Sales of high-end homes, lots making a comeback

gsmith@islandpacket.comDecember 10, 2012 

High-end residential real estate is making a comeback in parts of Beaufort County, as more buyers are purchasing lots and constructing custom homes in upscale communities.

Consider:

  • Palmetto Bluff has more houses under construction than at any point in its nine years of selling homes, according to the community's broker in charge, Bryan Byrne. Forty-six homes, the majority of them custom, are being built, and 22 more are in the design-review phase. And they're not little bungalows -- homes of 10,000, 11,000 and 18,000 square feet are among those permitted since November 2011.

  • Although Colleton River Plantation has just 15 homes under construction or in the permitting stage, the home-building trend is on the rise. As of the end of October, the upscale community in greater Bluffton had closed on 38 lots and 10 homes -- more than double the 23 lot and home closings from all of last year.

  • A similar increase is taking place in Hampton Hall and other southern Beaufort County developments, according to Ashley Feaster, executive officer for the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association.

  • "For this type of (high-end home) buyer, it's a matter of consumer confidence," Feaster said. "We're finally getting to a point where they're starting to feel confidence that the market is revitalizing itself."

    Building permits in Bluffton have increased nearly 15 percent when comparing permits issued from January through October 2011 to the same period in 2012, according to Feaster's records. Estimated prices for the majority of those Bluffton homes are in the $400,000 and up range, Feaster added.

    Activity in the high-end market is increasing in other areas of Beaufort County, although not as dramatically, according to Eric Gnau, a real estate agent with Cora Bett Thomas Realty in Beaufort.

    "We're having more showings in those higher-priced homes, say $1 million and up, and soon, more transactions," said Gnau. He added that six homes in northern Beaufort County have sold for $1 million or more so far this year compared to six for all of last year. Most of those were in Beaufort's historic district.

    The trend is a shift from the past few years when homes priced at more than $1 million were taking two to three years to sell, said Alan Coyne, broker in charge at Keller Williams Realty on Hilton Head.

    Construction of high-end homes is particularly strong in Bluffton, Coyne said, because Hilton Head is mostly built out, making undeveloped lots increasingly hard to find.

    "The people who have the money to spend are looking for new," Coyne said. "And they are spending it in Bluffton where they can pick their own lot and build their dream home."

    It's a stark contrast from the more than 30 lots in greater Bluffton's golf communities listed as of Sept. 1 for less than $10,000, and a dozen listed for $1 in Belfair Plantation, Colleton River Plantation and Berkeley Hall as lot owners attempt to escape pricey association fees and club memberships. Coyne says those property owners represent a small portion of the market.

    He and other Realtors believe that many potential owners with the money to spend are feeling better about the housing market and are ready to take advantage of low interest rates.

    Follow reporter Gina Smith at twitter.com/GinaNSmith.

    Related content:

    Amid an oversaturated market, lots in Bluffton golf communities selling for $1. Sept. 1, 2012.

    Building permit activity edges up in Bluffton, April 4, 2012.

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