The Folly Beach that Lilla Folsom knows as a real estate agent overlaps – sort of – with the island she’s familiar with as a local visitor walking in the sand.

“I think it will always be the most laid back of the beaches,” she says. Her husband Foster Folsom surfed at Folly since the 1960s and still takes the board out every day, she says.

“It’s for health, I guess,” says Folsom, a Realtor with Carolina Elite Real Estate. “People out there are surfing, swimming, cycling. It’s a really good experience. You don’t get in air conditioning; just have a good time,” she says.

From a real estate standpoint, Folsom notes that Folly Beach home “prices are going up.” She’s listing “a gorgeous home” along Teal Marsh Road in the town’s sphere of influence but beyond the island’s causeway.

Folsom also markets a house on East Erie Avenue that sports glass retaining walls in the front. “You hit a button; they open up to the outside. It’s kind of a ‘hip’ home,” she says. “It’s not your grandfather’s beach house.”

As a town with a bustling business district, Folly Beach would really be too large to call a neighborhood. But the island shares distinctions that make it tight-knit. There’s the landmark Folly Beach Pier, the Center Street nightlife, the off-the-ocean dwellings that rent cheaply co-existing with the million-dollar spectacles that grace the front beach. There’s also the periodic battle against beach erosion that’s brought two renourishment projects this year including fixing up the county park on the western end.

Despite ups and downs, Folly’s real estate market seems to be active.

“Eighteen months ago, there was too much inventory,” says Adam Killerman, who started his real estate career involved with Folly Beach properties and now lists homes for the island’s Avocet Properties brokerage. “The pendulum’s swinging. There’s not as much inventory (now).”

Killerman says the island’s proving attractive as a destination for visitors who drive five to six hours or less, and as a place to buy a home just 20 minutes from downtown Charleston.

“I think there are a number of factors (for the allure),” he says. “It’s still a sleepy beach town.” At the same time, “I’ve seen a wonderful transition in the commercial district.” The oceanside community that rolled up the streets after the summer tourist season now showcases leisure businesses that stick around. “The restaurants, they have legs to get through the winter,” he says.

Tides Hotel, owned by Avocet Properties, fronts the beach — which stretches more than six miles in Folly. “You’ve got more bed and breakfasts,” he says.

Killerman currently lists at least 11 island properties, and they fit with the Folly’s offbeat image. “Eclectic, we like to call it,” he says.

“You’ve got such a great variety: “Some vacant lots (for sale), two duplexs, two second row, a third row house,” Killerman says.

One agent who sees a more sluggish real estate picture as of late started in the business on Folly Beach in the 1970s.

“The market is very slow right now,” says Lajuan Kennedy, broker-in-charge of Fred Holland Realty. She says the slowdown is partly seasonal: Fall and winter aren’t big months for the business.

“We were doing well, for awhile,” she says, citing an upward bump after the housing recession. But, “even the rentals slowed down” earlier this year.

Kennedy predicts the slowing pace will be short term. “I’m optimistic. There are great deals.” You can buy a house costing $1.5 million during the height of the housing market in 2006 and 2007 for $1 million today, she says. “Right now, people are looking for a bargain.”

Kennedy says the island has picked up steam as a destination place, for instance for weddings. “A lot of people have weddings on the beach.”

The island may be moving upscale in some ways, but it won’t lose it’s down-to-earth charm, Kennedy says. “It’s a funky little beach.We are not the Isle of Palms or Kiawah. We are Folly,” she says.

Folsom agrees. “I think Folly will always have the little quirkiness,” she says. “No one will ever call it stuffy.”

To get to Folly Beach from downtown Charleston, access Lockwood Drive or Calhoun Street and turn onto the James Island connector. At the end of the connector, turn left on Folly Road. Proceed on Folly Road for about seven miles. Cross over the bridge onto Center Street and to the island.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.