Ron Rash grew up in Hollywood when the town and its surrounding area was among the agricultural capitals of South Carolina, shipping millions of cabbage plants daily to all corners of the United States. Even today, that rural charm remains evident in the region — as more homebuyers seeking space and quiet are also finding out.

“It has not changed a whole lot,” said Rash, a real estate agent with Elaine Brabham and Associates. “There are still some original buildings, but most of the charm is outside of the incorporated areas. Most of it is on the marsh on the Intracoastal Waterway. There are vast amounts of waterfront property that people can buy, and a lot of undeveloped farmland.”

As Charleston County’s urban areas become more crowded, more people are looking beyond West Ashley — to the area including the incorporated towns of Hollywood, Ravenel and Meggett, and the unincorporated areas of Adam’s Run, Rantowles and Yonges Island. Rash calls the region “St. Paul’s Parish,” the name bestowed on the area by the colonial Church Act of 1706.

By any name, the region offers the kind of space that’s becoming harder to find even in West Ashley, as well as the presence of two subdivisions in Stono Ferry and Poplar Grove. Pamela Griffin of ERA Wilder Realty felt like she discovered “a hidden gem” when she moved to the area 14 years ago.

“I think what it offers is space,” said Griffin, a broker coach and former broker-in-charge. “Right now there are some really nice tracts of land, homes on two or three acres. Even the homes in the subdivisions, Stono Ferry and Poplar Grove, have big lots with huge oak trees. It just gives you a completely different feel from what’s happening on Johns Island with all the national builders. It’s just more quiet, more rural. There’s a very large transition in leaving the hustle and bustle of West Ashley and going out into the rural areas.”

Residential activity picked up this year in The Plantation at Stono Ferry, and neighboring communities and countryside, said Willson "Bud" Poston, long-time Realtor now with Century 21 Properties Plus in Charleston.

Notably, national home builder Pulte prepares to build an 90-home neighborhood bordering the first, second, third and ninth holes of The Links at Stono Ferry golf course. "They are doing site clearing," he said, and the first homes should be erected by middle 2019 near the entrance to the gated village off S.C. Highway 162 in Hollywood.

According to Pulte's online site, The Reserve at Stono Ferry will unveil up to five designs for the two-three bedroom and two bathroom houses showcasing two car garages. Prices start in the high $200,000s.

Pulte's move comes as local builder Crescent Homes wraps up a 32-home community near Ironwood Townhomes on Stono Ferry's eastern edge. "We sold the last one last month," he said. The last few homes in the eight-acre neighborhood sold at the top of the listing range in the $300,000s to $400,000s, he said.

"It's going to be a nice project," Poston said."I think it will be a good complement."

The mini-boom in new homes projects at Stono Ferry "just shows that (home shoppers) are looking to go outside West Ashley. This is an example of that happening," he said.

Stono Ferry benefits from a slew of attractions in addition to the top-notch 18-hole golf course. The community shows off an upgraded steeplechase course with ample spectator space, swimming center, equestrian stables and just resurfaced tennis courts. Million-dollar custom homes, meanwhile, sport docks and scenic views of the Stono River.

There's been a lag in terms of individual lot deals and custom home construction, Poston notes. Home site sales show good progress, but "we still have individual lots" with no takers right now. Not all lots are on the market, he adds.

At the same time, "Inventory is pretty low," Poston says, Stono Ferry counts 14 finished homes on the market.

According to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, the average single-family detached home price in the Hollywood/Ravenel/Meggett area increased 11.3 percent, to $418,240, from November 2017 to November 2018. The region’s median sales price has risen sharply over the last three years, standing at $377,500 at the end of November. Inventory, though, remains relatively low: 81 homes in the area were listed for sale in November, as opposed to 332 in neighboring West Ashley.

But that inventory may be on the rise. “People are starting to list their large tracts to sell, which will probably start getting more of the national builders coming in this direction,” Griffin said. “You can still find property in this direction; you can find a small, manufactured home for $35,000, but you can also find a home on the Stono River for $2.2 million. It’s growing, and everybody out here knows it’s only a matter of time.”

For the time being, though, the combined population of the region’s three incorporated towns still numbers fewer than 10,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Rash said the area has just two traffic lights: one in downtown Hollywood, and one in Ravenel. Wildlife is abundant. The area’s agricultural heritage remains evident in locally-grown watermelon, cantaloupe and tomatoes in the summer, and fresh cabbage and beans in the fall.

“You get on Highway 162 from (U.S.) 17,” Griffin said, “and from that point it feels very rural.”

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And yet, Rash sees more and more people he doesn’t recognize whenever he and his wife go out to eat at one of the area’s restaurants. “The folks who live in Stono Ferry, they’d almost always turn right and go to Charleston when they came out on Highway 162,” Rash said. “I think more and more of those folks are turning left.”

Potential homebuyers interested in the region often call Rash asking about property on the water, or an older home to rehabilitate, he said. Lots and properties on water remain bountiful in the region, Griffin added, and are generally available at a lower price than in some other areas of the county.

“I think our prices, where we’re located, are much lower than you’d see in Mount Pleasant, comparatively,” she said. “We have a lot of custom-built homes on the water than in other parts of the county, and they’re much more affordable.”

Poston lists a home at 7001 Toogoodoo Road in nearby rural Meggett, a property he describes the 4,808-square-foot "private gated waterfront estate." Covering seven-and-two-third acres, the site boasts a covered dock on water 6-8 feet deep at high tide. The estate also features a pond, Brazilian cherry hardwood floors and a studio with kitchen, laundry and full bath. Poston says the space would make "a good mother-in-law, teenager suite or guest room." The house and 7.66 acre property is listed for $1.35 million. 

"It's nice that we have finally clinched the point that it's a remarkable bargain out here," Poston said.

As the population grows, so do the area's amenities. Four new restaurants recently opened, Rash said, a new Charleston County Library branch is opening in Hollywood, and even a wedding consultant has set up shop. A new county park also opened this month. And Rash clocked it in his car: from downtown Hollywood, it’s 9 miles to Bees Ferry Road, 12 miles to Walmart, and 14 miles to Roper St. Francis hospital.

So close, yet so far away.

“It’s a rural area, fast becoming a growing area,” Rash said. “But you can buy land and be by yourself, or you can buy in a subdivision and have neighbors. There’s a wide range of opportunities for people who want to move here.”