In at least one South Carolina coastal region, beach homes start in the $300,000s, rentals from one agency are as low as $1,200 a week and rural estates with dozens of acres price around $1 million.
The alluring, less than two decades old properties are at Edisto Beach and Edisto Island, located 35 miles south of metro Charleston. Buyers and visitors are taking note, as home deals and vacation rentals are surging.
"This seems to be the last frontier," says Matthew Kizer, owner and broker in charge of Edisto Realty. "They really are discovering Edisto," enticed by the languid pace and nascent congestion compared with metro areas. "When you drive to Charleston you want to get back here," he says.
Area real estate associates are calling 2018 a strong season at Edisto, arguably outdoing any period since the economic slump and housing drop-off a dozen years ago. "It's certainly been one of the best years since the Great Recession in 2006-07," Kizer says.
"Probably so," notes Jim Kempson, Realtor with Carolina One Real Estate's Sea Island Group. He also had an active year in 2017, selling the golf course at the Wyndham Resort at Edisto Beach for $3 million.
"The hottest segment the last few months is at the beach, (with home prices at) $340,000-$650,000," Kempson says. "That's kind of the bread and butter."
Luxury house prices top $1 million at the oceanfront and on island creeks, he says. But Edisto overall attracts buyers due to comparative "affordability," Kempson says. Beachside properties close to Charleston are priced higher. (Last year, Sullivan's Island posted the highest median price among oceanside communities at $1.7 million followed by Kiawah Island at $725,000, Isle of Palms, $715,000, Folly Beach, $527,500, Seabrook Island, $480,000 and Edisto area, $350,000, according to Multiple Listing service numbers).
Lowcountry agents are noticing the value deals at Edisto, directing home seekers south to the removed community and small coastal town.
"We've got more people (who've) looked at Edisto. They want to get out of the congestion," Kempson says. Shoppers are drawn by the lower costs, but "the quality of life is a big factor," he says.
Most buyers or renters are arriving from within a 300 mile radius, some purchasing a second home that they eventually plan as their retirement residence. Others are leasing houses while eying the area long-term. A number of house hunters are purchasing homes for say $1 million and making a 50 percent down payment. The buyers may rent out the property to reduce expenses while expecting property values to rise. "They are banking on appreciation in the next five to 10 years. I think it's a good strategy," Kempson says.
Charleston Trident Association of Realtors figures back up the anecdotal evidence of climbing sales and bargain prices. Midpoint home prices in the Edisto area gained just 7.7 percent from 2013 through 2017, including a 1.3 percent decline last year. In turn, the region counted 163 transactions in 2017, jumping 19.9 percent from a year earlier. Only Seabrook Island had a more dramatic one-year sales climb.
Residential prices are outdoing lot sales; home sites are comparatively more expensive than existing properties, Kizer says. Also, most buyers don't want to wait for a contractor to build a new home. "I think people are looking for a cash-and-carry home" they can move into right away, he says.
Realtors, too, are cognizant of the unpredictable tropical weather in the late summer and early fall, aware of hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Irma last year nicking the South Carolina coast.
"June and July were very good months, August is following (the pattern)," Kizer says. "We just need to get by the next 45-60 days."
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Edisto at a glance:
Locations: Charleston, Colleton counties
Number of homes: 1,000
Square footage: 361-8,235
Look & feel: Edisto Island, which lists its population at 2,301, and Edisto Beach at 414 permanent residents share a name but are contrasts in a few ways. Edisto Island, in Charleston County, showcases lowland rivers and tidal creeks, big plantations, country ranch homes, a handful of diners and small-town lifestyle while Colleton County-based Edisto Beach promotes beachside cottages, mid-rise condos, a few ocean-gear retailers, a number of restaurants and a resort with inn and golf course at the eastern end. Beach and island full-time residents and second home owners share a laid-back attitude far removed from city life. Youngsters ride skateboards and surf on ocean waves or fish on inlets. Families boat and kayak on tributaries. While removed, the locales are an hour or so south of the Charleston area and north to Beaufort. Area house hunters include natives, visitors from the Northeast and residents from Charleston to Columbia and Greenville.
Homes on market: 175
List prices: $75,000-$8.5 million
Schools: (Charleston) Jane Edwards Elementary, Baptist Hill Middle, Baptist Hill High schools and St. Paul's Academy (private) elementary and middle; (Colleton) Northside Elementary, Colleton County Middle, Colleton County High schools.
Fun facts: According to the writtenreality.com blog, the island "prides itself on remaining a family-oriented vacation spot that’s now referred to by most of the locals as "Edislow;” nature-related treats range from dolphin and whale watching at Botany Bay to exotic reptiles at the Edisto Island Serpentarium.