Historic Names, Trendy Gains: New home shoppers rediscovering centuries-old Berkeley and Dorchester counties

Housetops and sidewalks mark this scene at Carillon in The Ponds ­‑­­‑ one of a host of master planned communities in Dorchester County and in neighborhoing Berkeley County. The new-home villages are helping to drive growth in the inland sections of metro Charleston (File/Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).

An interchange at Interstate 26 and U.S. Highway 17A links together Berkeley and Dorchester counties in one of the more active places of metro Charleston.

“There’s 12 lanes of traffic,” says Linda Collins, broker-in-charge of Berkshire Hathaway Southern Coast Real Estate in Summerville.

That’s dramatic, but not so much by the volume of driving spaces. It’s the location that stands out.

While population growth has marked Dorchester and Berkeley counties for three decades or more, the more inland regions have trailed heavily coastal Charleston County by a long shot almost since colonists docked at Charles Towne Landing. Today the shot’s gradually getting shorter. If it were basketball, it would be like going from a long 3-pointer to a moderate 2-pointer, and it may be more like a layup in the next few years.

According to Charleston Trident Association of Realtors figures, Berkeley County saw a 17.3 percent increase in home sales last year from 2013 while Dorchester County — which gets its name from the town of Dorchester in 1600s Massachusetts — jumped 10.8 percent. By comparison, sales grew 2.6 percent in Charleston County.

At the same time, Dorchester and Berkeley counties recorded a combined 5,896 sales in 2014, which topped 40 percent of all sales in the Lowcountry. Charleston County still leads with 7,608 sales.

Collins, for one, can offer impressions on the changing market in Dorchester and Berkeley counties over time.

She settled in the Summerville area more than 30 years ago as a Realtor. The town straddles the two counties, with the downtown and historic district situated in Dorchester County and the area around I-26 in Berkeley County.

“When I moved here, there were four lanes and they weren’t full,” she says of the I-26-17A intersection.

Today the adjacent counties are going through steady growth, Collins says. “I see only good things ahead. That’s where the jobs are coming, off Ladson Road. It’s great jobs, clean, wonderful jobs,” she says.

The region also sees expansion in master planned communities such as Carnes Crossroads, Cane Bay and the planned Cainhoy Plantation and smaller new-home neighborhoods in Hanahan, Goose Creek, Daniel Island, Wando and the Dorchester Road corridor.

Beazer Homes stands out as one such builder that’s zeroed in on Berkeley and Dorchester counties over the past decade or more.

“Given the significant population and job growth, Beazer Homes has maintained a presence in Berkeley County, with our recently sold out Felder Creek community, and our newest 274-home site community, The Oaks at Cane Bay,” says Janice Adler, director of sales for Beazer Homes, Charleston Division.

“The Oaks is located in the desirable Cane Bay master planned development and within the Cane Bay School District, offering nine upscale flexible floor plans, a beautiful community pool and pavilion and easy access to the I-26 corridor and area employers,” she says.

It’s not just Berkeley County, named for 17th century Lord Berkeley.

“Our Drakesborough community in Dorchester County offers award-winning Dorchester II schools and provides an affordable alternative to other Charleston area neighborhoods, with an easy commute to I-26 and historic Summerville,” Adler says.

Berkeley and Dorchester counties, Collins says, are “still very affordable” in terms of home sites and houses. Dorchester County’s median home price in 2014 was $178,000 and Berkeley County’s was $185,000, compared with $275,000 for Charleston County, based on the local Realtors association figures.

“I believe in good growth, more importantly good public schools, places to work,” she says.

Beazer Homes, which describes itself as among the nation’s top 10 homebuilders, is now promoting The Oaks at Cane Bay.

The community features “a lush, wooded perimeter, a planned pool and pavilion” and home sites as large as 12,000 square feet. The upscale one- and two-story floor plans range from 1,750 to 3,284 square feet and hold up to five bathrooms and seven bedrooms.

According to Beazer, the houses offer “distinctive exteriors and upgraded interior finishes” among other perks.

To learn more about The Oaks at Cane Bay, visit www.beazer.com or call 843-647-7407.

Collins remains upbeat about growth in Berkeley and Dorchester counties. The trendy Nexton community near the I-26 and Highway 17A merge recently unveiled its Brighton Park Village single-family home community, has rolled out an apartment home complex and has introduced a sales center showcasing the neighborhood’s high-tech features such as a first-in-the-area cable and online system considered 100 times faster than average speeds locally.

At the same time, hundreds of new houses are set to be built at Summers Corner off S.C. Highway 61 in Dorchester County. MeadWestvaco’s real estate arm is the developer of both Nexton and Summers Corner.

Collins, meanwhile, also expects housing growth toward Interstate 95 along I-26 and off Highway 17A headed west toward Colleton County, citing The Ponds as an example. “There are lots of places where we can grow; other areas of the Lowcountry are locked in.”

Pricewise, “we are moving up,” she says. Berkeley County median home prices gained 5.8 percent in 2014 from a year earlier, and Dorchester County prices increased 4.8 percent.

But the region has “always been a little less explosive than other areas of the Lowcountry,” she says. Charleston County, in the same time frame, saw a 10 percent price surge.

“I see it as exciting time.”

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