Forbes ranks island 70th in home prices nationally

SULLIVAN'S ISLAND — The number 29482 isn't the average home mortgage cost out here, but it's a pretty ritzy number just the same.

This town of 950 homes bordering the Atlantic Ocean has continued its hold as one of the most expensive ZIP codes in America, putting it 70th on Forbes magazine's annual ranking of U.S. housing prices by ZIP code.

Town Administrator Andy Benke said the reason is simple: The unbendable law of supply and demand.

Because Sullivan's is an island, there simply isn't room to expand, annex or add any more rows of single-family housing. That makes every home or lot desirable to a potential buyer.

"People want to move to the South, and they want to live by the ocean," Benke said.

Case in point: In mid-August, a sales record was set when New York businessman Todd Boehly paid $4.72 million for a 4,500-square-foot, six-bedroom Atlantic Avenue house on an oceanfront lot.

The sale broke the previous record from April 2006, when a home on I'On Avenue went for $4.7 million.

For the rest of the island, the median home-sales price in 2006 was $1,195,000, down from $1,220,000 in 2005, when national housing sales were still soaring.

Also making the list were Isle of Palms (29451) at No. 199 and Charleston (29401) at No. 327. IOP's median sales price was $862,000 and Charleston's was $765,000.

The slowdown in the local market dropped Sullivan's ranking slightly on the Forbes list, from 64th the year before.

The island's ZIP code value mirrored Forbes' findings from elsewhere in America, where coastal states dominated the high-priced ZIP code list.

"There just aren't large plots of land waiting to be developed along the Pacific Coast Highway or in West Palm Beach," the magazine said.

Another reason Sullivan's fared so well, Benke said, is because of tight zoning restrictions that don't allow for hotels or condominiums. Even short-term rentals are limited.

"It's a residential community that just happens to be by the Atlantic Ocean," he said.

Not everyone was happy Sullivan's Island was appearing on national lists. Outside the town's post office Monday, where the 29482 ZIP code is prominently displayed, a man who identified himself as a "disgruntled local" said too many outsiders have found their way onto the island and taken root.

"They've sold out to the carpetbaggers," said the man, who declined to give his name but said he grew up nearby and doesn't like how the island's prices have skyrocketed.

"Once, nobody came here. Now, everyone wants to. They've taken over," he said in a grumpy voice.

Still, some of the locals are happy to be where they are.

"It's paradise," said Kathleen Brunson, who was able to zip to the post office Monday on a golf cart.

Another local, Wendy Burkhardt, said there's not much in the listing to get excited about, as annual lists come out from different groups for just about everything.

But she quickly added that there's a quality of life here you might not find elsewhere.

Sullivan's Island "is still a good place to live," she said.