The worldwide average price for a luxury home is $2.4 million.

According to a “Luxury Defined 2018: an insight into the residential market” report by Christie’s International Real Estate, that number is the starting price.

Charleston’s luxury market can certainly compete with that number, as $2 million plus homes in the Charleston area are plentiful and selling. According to a 2017 article, Charleston’s million dollar market “skyrocketed” in that year, securing the No. 10 spot on its list of the top ten markets in the country where seven-figure listings meant not only price, but growth. Surging from 4 percent in 2014 to 7 percent in 2017, Charleston is “on the map” for luxury home buyers.

“Certainly 2017 was a very good year for the luxury market here in Charleston and worldwide,” said Charles Sullivan of Carriage Properties. “As we all know 11 percent growth is always welcome, but hardly sustainable. Since then, in 2018 and so far in 2019, we have benefited by a robust and expanding local economy, as other markets have slowed. Demand in our luxury market has remained strong for homes truly turnkey, as renovation time and costs have increased since 2017.”

All predictions indicate that the trend will continue as second-home markets, which are a substantial portion of the luxury market here in the Charleston region, show no signs of slowing. In fact, second-home and vacation properties “rebounded worldwide,” according to the same report.

In terms of what those luxury buyers want and what they require, Charleston’s luxury market is fulfilling the need and accommodating those buyers.

Million plus buyers are willing to pay top dollar for their abodes, but they want new. They want completely renovated. They want turnkey. Buyers dictate trends and today, the trend is leaning toward “transitional.” The term, coined by decorators, is when one blends traditional with unique or personalized pieces or styles.

Good design is rooted in traditional, but incorporating individual style – whether that is contemporary, mid-century modern, French country, minimalist, bohemian, rustic – and others, buyers set the tone and realtors, architects and designers are listening.

Defining luxury means something different to different folks, but these two properties are most likely on the list of what genteel, modern, traditional and seaside luxury are all about.


“We’re seeing more buyers viewing kitchens and baths as more disposable,” said Charles Sullivan of Carriage Properties. “Buyers change them out over time and it’s at a great expense, but we see it happening and we’re beginning to see more contemporary style kitchens, in historical Charleston homes.”

Case in point is Sullivan’s listing at 18 Church for $6.59 million. The estate-sized property located South of Broad on lower Church Street underwent a 20-month renovation. The exterior of the home is masonry and an exterior staircase was built as a structural component within itself. Though not dependent upon on the house to stand, it’s connected to the home and pays homage to the home’s original architecture. Typical of homes in the neighborhood, Sullivan said the original staircase was most likely removed during the Victorian era.

The stunning staircase leads from the garden up to the second level or main level of the home.

“You don’t have to come in on the ground floor and go upstairs to get to the main level,” said Sullivan. “You enter the way you should – dramatically – up the exterior staircase, on to the piazza and then into the main living, dining and kitchen space.

The 6,800 plus square foot home is a maintenance-free masterpiece, with three levels and piazzas, incorporating updated systems, modern baths, elevators, kitchens and an open floorplan. William Martin was the architect of the home and Mike Besta, a renowned Charleston contractor of numerous downtown historic homes, oversaw the renovation. Special care was taken to restore historic details – ceilings, fireplaces French doors, interior staircases and more, with a nod to the past and a welcome to the future; adding modern artwork and finishes throughout.

Modern marries traditional throughout this home, especially in the kitchen where the wow factor is off the charts. A striking, 12-foot island of black Silestone Marquina is both elegant and sophisticated and immediately draws one into the space. Waterfalling down the sides of the island, it is a bold black with delicate veining throughout. Black matte cabinetry, stained antique pine floors, glass mosaic tiles and mirrored toe kicks are just a few of the special elements that comprise the understated palette. Designed by Marcia Spear of SieMatic Charleston, the layout lends itself to entertaining, cooking and a quiet place to have a cup of coffee. The ceiling in the front part of the room was lowered to flow gracefully above the kitchen and transition to a vaulted ceiling above the breakfast room.

The kitchen was awarded a 2019 National Kitchen and Bath Award (NKBA), the first in Charleston.

“It is a compelling design,” Sullivan said. “A lot of things are hidden, they’re not obvious. You don’t see the refrigerator and they incorporated two dishwashers. There’s a separate wine cooler and a wine station. It is a chef’s kitchen – it’s meant to be used.”

A large walk-in pantry in behind the kitchen space houses chef’s gadgets.

Sullivan said that most people who’ve seen the property gravitate to this area to “touch and feel everything.” He commented that there’s also a catering kitchen on the ground floor and near the garden for social gatherings.

The home has separate guest suites above and below the main level and a guest house above the carriage, comprising over 1,000 square feet.

“The home lends itself to a place where people can come and congregate over the holidays, so if you had extended family, there’s a private place for everyone,” said Sullivan. “It’s that kind of place.”

The guest home has a barreled ceiling hand painted in a sky and cloud motif with uplighting at the ceiling’s perimeter.

The master bedroom and bath on the level above the living, dining and kitchen area are very spacious and one can see peeks of the Charleston harbor from the windows and piazza.

