The Lowcountry housing market experienced its ranch phase, Charleston single-style furor and even McMansion days. Who knows, tiny homes may be the next craze.
But arguably metro Charleston builders have never rolled out so many choices in looks, perks and — most importantly — sizes as now.
“Well, it’s been very interesting,” says Lora Goolsby, Realtor with Carolina One Real Estate of the trends in building. “I’ve seen changes going in different directions,” she says.
The agent lists a cozy two-bedroom, two-bath condo in Mount Pleasant that attracted seven showings last Sunday, despite raw and windy weather with temperatures in the 30s.
“To me, there’s so much demand for one-level living.” Yet the roominess of a property depends on “the seasons (of life),” she says.
Many families experience the need for more room when parents move in, or live very close by. They look for a larger home, say with a kitchenette and bedroom for mom and dad. Or a family with a college student son or daughter staying at home will try to find a house with a basement-like suite.
“They use the space differently, too,” Goolsby says. She’s seen some people who want an extra room to carve out an area for a business or home office.
“(Sizing a home is) a funnel process for sure,” she says. The shopper and agent start out with a broad approach and continually winnow desired features to a manageable few. She sees the impact most noticeably with condos, which are popular with empty nesters who downsize from larger homes. Sellers may miss their yards initially, but soon realize they would “rather be out kayaking” and don’t need a big home and lot. “It depends on the urgency, not having a deadline,” she notes.
Both sprawling homes and modest-sized ones are on the market, and there’s demand for both. But as a rule, “I would definitely say smaller square footage houses (are) in high demand,” Goolsby says. The phenomenon is “across the board, no matter where you’re looking, especially closer to the beaches.” At Poplar Grove, an upscale community in the Hollywood-Ravenel area, one of the builders in a newer section altered floor plans to include some one-level homes because of buyers’ interest.
Debra Whitfield, associate with Coldwell Banker United, Realtors, spends much of her work time seeking right-sized houses for her clients, who tend to be seniors relocating from large, family-style houses to smaller ones.
Specializing in senior customers, Whitfield recently launched 55Plus Real Estate LLC as an agency team within Coldwell Banker United, Realtors. Her slogan for seniors? “House Rich, Cash Poor.”
She says older folks have money tied up in their residence and can’t relocate. Whitfield, working with TowneBank Mortgage broker Jerry Garner, recommends a home equity conversion mortgage that can provide enough income whether or not their home value declines.
“A lot of times when you’re rightsizing, it doesn’t mean going into an active adult community. There’s a lot of affordable housing for seniors,” Whitfield says.
The agent’s greatest excitement is helping older people sell their oversized home and find a place that’s less expensive and with a smaller footprint. Whitfield recently worked with an 80-year-old West Ashley woman who owned a two-story home but had “$9,000 left to her name.” After searching, the agent found a “small, two-bedroom, two-bath home” on James Island.
“It tremendously improved her life,” she says.
For other buyers, size can be relative. “People generally have an idea how many bedrooms they want,” says Trudy Mercy Brown, agent with ERA Wilder Realty on James Island. They even know the square footage (most houses in a new-home neighborhood fall between 1,500 and 3,600 square feet), she says. “But that can be deceiving. Sometimes it’s how the house is laid out,” says Brown, who brings an interior design background.
An evolution among home buyers is they’re “more interested in all parts of the house,” she says. Householders today won’t necessarily include a formal dining room or guest bedroom that’s used sparingly, instead seeking multi-purpose rooms.
Despite tighter inventory in metro Charleston, house hunters can seek most any size without facing problems. “There’s a lot of variety out there and new construction,” Brown says.
Goolsby says she understands the importance of rightsizing. The bulk of buyers may lean one way or the other in terms of square footage, but that doesn’t mean every customer trends in the same direction.
For instance, broad-sized residences were hot 15 or so years ago, while many buyers today want upgrades such as custom finishes, even if it means the trade off of owning a smaller-sized dwelling, Goolsby says.
There are exceptions, though.
“This doesn’t apply to families with six kids and four dogs,” she quips.
Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or email@example.com.