On a bitterly cold Tuesday with snow and freezing rain possible, Mary Gillis huddled at her office in Bridlewood Farms drawing up a sales contract.
"I'm on fire," she says, oblivious to the unseasonably frigid weather. "We've been very busy."
Gillis' story can be duplicated throughout the Ridgeville area where Dan Ryan Builders' Bridlewood Farms stands and in nearby Jedburg, which extends from U.S Highway 78 to exit 194 in Berkeley County.
"We are certainly located along major commuter routes, north of Interstate 26 and south on Highway 61," says Gillis, sales associate with Dan Ryan Builders.
Either way, homeowners can reach Interstate 95, a straight route to places such as Disney World. "You can go see Mickey," she quips.
The Jedburg-Ridgeville area cuts across sectors in the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors housing report, but as a guide, rural Berkeley County's closed sales shot up 54.9 percent last year from 2012 and rural Dorchester County's sales rose 28.1 percent. The areas both ranked in the top five regions for sales growth in metro Charleston in 2013.
The town of Ridgeville sits seven miles further north at exit 187 and connects with Jedburg by way of Highway 78. Most larger neighborhoods in the area were built in the past 10 years. They include Felder Creek in Berkeley County and Drakesborough in Dorchester County near Mallard Road - both developed by Beazer Homes.
Bridlewood Farms, while having a Ridgeville address, is located several miles south of the town of about 2,000. Youngsters are in the same Dorchester District 2 school zone as Summerville.
"It will eventually be 800 homes," she says. At present, the community marks 160 homes, up from a handful five years ago. The soon-to-launch second phase will include a pet park and dog pond.
"I tell people that Ridgeville is what Summerville was 15 years ago," Gillis says.
The areas benefit from two complementary workforce perks. I-26 and other major roadways are close by, making it easy to drive to and from major employers and businesses in North Charleston, Goose Creek and Charleston. "Boeing people live here," Gillis says.
At the same time, a number of large warehouse and distribution buildings are off Jedburg Road, and the expanding Showa Denko Carbon has a plant in Ridgeville.
Gillis says a sign of the area's popularity stems from the home costs. "The base price has grown $25,000 in the past three years," she says. Yet even with rising dollar totals, Bridlewood hasn't been more popular. "I'm selling like crazy," she says. Another lure of the neighborhood is it sits in a rural area where 100 percent U.S. Department of Agriculture financing can be secured.
She says problems can crop up if home appraisals come in too low for the purchase price. That hasn't happened at Bridlewood Farms. "There's no underappraising," she says.
Places such as Jedburg and Ridgeville attract buyers because they're effectively in the country while close enough to jobs and city perks such as restaurants and entertainment.
They're "the best investment for the greatest return," Gillis says. "It's what people look for from a community: room to breath, desirable schools and an easy commute."
To reach the Ridgeville-Jedburg area from downtown Charleston, head west on I-26. Travel close to 30 miles to exit 194 for Jedburg Road, passing by Summerville.
Neighborhoods can be found either turning right or left on Jedburg Road. Go another seven miles on I-26 to exit 187 for the town of Ridgeville.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Location: Dorchester-Berkeley counties
Number of homes: Around 1,000
Square footage: 1,232-6,127
Look & feel: The two communities are more than a few miles apart, yet the surrounding area fills in the semi-rural expanses northwest of Summerville. The newer neighborhoods tend to be cropped from pine forests on the edge of lands cleared for farms and light industrial development. Country settings outside the newer subdivisions sport properties with an acre or so to 22 acres or more. Most of the growth stands a couple of miles from Interstate 26 or U.S Highway 78. Newer communities were built in the last decade or so and offer houses priced from the $150,000s to $300,000. Estate-like properties date as far back as 1906. The sector includes parts of Dorchester and Berkeley counties.
Homes on market: 70 or more
List prices: $50,000-$890,000
Schools: (Dorchester 2) Reeves Elementary, DuBose Middle, Summerville High, (Berkeley) Cane Bay Elementary, Middle and High; Pinewood Prep (private).
Fun facts: Wassamassaw, located off Jedburg Road in Berkeley County, is a Native American word thought to mean connecting water; the first causeway and bridge through nearby Four Holes Swamp cypress forest dates to 1753.