Coming up Azaleas Greater Summerville real estate market drawing buyers to new, vintage homes near jobs

Summerville proclaims itself the birthplace of sweet tea. File/Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery 

Big local employers now and into the next decade — Boeing, Volvo, Daimler, Bosch, Charleston Air Force Base — share a striking geographic feature. They’re all within 15 minutes or so of the largest town in Dorchester County.

A former resort and early 20th century whistle stop, Summerville’s population tops 50,000 people today, including areas straddling North Charleston, Ladson and Goose Creek. New neighborhoods are springing up on all sides as professionals upsize to start a family, empty nesters locate to smaller ranch houses and retirees choose 55-plus communities. They’re swooping in to purchase just-built colonial and Lowcountry style houses on the outskirts of town or decades-old wood frame and brick homes in the downtown historic district.

Prices typically below $500,000 and attractive lending terms have combined to boost interest from various groups of Summerville area home shoppers — “military, Boeing (employees), upsizing, downsizing,” says Todd Evans, real estate associate with Coldwell Banker United, Realtors.

At least for now, the rising demand hasn’t shoved up prices. But the buyer’s market may not last for long.

“You better buy now,” Evans says.

He lists a 3,015-square-foot house in Whitehall, a secluded neighborhood tucked between the Ashley River and Dorchester Road just south of Summerville. The two-story contemporary home with four bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths stands in what agents tout as a top educational area, Dorchester School District II. The 16-year-old house lists for $324,000, or half as much as in trendier communities east of the Cooper, the real estate agent notes. Typical prices for two-story homes in metro Summerville run around $105 a square foot.

Further, mortgage interest rates remain below 4 percent, near their historic lows.

“If you go up to 4-5 percent, a $200,000 home (will) go up,” Evans says, noting the monthly home payments could escalate by a couple hundred dollars. “To me, $200 a month is a lot of money,” he says.

Another flash point is the Summerville area’s home inventory. Around metro Charleston, the volume of available homes continues to dwindle, thanks to latent financial hiccups from the national recession and housing slump in the late 2000s.

“If the inventory is low, it will push prices up,” Evans says. “You are going to have buyers who are desperate.” Conditions could change as soon as the summer, he says. “Houses (for sale) are going to be multiple offers.”

Candace Pratt, Realtor with ReMax Pro Realty, says the greater Summerville market proves to be “more active right now. It’s picking up for spring.”

The veteran agent also finds that employees of new and expanding companies such as Volvo and Daimler are looking close at homes to buy. “I think we are seeing inquiries from people moving here for new businesses,” she says, noting the upcoming relocations could take awhile to impact the market.

Pratt agrees that “our (Summerville’s) prices are still affordable.” Among her listings is a 3,420 square foot home in the “desirable” Summit neighborhood for $424,900. “There are still wonderful homes to buy this way.”

Housing inventories, she says, are shrinking when it comes to entry level residences. But the volume of homes on the market overall has remained “in balance,” the ReMax associate says.

According to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, greater Summerville has gradually beefed up its sales totals and midpoint home prices. In 2015, the median price reached $194,000, up 21.8 percent from four years earlier.

Summerville’s 12.1 percent gain in home sales last year compared with 2014 lagged Dorchester, Berkeley and Charleston counties as a whole.

While worried about a future inventory shortage or rising interest rates, Evans talks bullishly about the housing outlook today in the Summerville area. “The market is definitely picking up,” he says. “Sales are way up.”

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