Palmetto Pointe

This Lake Murray waterfront will soon be the site of 116 new homes in Saluda County as development of the $15 million Palmetto Pointe begins this fall. Provided

COLUMBIA — Potential buyers are paying $250 deposits just for the chance to tour the first subdivision being developed on the shores of Lake Murray in a decade.

So far, 90 first-look passes for the 116-lot project have been sold. The tours don't start until October.

“There’s been this huge supply-demand issue around Lake Murray,” said Dean Sinatra, who is developing the subdivision. “A lot of people have been priced out of that market.”

Located in Saluda County, Palmetto Pointe is going on one of the lake's more rural, slower-growing areas.

But new incoming industry should bring in the population to buy the lakefront homes, said Miriam Atria, chief executive of the Capital City/Lake Murray Country tourism organization.

“The timing is right,” she said.

Sinatra had expected Palmetto Pointe, with its 2 miles of direct lake shore access and 70 boat dock-eligible lots, to pull in buyers from Atlanta, Augusta, Charlotte and Greenville looking for a weekend house.

Instead, interest has been more local.

“This is kind of different for us,” said Sinatra, managing partner of American Land Holdings, a Charlottesville, Va.-based builder that specializes in waterfront development in the Southeast.

About 90 percent of the early-viewing reservations have come from Lexington residents. He assumes most of those people will make these lots their primary residence.

“It’s been very interesting,” Sinatra said. “There’s this groundswell of activity.”

Saluda County has just not had a tremendous amount of new housing growth over the years, said Will Williams, chief executive of Economic Development Partnership that serves the area.

"There’s not as much workforce housing as what's needed," he said.

But with most of the Lake Murray property in Lexington and Richland counties already developed, Saluda County has become the next growth area around the lake, Williams said.

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When Samsung opened a washer plant in Newberry, the company brought in many of its executives, who have gone  20 to 30 miles away to Irmo and Chapin for homes, Newberry County economic director Rick Farmer said.

"I remember when Irmo was a sleepy little town," he said, and at least 60,000 people are now living within a 10 mile radius of Chapin. "I think we’re next."

Samsung and the opening of a supplier for the Upstate's BMW auto plant already led to development of Newberry's first new subdivision in 25 years. Upon completion, it will contain 80 homes.

"I've had multiple existing industries tell me they have retention problems because half their workforce is commuting in every day," Farmer said.

Sinatra is hopeful his lakefront development will appeal to buyers looking for a middle-market price range rather than something just high-end.

"We expect waterfront lot prices to start in the ($50,000s) and up and interior lot inventory to start from $9,900 and up," he said. "Lot sizes will vary from half-acre to three acres."

Jessica Holdman is a business reporter for The Post & Courier covering Columbia. Prior to moving to South Carolina, she reported on business in North Dakota for The Bismarck Tribune and has previously written for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash.