Ten years ago, the Lowcountry landscape was a bit different. Yes, traffic was lighter and so were home values. Not only that, there simply weren’t as many homes.

But, times are changing. Never before have Lowcountry residents had such a broad range of choices, places and spaces to live. Single family homes were once the norm, but Charleston changes as the demand does.

We now have different dwellings in our midst and different, to some, is much better.

Townhomes vs condos

Condos are individual units within one large building. A buyer owns one unit of many. Common spaces and other costs to maintain the structure are charged to owners via monthly or HOA fees. These fees can be a few hundred to thousands, depending upon what the community offers. Interior and exterior maintenance, insurance, utilities, reserve funds and other costs can be part of the fees associated with condo ownership.

Townhomes are typically two or three storied homes and unlike condos, they stand side by side, as “homes,” attached, but usually a neighbor doesn’t share a ceiling or floor. Sometimes there’s a garage and you may own the land beneath your townhome. Usually a resident is responsible for the exterior (but not always) and utilities are normally paid by each individual owner. Sometimes a townhome may have a small courtyard or backyard for each individual unit. HOA and monthly fees are associated with these dwellings as well.

Condos and townhomes have been part of ‘mainstream” living for several decades in larger cities such as Manhattan, but recently the Lowcountry is answering the call (and the need) for these types of homes.

Downtown

“While many condominium buildings were built in downtown Charleston from 2005-2008, including the XXI George, 76 Society, 175 Concord and Anson House among others, the recession and lack of bank financing put a decade hold on such endeavors,” said Kristin Walker of Dunes Properties of Charleston. “It was only 2017 that new options were launched – 76 condos at The Gadsden and eight luxury condos at Harleston Gates in Harleston Village, both mostly sold out.”

Walker said she’s seen several condo and townhome projects go before Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review in the past six to nine months.

“If all goes well, I expect 2020 to offer many and varied choices for buyers willing to wait for a new place to be constructed,” she said. Walker has listings in Harleston Gates and says prices range from $1.875 million to $2.253 million. The penthouse is listed for $2.9 million.

“Luxury condo buyers look for open floor plans, a large master suite with dual vanity and double closets, 10-foot ceilings and as much outdoor space as possible,” Walker said. “Many are still buying condos as second homes and there is a downsizing trend among primary homeowners coming from larger high-maintenance homes and yards who want something turn-key and worry-free, but still offers the accommodations of their larger home. The Penthouse terraces at Harleston Gates has nearly 1,000 square feet, allowing owners to have multiple seating areas, outdoor kitchens, fire pits and more. I wish I had 20 more of them to sell.”

Jane Smith Smith of Carriage Properties agrees that the demand is growing. “We have seen an increase in sales for this segment of the market during the first six months of 2019. There have been 38 townhomes and condos sold below the Crosstown between $500K to $1 million.”

Smith Smith said there is a strong market for buyers to purchase townhomes or condos that they use part-time and live in seasonally. HOAs and regimes are set up to accommodate these residents in terms of management and other factors. “We continue to have a high demand for large luxury apartments well located,” she said.

Smith Smith lists one such condo at 160 East Bay in the heart of the French Quarter close to everything Charleston. “This top floor unit features two bedrooms with ensuite baths, spacious living area and gourmet kitchen, with one deeded parking space and steps to Waterfront Park and The Battery.” The list price is $670,000.

Downtown luxury condos command a premium price. Most new construction can fetch between $800 to $1110 per square foot according to Walker. The high cost of land in downtown Charleston, construction prices and buyer demand for amenities and luxury finishes warrant those prices. Downtown buyers seeking these upscale living spaces are more than willing to pay the price to live large in urban communal settings.

The Gadsden is the first purpose-built condo community completed on the Charleston Peninsula in a decade. Meeting the stringent and required building codes for both storm and seismic activity, it’s constructed entirely of steel and concrete with storm-rated windows.

“With limited availability on the lower peninsula, we believe this type of community will become even more popular,” said Mac Triplet, Director of Sales. “Our roof is reserved for community space with a rooftop pool, sundeck, outdoor kitchen, fire pit and spacious owner’s lounge.”

Green spaces within the city are important to these buyers as well. “One of our favorite amenities, Gadsdenboro Park, is a gorgeous five-acre city green space right outside our front door.” These uber-cool condos also have a fitness center, concierge services, pet-washing station and Charleston’s first car share program.

“Our buyers are a wide variety – from young professionals to retirees – and everything in between,” Triplet said. “They’re drawn to the location which is walkable to everything that makes downtown so great. It’s more than a building, it’s a community with spaces designed to connect people.”

Condo homes at The Gadsden range from $500,000 up to $1.2 million and they’re selling quickly.

Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant’s newest townhome communities, The Warrington in north Mount Pleasant and Sea Island Hamlet in south Mount Pleasant are opening soon and buyers are eagerly anticipating these beautifully-designed townhomes. The Warrington, under construction by Mungo Homes, has 2,200 square-feet, three-bedroom townhomes within the established and well-appointed community of Park West. Prices start in the low $400,000s and six are slated for completion in August. Sea Island Hamlet’s prices begin in the high $400,000s. Constructed by New Leaf Builders, opening is scheduled for September.

What both communities have in common are thoughtfully-designed spaces with proximity to amenities and walkability to green spaces, restaurants and shopping.

Hanahan and Goose Creek

The demand for amenity-rich, maintenance-free communities isn’t just reserved for urban buyers. Buyers seeking these types of community without the higher-price tags of downtown and Mount Pleasant gravitate toward Hanahan and Goose Creek. Designed to take advantage of the Lowcountry’s lush landscape and waterways, The McKelvey at Bowen Village in Hanahan is under construction, set to finish in November or December of this year. Prices start in the low $200,000s and it’s both affordable and convenient.

“The McKelvey is located in Bowen Village and the amenities are plentiful – deep river water access, boat slips, docks for crabbing and fishing, waterway walking trails, a pool and it’s walkable to the Bowen Market,” said Suzanne Davis of Caroline One Plus Homes. “The location is great with easy access to the airport, Boeing, Blackbaud, Volvo and downtown Charleston.”

The McKelvey offers two and three-bedroom homes with the focus on serene, neighborhood-friendly spaces such as their sidewalk and trail system, the Waterway Walk. Residents can take a boat ride or visit parks, playgrounds and stop by the community market, The Bowen Market. Adding a café soon, the lifestyle is perfect for both active nature enthusiasts or for those who like lazy days on the waterways.

“The buyers in this community don’t have to worry about yardwork and the floorplans are open with upgrades such as granite countertops, plank flooring, tile and fiber cement siding,” Davis said. “Residents are a range of buyers and there is a strong military presence here.”

Goose Creek’s Lakeview Commons, a Great Southern Homes community has townhomes that start in the $170,000s. Touted as energy efficient and technology-advanced home plans, they are the perfect home spot for a host of buyers.

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“The first time homebuyer, military buyer and downsizing retiree will be moving toward townhouses and condos for several reasons,” said Mark Godwin of Carolina One New Homes. “The largest segment of first time buyers wants a $200,000 price point. With the growth in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Counties and increasing home values, a townhome is the best option for this population group. There’s less worry about upkeep and more time for personal interests.”

Godwin said the biggest trend he’s seen in townhomes is having extra space, especially a garage. “Whether that’s for parking, storage space or man caves and she sheds, everyone wants one.”

Godwin noted that builders and developers in the area are gearing more towards more dense housing close to population centers, employers, shopping and entertainment. This townhome community provides easy access to I-26, I-526 and Highway 78.

“To quote Will Jenkinson, Broker In Charge, ‘the market is seeing an upward trend in single family attached housing largely due to be able to bring $200,000 housing to the market,’” Godwin said.

Finishes and amenities are upscale for the budget-friendly community. Granite countertops in kitchens and baths, stainless steel appliances, luxury, easy care vinyl plank flooring and Ring WiFi doorbells are part of the package. The townhome comprises 1,476 square feet with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. A screened back porch is an option.

“There is perpetual lawn care of residences and common spaces, HOA managed exterior maintenance, pool, play park and green spaces. I’d call it worry-free-living,” Godwin said.

Johns Island

Luxury condo living often includes a marina. A balcony where can have morning coffee or a glass of wine at end of day while observing those gorgeous Lowcountry sunrises or sunsets.

Site work is underway for luxury condo living at The Landing at St. Johns. The plan for the development is for the condos to be located on its own private peninsula and set along the Stono River and tidal marshlands. Plans include each condo having the option of its own boat slip. 

“The Landing at St. Johns buyers are first and second home buyers interested in a luxury lifestyle in conjunction with a five-star full service marina,” said Jack Huguley of Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s International Realty. “They are 10 minutes to downtown Charleston, five minutes to the Charleston Executive (Johns Island) Airport, 20 minutes to Kiawah beaches, two minutes to the Municipal Golf Course and three minutes to the Terrace Theater.”

Huguley stated the trend in new construction condo is moving “decidedly towards luxury, security, convenience and amenities formerly reserved for the ultra-wealthy.”

Plans for the community include 54 residences with one-floor living, 10-foot ceilings and magnificent views of the marina, river and marshes from roomy balconies. The three bed, two-bath homes will have two-car garage parking, hardwoods, Wolf ranges, quartz countertops, Sub-Zero refrigerators and Electrolux washers and dryers.Master baths will have Carrara marble, glass showers and over-sized soaking tubs. Prices begin at $925,000 and each will have 1,636 square feet with 176 square feet of private outdoor space off the living area.

“New luxury condominium projects in the Charleston area remain rather rare,” Huguley said. “It’s not because of low demand. In fact, demand is very high.”

Completion of the first building at St. Johns Landing is scheduled for the fall of 2020.

As we observe our beloved Lowcountry change, prosper and grow with the times, one thing remains constant. Finding a spot to call home comes in all different sizes. Introducing another form of living Lowcountry is a welcome and now, what appears to be, necessary alternative.