Isle of Right: Homebuyers willing to pay extra to live down by the shore, river or harbor on greater Charleston islands

The Intracoastal Waterway slices between the Isle of Palms and Goat Island (shown here) which is only accessible by boat. Metro Charleston has a host of islands that are popular with homeowners (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).

You can ride horses on a local island or two and be at the beach in a few minutes.

Georgia Ribeiro can attest. The Realtor with Akers Ellis Real Estate describes herself as the "Island Living Specialist." Her husband is a builder. And, the family owns a Johns Island horse farm.

"There are so many options, so many price points," says Ribeiro, who lists properties on Kiawah, Seabrook, Johns and James islands.

"The prices are stable to moving up," she says. "When compared with the West Coast, we are really reasonable. When someone is looking for a $2 million property, close to the water, it's a really nice home."

Ribeiro is among the more optimistic agents in terms of the Charleston area island market. She predicts it will propel the region to expand to the size of Jacksonville, Fla., before long.

Yet whether or not fellow agents foresee such growth, they agree that homebuyers are smitten with the Lowcountry's island homes, condos and townhomes. And they believe the properties on or near water will stay in demand for quite awhile.

"It seems to be okay," says Jeff Lackey, who with his wife Betty are agents with the Lackey Realty Group of Keller Williams Realty. They are listing a marsh-side house on Seabrook Island for $1.3 million, which was priced $50,000 higher when first on the market in February.

"There are approximately 80 homes for sale (on Seabrook)," he says, and the average price per square foot has risen to more than $300. "Possibly those properties take a little longer (to sell)," he says, noting that prospective island buyers tend to be more deliberate.

Judging from sales and price figures, island properties are generally rising in value and transactions are on the uptick.

Five of eight island regions showed sales increases from 1.3 to 30.2 percent in 2013 compared with the previous year, according to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors' most recent report on the local housing market. At the same time, seven of the eight island areas reported median price gains ranging from 1.2 to 10.9 percent year over year.

Further, the four top regions in terms of median prices last year were all islands - Sullivan's Island at $1,447,100; Isle of Palms, $650,000; Daniel Island, $505,000; and Kiawah and Seabrook islands, at $503,000.

"I think it's actually doing well," says Dawn Marquez, agent with Charleston Home Properties who's listing a renovated beach cottage at 31st Avenue on the Isle of Palms for $584,900. "It's slower. Down on the island, they could stay (on the market) six months or more."

At the same time, Marquez says a place like the Isle of Palms is more than just the beach. The island is "really a neighborhood. You can hop on your bike and go to the grocery store, to restaurants."

On the waterway side of the island, homeowners Linda and Gary Frank are listing their house at 31 Yacht Harbor Court in Wild Dunes for $1,295,000. From their house, "You can see the Morgan Creek Grill," she says.

The Franks moved to the island from Chicago - and before that Michigan - in 1985, surviving Hurricane Hugo four years later with minimal damage. They raised a family and have two grown daughters and four grandchildren.

Linda Frank says the couple have had chances to move such as to Mount Pleasant but "we wanted to live here." In 2008 during the recession, "everything was down but it's coming back. We are not going to give it away," she says.

That raises the question: Why list the house now after close to 30 years? "We owned property right down the street (and plan to) build on that," Linda Frank says.

To scope out local islands from downtown Charleston, head north across the Ravenel Bridge to Ben Sawyer Boulevard for Sullivan's Island; take the Isle of Palms connector to the Isle of Palms (and a ferry to Dewees Island); go on Interstate 526 to Daniel Island; head south on the James Island connector to James Island and on Folly Road to Folly Beach; go south on Savannah Highway to Main Road and left for Johns Island, right on Maybank Highway to Wadmalaw Island and ahead on Bohicket Road to Seabrook and Kiawah islands; and follow U.S. Highway 17 South and take left on S.C. Highway 162 to highway 174 for Edisto Island.

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