Bluffton planners unveil pricing, timetable for Wharf Street development

gmartin@islandpacket.comAugust 7, 2012 

The wait is nearly up for approved applicants seeking housing in Bluffton's Wharf Street Redevelopment project, a planner told the town's Affordable Housing Committee on Tuesday.

Danny Wilson reported appraised prices for each of the project's six houses during the committee's monthly meeting and said they could be occupied as soon as September.

The least expensive home -- a 330-square-foot, one-bedroom cottage -- was appraised at $90,000. The other five properties ranged from $175,000 to $190,000.

Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka, a Realtor at Carson Realty and committee member, said the appraised values were appropriate. However, committee chairman Fred Hamilton said he is concerned the prices revealed Tuesday are more than the applicants can afford.

"I think you're going to have a problem with the pricing," he said. "If you want to be successful, make sure (the homes) are affordable."

He also asked Wilson why only 11 of 58 applications have been approved by the town.

"The vast majority of applicants who withdrew either knew they weren't going to qualify ... or they decided just not to buy a home at this time," Wilson said. A drawing Aug. 30, to be conducted in front of the homes, will determine which six of the town's 11 approved applicants can proceed with the process. Wilson said a 12th applicant could become eligible in time for the lottery by completing a required first-time homebuyer course.

To qualify for the homes, a single person can't make more than $39,100 a year, and income for a family of six can't exceed $64,800. Those caps are based on 80 percent of Beaufort County's median income. Applicants must also pass background checks.

"They've gone through a pretty long and rigorous process, so hopefully (they will) make a commitment and follow through at this point," Wilson said.

Having completed the homebuyer course, applicants must also secure letters of mortgage pre-approval from their banks, a process Wilson says will help the town determine how much they are prepared to spend on the homes.

"We don't want to put someone in the category for a three-bedroom home if they can't actually afford to buy it," he explained.

Once the town has collected the preapproval letters, it will host another round of home tours for each applicant, after which applicants will have to sign a sheet specifying which homes they would be interested in owning.

The state has to approve each applicant's file, Wilson said -- to verify that potential homeowners will not be spending more than 30 percent of their monthly income on their mortgage and insurance, per terms stipulated by the federal loans -- after which the town will begin closing the home sales.

He expects that final part of the process to begin in September, but cautioned that the state could take more time to approve applicants' files.

Follow reporter Grant Martin at twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

Related content:

Few applicants for Bluffton's affordable Wharf Street homes, Aug. 6, 2012

Bluffton won't set Wharf Street home prices for weeks, April 27, 2012

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