They sit next to each other along the Atlantic Ocean but are quite different; Kiawah Island a posh locale that's hosted the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship in golf on the famed Ocean Course, while Seabrook Island's a quieter destination for families and homes for retirees.

"I always describe Kiawah as resort and residential driven and Seabrook as residential driven," says Bob Nitkewicz, local agent with NV Realty Group. Publicity-prone Kiawah tends to be pricier, while Seabrook is more of a value, he says. Yet both islands are posting decent sales figures at healthy, if not exorbitant, prices. "Sales aren't as strong as they were (more than) a decade ago" before the market slump, he says. "Outlooks are different. There's much more competition out there vying for people's time," he says.

Nonetheless, top-end Kiawah Island home prices sometimes push into eight figures. A house near the beach sold this spring for just more than $10 million. As for Seabrook, "it's certainly not recovered to where it was in 2006," — the height of the local market. "It's probably down 30-35 percent. But it's doing very well," he says.

The slow-moving area sales wise involves homes in the low seven figures. "Although subject to fluctuations, the more difficult part is $1 million-$2 million," Nitkewicz says. "There's a lot of inventory."

Seabrook Island counts few new beachside homes, but the Salt Marsh townhomes built near the island's gated entrance are down to 14 units left after brisk sales, he notes.

By contrast, Kiawah looks to expand its commercial aspects, planning to build a five-star hotel in the West Beach sector. "That's an historic area of Kiawah," he says, noting that it had the island original inn and was one of the first places in which development took off. It's also close to the Kiawah Island gate, which would be attractive for new buyers. "The Ocean Park area (past the Ocean Course), people don't realize it's one-and-a-half hours," Nitkewicz says.

The side by side islands are among the stronger oceanside areas in metro Charleston in the past year or so, but most island properties with beachfront houses in the Charleston are rising in price and sales.

Three of the top four gainers in sales increases year-over-year to 2017 from 2016 are No. 1 Seabrook, up 37.1 percent; second place Sullivan's Island, up 25.9 percent and Kiawah in fourth with a 17.9 percent boost, based on figures from the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.

Areas with the highest median prices are Sullivan's, first at $1.7 million; Kiawahm second at $725,000; and Isle of Palsm, third at $715,000. The third steepest price rise from 2013 is Folly Beach, up 41.1 percent to $527,500.

Saleswise, Seabrook leads with a 37.8 percent increase last year from 2016, the Edisto area in second, up 19.9 percent; and Isle of Palms places third at an 18.4 percent surge.

The Lowcountry's popular shoreline has grabbed national attention, as online personal finance site WalletHub ranked the Charleston area as 13th best "ocean beach town to live in."

WalletHub, which launched the survey of 205 cities (which also included lake side places) because of the summer peak moving season, keyed on 58 indicators such as housing costs, share of for-sale waterfront homes and quality of beach water.

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Charleston scored highest for nightlife establishments per capita, ranking 7th best. Other indicators and placements include:

  • Median annual property taxes, 15.
  • Water Temperature, 31.
  • Housing costs, 45.
  • Median household income (adjusted for cost of living), 59.
  • Violent crime rate, 68.
  • Foreclosure rate, 72.

The full report is at https://wallethub.com/edu/best-beach-towns-to-live-in/36567/.

For more information and photos, go to www.postandcourier.com/business/real_estate/jim-parker.

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