Town & Condo Charleston area shoppers, investors lured to townhouses, condos by value costs and built-in perks

New luxury townhomes are selling quickly at Poplar Grove west of the Ashley.

Senior homeowners considering moves — now that their children have flown the coop — still want to feather their new nests.

The trouble they’re facing, real estate watchers say, is the dearth of affordable properties that provide accoutrements such as granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and ground-level master bedrooms. Single-family homes can be more costly and require maintenance upkeep. But there are residential alternatives.

“So far, there’s a big portion of the population today that’s downsizing,” says Deborah Wingard, broker-in-charge with builder Southeastern Family Homes.

Empty nesters hunt for smaller places, but that’s not enough; “they want luxury,” she says. Upscale townhomes can offer reduced square footages, cost much less than houses and still offer prime perks.

Wingard cites Southeastern Family Homes’ new 2,200- to 2,400-square-foot townhomes priced $361,000-$384,900 in the Poplar Grove planned community, located off Davison Road straddling northwestern Charleston and southeastern Dorchester counties.

“They seem like Charleston single homes — 10-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, coffered ceilings,” she says. Scores of windows let in natural light, and each townhome overlooks a courtyard. Master bedrooms are on the first floor, second bedrooms and lofts upstairs.

The builder intends to raise 53 townhomes in the next few years. The first four were built and sold in the past year, while two of the next four are under contract, even though construction just started.

“I’ve been in real estate for 27 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Wingard says.

Condos and townhomes are proving in demand these days, although not at the faddish levels of the late 1990s and early 2000s when developers converted rental apartments to properties for purchase.

Inventory shortages plague home sales in the Charleston area, and townhomes and condos are gaining interest as alternatives.

According to Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, the condo market share ranges as high as 43.7 percent in downtown Charleston, or more than four in every 10 properties. Oceanside communities Kiawah and Seabrook islands and Folly Beach as well as Daniel Island fall between 34.6 and 41.2 percent in condo share, while lower Mount Pleasant, Wando-Cainhoy area, Isle of Palms, upper Mount Pleasant and the Edisto area range from 21.9 percent to 29.9 percent condos. Meanwhile, condo sales prices surged from a $138,000 median in 2011 to $182,000 last year, the association notes.

Tides IV on Charleston Harbor kicked off foundation work last year, the first new major condo development in the Charleston area since the housing slide in 2008. Agents say sales are strong at Tides IV, which is close to completed and joins three existing condos off Wingo Way in Mount Pleasant.

West Ashley and Summerville also are turning into attractive markets for condos and townhomes. “I’ve sold 12 in the past three months,” says Bob Winstead, associate with Carolina One New Homes at Parsonage Point off S.C. Highway 61. The 35-year-old community converted to rental properties after the market slide. Two years ago, the developer started reverting the dwellings to saleable properties. One-bedroom townhomes sell for $75,000, two-bedroom at $109,000 and three-bedroom, $124,000. The group switches over units as tenants move out. Thus far, 52 properties have sold out of 107 total. Winstead says the townhomes are in attractive locales. “There’s a pool and clubhouse as part of the community (as well as a laundry),” he says. A public boat landing stands next door.

For investors,” it’s a really good rental market,” Winstead says. “You have choices.”

Meanwhile, Savannah builder Landmark 24 plans to raise 18 townhomes at Berkeley Commons off Main Street east of Summerville. The three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath townhomes are 1,660 square feet and cost $159,900. “It’s a great price point,” says Wendell Lucas of Carolina One, who represents Landmark 24 at Berkeley Commons.

“I sold two in the past week. The traffic is very good, averaging two to four calls a week from agents and passersby,” he says.

The design includes alluring living rooms, covered porches and French doors, he says.

While not in the limelight these days, condos and townhomes are steady sales, Lucas indicates. “I think they haven’t gone anywhere. It’s (for) the entry-level buyer. The price (below $200,000) is a hotbed of activity.”

Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.