There is a reason why people flock to the beach.

There have been multiple studies done that suggest the negative ions that are especially abundant around waterfalls, oceans and beaches, contribute to well-being and health. It’s no wonder that the massive body of water near us draws so many to it – to play, to vacation and for some lucky residents – to live.

Absorbing all those negative ions undoubtedly results in positive vibes. Living in a beautiful beachfront home also has to create a feeling of serenity as well. It’s usually pricey to live on the shore, though the Lowcountry has more modestly priced homes close enough to feel the wind in your hair and get your toes in the sand.

As far as beach-front beauties go, some of the most unique abodes are located on our coastline, where life is very, very good.

The beaches, the lifestyles

“What I love about the different beaches across the Charleston area is that each one is unique in their own special way,” said Sam Little of Beach Residential. “From the resort feel at Kiawah to the laid-back atmosphere on Folly Beach to Sullivan Island’s elegance to the exclusive Isle of Palm (IOP) Breach Inlet area known as ‘Millionaire’s Row’ and the vacation rental homes there, locals and visitors have the option to choose what experience they’d like to have on any given day.”

Little lists an eight-bedroom, eleven-bath home for $4.8 million and a four-bedroom, three-bath home for $1.195 million, both on IOP.

“The area beaches provide options for all budgets, starting in the low $200,000s on up to nearly $10 million,” he said. “If a buyer wants a ‘bargain’ beach property, it’s the Folly Beach area. For multi-million dollar buyers, Isle of Palms, Kiawah and Sullivan’s are the places to look.”

The demand for multi-million dollar oceanfront properties is increasing as the population in the Lowcountry swells, especially during beach season.

“The appetite for ultra-luxury ocean front homes has been strong the last several years. In the last three months, Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s Realty represented a buyer in the purchase of a $5.9 million ocean front home on Isle of Palms. We currently have a $7.5 million listing under contract on Sullivan’s Island,” said Middleton Rutledge of Daniel Ravenel Sotheby’s Realty. “In addition, a property at 300 Ocean Blvd. just went under contract and was listed for $5.995 million.”

Kiawah Island is home to some of Charleston County’s most extravagant and expensive estate-like properties. The private island comprises 10,000 acres of land and over 10 miles of beach. Luxurious,  secluded and renowned for its championship golf courses and five-star ocean front resort, The Sanctuary, Kiawah has more than a few gated communities within.

Little said Kiawah Island has some of the area’s highest sale prices and within the last five years, there have been homes sold for over $10 million, with the most expensive selling at $15.25 million.

A 2018 Forbes magazine article stated that Kiawah Island set records in South Carolina two out of the last three years for selling homes worth more than $20 million.

The Isle of Palms is a close second, with several current listings nearing the $7 million mark, Little said.

The beach build

“It typically takes a year to build a true custom home at the beach, and some 5,000-square-foot plus, take longer,” said Lane Baker of Saltwater Homes. “All clients want it to take less time, but the reality is there are a lot of selections and a lot of curve balls with true custom homes. Clients enjoy the process and they’re typically very involved and make a lot of changes as they go. There’s a limited amount of subs that have the skills to produce the quality that is expected of us.”

Saltwater Homes of Charleston, one of five companies in the Charleston area to earn certification as a Certified Master Builder, has an extensive portfolio of custom and semi-custom beach front homes. Knowledge of the numerous processes that go into a seaside build is crucial.

“The local municipalities can be quite different,” Baker said. “Being able to navigate the permitting process on Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s, or even Seabrook Island takes a lot of stress off the homeowner.”

Beach living is a luxury that requires special attention to the details. “Our builds have impact windows and doors and we encourage IPE decking or a composite decking,” Baker revealed. “I’d say 90 percent of our roofs are metal.”

The residents of Lowcountry beaches are varied. Some are local and some are out-of-towners. In both categories, there are those who enjoy their beach residence as a second home, while others have to have those spectacular sunrises and sunsets year-round.

“My clients are about half and half,” Baker said. “Out-of-town clients are very familiar with the area and get to experience the good stuff and when they come in town, they’re so happy to see all the progress. They didn’t have to suffer through three days of rain or the tile guy not showing up on time. Locals are right there in the trenches and see the good and bad. I sometimes have to put on my therapist hat and let them know a few days of rain or an out of stock tile is not the end of the world.”

The Lowcountry building community is a close-knit one. Local architects, suppliers, designers and other artisans collaborate to create custom beachfront properties. “We’ve built around 100 custom homes and know what the client is looking for. After spending time with a client, I have a good idea of which architects will be a good fit for them. I can even tell if a client will be better suited to another builder. I work with a number of builders as well as architects to make sure the client has the best experience.”

Whether it’s plans in hand, starting from scratch or picking from a selection of architectural plans, builders are seeing new trends in building beachy digs. Baker said he’s seeing more traditional moldings again and a “little less ship lap walls.” What’s becoming popular are pops of color as opposed to more subdued beach hues.

“White cabinets are still very popular but I’m seeing some wild accent colors for kitchen islands and the hoods over the stove,” he said.

When asked what amenity most beach residents want for their homes, Baker replied, “Everyone wants a pool and a golf cart.”

Saltwater Homes has built beach homes in several areas throughout the Lowcountry. Baker stated the prices range from $750,000 to $6 million and that lot prices vary from island to island which “swings the cost one way or the other.”

The tide is high

“Our area beaches offer miles of breathtaking coastline and each offers something the other doesn’t have,” Little said. “Kiawah tends to cater toward a more vacation and resort-like feel. In contrast, Folly Beach is the perfect setting for ‘Endless Summer’ with bohemian vibes and it’s the area’s top surf spot. Sullivan Island is quiet and serene, catering to the generational Charlestonian. IOP is both local residents and out-of-town buyers – it offers a multiple of options for buyers.”

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Little said he has seen rising prices for beachfront properties year after year. Beachfront buying is undoubtedly a good investment and the Lowcountry’s pristine beaches are one of the best things about living here.

“As a native Charlestonian I still get the same experiences I did as a kid on our unique beaches,” Little said. “Yes, the landscape has inevitably changed but at the end of the day you can still enjoy that peaceful easy stroll on whatever beach fits your needs. And, that will never change.”


Beach Living Prices (current as of June 2019)

Folly Beach Condos:  $325K-$975K with most staying around the $500K average. 

Folly Beach Single Family:  $475K-$2.145MM

Kiawah Condos:  $230K-$1.5M

Kiawah Single Family: $490K-$7MM

IOP Condo: $325K-$435K (one outlier at $1.295M)

IOP Single Family: $625K-$7.2MM

Sullivans Condos: N/A

Sullivans Single Family: $1M-$5M

Source: Sam Little, Beach Residential