“The home is in a prime location South of Broad,” Sullivan noted. “There are two blocks of paved streets that keeps traffic down so you don’t get the carriages and buses. It’s a narrow street so there is more pedestrian traffic than vehicular and at night, it’s totally quiet.”

The home has a three-car garage, a large parking pad and a long driveway from the motorized iron gate. “It’s very accommodating from a parking perspective, as far as downtown properties go,” he said.

Many of the homes in this area serve as second homes – May to October residences – and this one is very special because of its double wide lot. The renovation also included a complete redo of the exteriors, garden area and the extra wide driveway.

“Normally you don’t have this much room in this neighborhood,” Sullivan said. “Everything has been updated and all the headaches taken care of, so it’s more or less turnkey.”

Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island continues to thrive and is rapidly becoming a go-to place for both national and international buyers. As Charleston grows and the way in which to get here becomes easier, luxury buyers look to the Lowcountry for its diversity and beauty – the islands and downtown have all benefited from city and county improvements.

“The expansion of the Charleston International Airport and the addition of new flights is certainly a positive for the luxury market on Kiawah specifically, but also for all of Charleston County, said Chris Drury, President of Kiawah Island Real Estate. “Our sales activities for 2019 year to date for villas, homes and lots on Kiawah Island in excess of $1 million, stands at 54 and are up from 40 transactions this time last year.”

The luxury market is going strong on Kiawah.

According to Drury, the first internationally televised Ryder Cup was played on the Ocean Course on Kiawah and introduced the tony island to the world.

“The new direct flight from Heathrow to Charleston will likely cause an increase in UK and other European homebuyers for the area,” he said.

If luxury is what a buyer is looking for, then Kiawah Island fits the bill as the epitome of luxury island living with their listing at 130 Ocean Palms Court. The list price is $8.999 million and it has sea views from nearly every room in the home. Designed by Christopher Rose Architects, the five bedroom, five bath home has over 7,500 square interior space and sits on nearly two acres. Outside, there is 5,000 square feet of outdoor living areas – covered loggias, private bedroom balconies, and a large poolside lanai with fireplace.

“The home is one of ten homes/homesites in the incredibly private Ocean Palms neighborhood within Kiawah’s Vanderhorst Plantation, a gated community within a gated community,” said Tricia Flanagan of Kiawah Island Real Estate. “Ocean Palms has a full spectrum of options when it comes to lifestyle – relaxing, active and everything in between.”

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One expects superb amenities with this location and price and it certainly delivers. Beach living is at its best here, with Rhett’s Bluff Boat Landing, Eagle Point Boat Landing in the Preserve, and the Cinder Creek Pavilion, which has canoe and kayak storage should one need a break from the shore. Close to Kiawah Island Club’s seaside Beach Club and marsh-front Marsh House, it’s also close to world-class golfing.

“Only single family residential offerings are available in Vanderhorst,” Flanagan said.

According to Flanagan the home is a “true ocean oasis,” incorporating superior design finishes such as walnut and Jerusalem gold stone flooring, beamed and coffered ceilings and Venetian plaster accents. A grand two-story circular foyer welcomes residents and their guests in a dramatic and stunning fashion while floor-to-ceiling windows draw the eye to the spectacular limestone patio, oceanfront pool and spa and Atlantic Ocean vista views.

The master suite comprises the entire third floor and has two enormous closets, marble bath with steam shower and a Jacuzzi tub.

“There is a spacious, state-of-the-art media room with wet bar on the first floor. The second floor has a club and game room and has a complete wet bar, three flat-screen televisions and a 600-bottle iron gated wine cellar with dedicated cooling,” said Flanagan.

Most of the spaces – game rooms and expansive guest suites – have their own balconies as well. If it rains, you can always relax in the library and getting there is easy as there’s an elevator to reach every floor. Obviously, no expense was spared – special additions such as a whole-house entertainment system, geothermal heating and cooling, fiber stucco exterior and clay roof tiles – are part of this majestic beach property.

“Christopher Rose sites his homes carefully, in response to sun, breezes and views of the Lowcountry,” Flanagan noted. “His methods are the foundation of their commitment to sustainable design. They approach each project as an expression of their clients’ way of life and their homes marry the traditions of the past with a vision and specificity.”


Luxury Home Facts – Worldwide – 2017 and 2018

• Average time to sell a luxury home – 190 days.

• Highest average luxury home location: Monaco, $10 million plus.

• Most expensive residential transaction ever recorded: Hong Kong for $360 million.

• Top 5 luxury sales locations in 2017: Hong Kong, New York, London, Singapore and San Francisco.

• Luxury homes take an average of 1.7 times longer to sell than homes in the overall housing market.

• Twenty-nine percent of luxury homes were purchased with cash, down from 36 percent in 2016.

• A “trophy home” in Cote d’Azur which lists for $418 million, is among the highest priced homes currently available for sale worldwide.

• In 2018, record-breaking trophy homes sales included a $110 million property in Malibu, California and a $42 million home in Melbourne, Australia.

Source: luxurydefined 2018 report, Christie’s International Real Estate

Contact Brigitte Surette at