Just Right: From empty nesters going small to starter buyers looking large, properly sized homes are in big demand locally

This single-family home for sale on Tranquil Waters in Del Webb Cane Bay provides the right size for retirees desiring everything on one level. Inside, the living quarters opens into a breakfast room (Photo by Laura Olsen/Olsen Imagery).

As the consummate “right-sizer,” Goldilocks never had it so good.

The bedtime story character wanted everything not too big and not too small. Today, a wide range of home shoppers and tenants in the Charleston area are in a similar mindset: They’re looking for a house, condo, townhome or rental that’s exactly the right size, like trying on a pair of shoes or clothing.

Real estate agents are obliging, searching out flexible properties where the right size adjusts over the years and homeowners can “age in place.” Builders, too, are designing a loft here, a downstairs bedroom there, so that families can formulate their homes’ ideal space as youngsters move out for college or older parents move in for added TLC.

Metro Charleston has gone through subtle changes to the housing supply as smaller homes and ranches are framed in new “active adult” communities.

“Due to the increase of the baby boomers retiring, there’s an increase in people coming here,” Debra Whitfield says.

The Coldwell Banker United, Realtors agent specializes in real estate geared to the age 55 and older crowd, noting in her advertisements that she helps seniors, retirees and “boomers” buy and sell their homes.

Two large active adult villages opened in the past year or so, Cresswind at The Ponds in Summerville and Four Seasons from Hovnanian Homes in Cane Bay, she says.

Whitfield notes that Del Webb Cane Bay launched in 2007, not long before the national housing bubble burst. Del Webb’s decision to locate a retirement community here eight years ago was an early indication that the boomers, born 1946 to 1964, were beginning to retire. By 2013 and last year, “you see a tremendous increase,” she says.

“The greater percentage of homes (for downsizers), are 1,500-2,000 square feet,” Whitfield says. “But we do have large homes out there.”

That’s fortuitous, since rightsizing can also mean first-time homebuyers or shoppers with a growing family eying a step up to larger properties at value prices.

A case in point is 4015 Carolina Bay Drive in Moncks Corner. According to listing agent Sylvia Pittman of Coldwell Banker United, the 11-year-old home boasts “five bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths and larger master suite upstairs.”

It’s priced at $180,500, or about 20 percent below the median home cost in metro Charleston.

Pittman says the two story home is “one of the largest floor plans in Oak Hill (Plantation).”

In some cases, the rightsizing market varies by geographical sectors in greater Charleston.

The Summerville area, for instance, has plenty of places for older homeowners since many of the active adult communities are nearby, says Jennifer Maher, associate with Coldwell Banker United.

In contrast, Mount Pleasant has fewer 55 and up communities, home pricing is higher overall and there are not as many smaller homes geared to empty nesters.

“We do drive around a lot,” says Maher, who assists a lot of home buyers and sellers east of the Cooper.

Sometimes, she finds a smaller home in an established neighborhood. One such case is a 1,829-square-foot ranch house, located in Planters Pointe off S.C. Highway 41, that was built in 2003 with three bedrooms on a .21 acre lot. The home lists for $319,900.

Maher says a sticking point in hunting for more modest sized homes involves a trend toward smaller home sites that don’t have enough room for builders to construct one-story houses with three bedrooms — a popular feature for everyone from families to downsizers.

The Planters Pointe residence sits on what’s considered a larger than normal lot in a new-homes neighborhood, she says.

“They (contractors) aren’t building one story, or master (suites) on the first floor,” Maher says. “It does create a challenge, (cramping) the lifestyle of the empty nester buyer. You have supply and demand,” she says, and the desire to purchase smaller or one-story homes has outstripped the number of houses available, Maher believes.

Whitfield, for one, doesn’t see “rightsizing” slowing down, at least involving retirees seeking a house that’s not too large, or small.

“Baby boomers are just starting to retire (in big numbers),” she says, noting it will continue over the next 10 years or so. “Builders need to get on board for what they want,” Whitfield says. “Things keep changing.”

To check out rightsized homes, they’re all across the Charleston market and essentially depend on the buyer’s preference for what’s a good size. In the case of active adults seeking smaller homes all on one story, communities are springing up in Summerville-Goose Creek and in Dorchester County.

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