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.
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"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.