyers are responsible to clear their land and secure a custom builder. Contractors over the years include Schumacher Homes, Eisenhut Construction, Tyler Construction, G. Tupper III Construction and the Murphrees themselves.
Summit doesn’t have community amenities, but Mike Murphree explained the real attraction is the acreage. “We have enough land on a lot for your own swimming pool.”
The father and son plan to finish up the neighborhood the same way they launched it. “I told these people in 1992 that I started off with big lots; I’m committed this way,” John Murphree says. “I could have cut them down; at 1/4 acre they would have sold like hotcakes.”
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.