When it comes to the old glass half-full or half-empty debate, Chris Garvin sides with the optimistic crowd.

Consider how Garvin, a real estate agent with Elaine Brabham & Associates off Sam Rittenberg Boulevard in Charleston, views the local housing market.

“Out of 8,841 active (properties), 871 are lender-owned or short sales.” In other words, less than 10 percent of dwellings and land for sale are distressed.

“They keep saying it’s all doom and gloom with the real estate market,” Garvin says. “It’s not all that bad.”

Not only that, she believes real estate can be a solid investment, even in a time when the housing market is recovering from a prolonged slump.

Actually, she contends that two areas of opportunity are foreclosed properties, where the bank repossesses a house, and short sales, where the lender negotiates terms with the seller even though it may not recover all its money.

“Investors can buy these things at such a low cost,” she says. Interest rates remain low, which can help with financing. And owners can generate income by renting out their properties.

“It’s kind of a ‘win-win’ situation,” she says. According to Garvin, fixing up the distressed homes or land helps the economy and uplifts neighborhoods. Real estate auctions can be a prime place to pick up under-priced properties. “It’s really exciting.”

Prospective buyers can get help from special programs as well. Homeowners can fix up a foreclosed property, for instance, using low-interest 203 (k) rehabilitation loans and other types of home renovation funding offered by lenders.

The agent currently is marketing at least three properties with investment potential. A townhome in Coosaw Commons off Dorchester Road can generate rental income.

“We actually just put it on the market. It has two bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, common area, great room, dining room and kitchen.”

The site is not far from major employers such as Boeing and Charleston Air Force Base. “It would be a great rental property,” she says.

A house and land off Savannah Highway past Ravenel is being leased and could be converted into commercial use. Another property picks up value by being across S.C. Highway 162 from Stono Ferry.

Garvin says home shoppers need to put the recent real estate downturn in prospective.

“Before, you were selling high and buying high. Now you are selling low, but you are buying low, with a great interest rate (about 5 percent for a 30-year fixed loan).”

“History is proof that everything goes in cycles. We are now in a real estate recovery mode,” Garvin says. “There are so many opportunities for just about anyone, and they should be taking advantage.”

To find out more, call 766-6662 or visit findyourcharleston.com.