About the time greater Charleston launched its comeback from the late 2000s housing slump, Edisto island and beach were headed toward a real estate slowdown as unyielding as pluff mud and as hard to grasp as loose sand.
Under whelming sales figures and sagging prices dogged Edisto Island and neighboring Edisto Beach in Colleton County for the next four or five years.
Then almost overnight, Edisto’s financial footing at the shore, marsh and open lands seemed to firm up. Both the beach and lower Charleston County-based island so far this year are witnessing sales bursts and price increases — although dollar figures remain at 50 percent of the 2006-07 peak at Edisto and are at bargain rates compared with other Lowcountry ocean- and river-side properties.
Metro Charleston’s overall climb in real estate transactions and home values has lasted three to six years. By contrast, Edisto beach and island just now seem to be rising from a financial sand pit and sharing in the real estate largesse 35 miles to the northeast.
“It’s coming this way, almost like a wave,” says Marie Bost, broker-in-charge of Edisto Island Real Estate Co. She’s witnessed a “tremendous amount” of business, with more activity going on now than any time in recent memory.
Falling home loan interest rates, at 3.59 percent for a 30-year conventional mortgage, play a role in the area’s sales jump. At the same time, home prices remain low.
“It’s the only time in history I’ve seen values and home interest rates marry,” Bost says. Comparatively inexpesnive costs combined with ultra-low mortgage rates offer buyers great financial deals. “You can get 20 percent more house,” she says. Owners are willing to sell, too, because prices are climbing, albeit in very small steps.
Signs of the Edisto housing business’ rocky ride appear in Charleston Trident Association of Realtors figures. According to the group’s annual housing market report for 2015, the Edisto area ranks last in median price change from 2011 to 2015 among 17 cities, towns and regions that the association tracks with an 0.5 percent decline. But Edisto home prices jumped 16.9 percent to $339,000 in 2015 from $290,000 the year before, placing third highest.
In terms of sales activity, the Edisto area dropped 7 percent between 2015 and the previous year, besting only one Charleston area region.
Yet island and beach Realtors contend that this year’s initial boost in real estate sales and marginal price gains should last.
“Right now, things are moving much more in the last three or four months than in quite some time,” says Matt van Bakergem, agent with Prudential Kapp/Lyons Realty. “Everyone is commenting on it.”
The associate says that sales of second homes and vacation homes, which lagged the market, have perked up as of late. “I think the market was on the fence,” van Bakergem says. Now property owners are “pulling the trigger.”
Most of the home sales or houses on the market lately are higher-priced properties, such as a $1.2 million residence at gated Jeremy Cay and “a lot of $700,000 to $900,000 properties,” he says. Many purchases are all cash.
At the same time, a number of homes for sale in the $250,000 to $420,000 range are languishing. Some houses need a lot of work. “It’s kind of slow picking,” he says.
van Bakergem foresees a gradual rise in the real estate market. “The appeal of Edisto is it’s not overgrown (or) overdeveloped. People want to keep it that way,” he says.
Jim Kempson, veteran agent with Carolina One Real Estate, sees a boost now at all market levels. “You’re getting bread-and-butter (sales) of $200,000 to $500,000 (and) a $700,000, $900,000, $1.2 million. I’ve got six sales in the past 10 days,” he says. “You can’t maintain that pace,” he acknowledges.
A new trend at Edisto, according to Kempson, involves Realtors from hot Charleston area markets such as Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant referring possible buyers to Edisto agents, noting that East Cooper prices are so high.
“We are half (Isle of Palms’ prices),” Kempson says. Along with costing less, Edisto island and beach are “not as congested,” he says.
To some extent, the Edisto market woke up this year because it was time. “We are past due,” Kempson says. “We are off a lot of people’s radar. Now the buzz is going out, ‘Wow, have you looked at Edisto?’” he says.
Local Realtors believe the island’s and beach’s growth remains incremental, so there’s little danger of a market surge as in the mid-2000s boom.
“It’s a good solid market,” Bost says, “Not like 2006 when (real estate) was going crazy.”
Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.