Prior to the late 2000s real estate crash, Ross Lipman renovated and sold smaller homes as a sideline. He curtailed the practice as the economy slowed but got back into it recently.

His latest restoration is a 1,000-square-foot Marquis Drive home, describing the 78-year-old house as "one of the classic Park Circle bungalows." 

"I took the proverbial worst house on the street. I wanted a challenge," he says.

Lipman, who also owns rental property nearby, lists the home for $324,900. "The fact about it, it's live-work. You can walk or ride a bike to school."

North Charleston brings a number of advantages as a place to buy, fix up, sell and reside in just-built or resurrected properties. "You've got some appreciation here," he says. "Every month, there's block party, a farmer's market." Park Circle boasts a dog park and a golf-like course in which players toss a flying disc at flags on each hole, he says.

At the Marquis Drive home, "You can see a playground from your front yard," Lipman says.

The part-time remodeler isn't alone: North Charleston as a whole and particularly Park Circle have emerged as residential hot spots thanks to lower than average prices, structurally strong homes, new and developing neighborhoods and blossoming entertainment locales such as trendy East Montague Avenue restaurant rows, removed waterfront parks at Noisette Creek and the Cooper River and regional centers off Interstate 26 such as the city coliseum, performing arts center and Centre Pointe shopping attraction.

Throughout North Charleston, vibrant communities are popping up in places that had been depressed a couple of decades ago. A case in point is Mixson, the 15-year-old new homes enclave fueled by quirky amenities and tucked between Rivers and Montague avenues less than a mile from Park Circle. 

"What is not to love about Mixson?," says Lindy Sfirlea, communications director with Dan Ryan Builders. She describes the neighborhood as a "hip and exciting walkable village-style community with parks and green spaces to throw a Frisbee and/or let your dog run."

Dan Ryan Builders has crafted a total of 24 homes at Mixson and seven homes are available for December and January move in. Pricing ranges from $305,000 to $380,000 and sized from 1,800 to 2,300 square feet. According to Sfirlea, "We have the largest single family homes available with more included features at the lowest price in Mixson."

The regional contractor singled out the Park Circle sector of North Charleston as "a revitalization area that is offering a unique lifestyle for families with parks, Mixson Club, boutique shopping and restaurants satisfying a multitude of eclectic flavors," she says. Locals Bar, a sushi and sports bar, recently opened in Mixson; and Mixson Market is another popular eatery, she notes.

Sfirlea says that Dan Ryan Builders plans on opening two more communities next year and in 2020 in the Park Circle area.

As a real estate location, North Charleston has seen steady increases in home prices while remaining as one of the best deals in the Lowcountry.

Median house values jumped 34 percent in the past four years to $176,200 in 2017, according to Charleston Trident Association of Realtors figures. The mid-point cost still out prices just two areas, rural Berkeley County and St. George/rural Dorchester County.

The Dorchester Road corridor, much of which is in North Charleston, reached a $218,438 median price last year — sixth lowest of 23 areas tracked by CTAR. The midpoint price rose 23.3 percent over four years including a sixth-highest 11.6 percent price surge from 2106 to 2017.

Home sales increased 7.9 percent in North Charleston last year from 2016, while transactions dipped 0.3 percent in the Dorchester Road corridor year-over-year.

Real estate observers expect the area's growth rate to continue. Mixson at Park Circle caters to a broad market, Sfirlea says. The neighborhood offers "a floor plan for everyone: first time home buyers, millennials, single family buyers wanting a low-maintenance lifestyle." The upscale enclave "provides close location to all (that) downtown Charleston offers and beaches in an area that is appreciating," she says. It's "great for buyers looking for convenience and affordable price."

For more information and photos, go to www.postandcourier.com/business/real_estate/jimparker.

Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.

North Charleston at a glance:

Locations: Charleston, Dorchester counties

Number of homes: 40,000

Square footage: 544-12,624

Look & feel: A city with more than 110,000 people edging both the Ashley and Cooper rivers and stretching between Summerville and Charleston is bound to produce a diverse, distinct population. The area was home to antebellum plantations before the U.S. Navy Yard opened in the early 1900s. Closed as a Naval base and shipyard in the 1990s, the riverside property now houses light industry, a city park and one-time officers' quarters. Charleston Air Force Base, Charleston International Airport and the giant Boeing commercial jet assembly plant are adjacent to one another in the center of the city. Meanwhile, North Charleston counts more retail business taking place than in any South Carolina municipality. It's home to North Charleston Coliseum, Charleston Area Convention Center and North Charleston Performing Arts Center, and Interstate 26 tracks through the middle of town. Yet North Charleston is also emerging as a residential attraction: trendy Park Circle is seeing growth from millennial buyers, gated Coosaw Creek draws professionals and executives, city-backed Wescott Plantation lures a variety of residents. House hunters are eager to check out a city where median prices are $176,200.  North Charleston's dozens of neighborhoods boast tidy lawns and landscaped yards. Whether lower, middle or upper income, each enclave touts one-of-a-kind characteristics, whether retired couples walking hand and hand down quiet streets, families backyard barbecuing or youngsters riding bikes and shooting baskets on makeshift goals.          

Homes on market: 600

List prices: $25,000-$3,999,999

Schools: (Charleston) Midland Park Primary; A.C. Corcoran, Edmund A. Burns, Chicora, W.B. Goodwin, Hunley Park, Lambs, Malcolm C. Hursey, Mary Ford, Matilda F. Dunston, Meeting St. at Brentwood, North Charleston, Pepperhill, Pinehurst elementary and North Charleston Creative Arts (partial magnet); Deer Park, Morningside, Northwoods middle, Jerry Zucker Middle School of Science (partial magnet), Liberty Hall Academy (countywide program), and Military Magnet, School of the Arts (countywide magnet middle and high); North Charleston, R.B. Stall high, Daniel Jenkins Academy (countywide program) and Academic Magnet, Garrett Academy of Technology (countywide magnet); and Greg Mathis Charter High School, Pattison's Academy of Comprehensive Education and Prestige Preparatory Academy (charter). (Dorchester II) Eagle Nest and Windsor Hill Infused elementary, River Oaks Middle and Fort Dorchester High schools.

Fun facts: According to its listing, a 12,000 square foot mansion for sale on the Coosaw Creek golf course was in the pilot for an upcoming HBO comedy featuring John Goodman and Danny McBride; CityTownInfo.com estimates the average commute time in North Charleston at 23 minutes.