After struggling through the Great Recession, the residential real estate market in Beaufort County is steadily climbing again.
“The pendulum has swung back,” said Edward Dukes, managing partner and broker-in-charge at Lowcountry Real Estate in Beaufort.
Record flooding that plagued South Carolina last fall led to a temporary slump in sales, even in Beaufort County, which was largely unaffected by the high waters.
“The perception was that South Carolina was closed,” Dukes said. “A lot of people made assumptions about the area.”
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The market bounced back, though, and ended on a high note. Total closed sales increased 3.5 percent in the Beaufort area, and 13.2 percent on Hilton Head Island, according to South Carolina Realtors’ annual market report for 2015.
Hilton Head continues to lead the state in highest median list prices, at $276,900, up by 7.3 percent from 2014. The average price in 2015 in Beaufort was $169,900, a 10.4 percent increase from 2014.
Statewide, the annual median sales price was up by more than 6 percent, to $172,000 — the highest since S.C. Realtors began tracking it in 2005.
People are far more sensitive to (golf) club membership. People want to be closer to the center of town. There’s been a total shift in the paradigm.
Edward Dukes, managing partner and broker-in-charge at Lowcountry Real Estate in Beaufort
Dukes said the Beaufort County real estate market was negatively affected during the recession as a result of a domino effect from economic difficulties in other areas.
“We saw people put off retirement who couldn’t sell their homes up North,” he said.
Real estate as a whole has become “more sophisticated” following the economic downturn, Dukes said.
It’s also become more expensive, especially in southern Beaufort County.
But the type of residential real estate currently in demand in northern Beaufort County represents a departure from the gated communities traditionally popular in the county.
“People are far more sensitive to (golf) club membership,” Dukes said. “People want to be closer to the center of town. There’s been a total shift in the paradigm.”
He cited the City Walk development — in walking distance to downtown Beaufort — as one example. New construction in other parts of Beaufort County largely emphasizes mixed-used development. Apartments at Shelter Cove Towne Centre will soon be added to the plaza’s revamped retail center and its developer, Southeastern Development Associates — formerly known as Blanchard & Calhoun — has proposed a mixed-use center in Bluffton, with a Kroger Marketplace anchor.
Dukes said tract homes in the $300,000 price point in Beaufort have been “very active” lately. He added low interest rates and new construction is expected to keep the market going strong in 2016, and that the Okatie area is particularly targeted for growth because of its accessibility to both sides of the county and to Interstate 95.
“The residential market in Bluffton, under $350,000, is extremely active,” said James Wedgeworth, a partner at Charter One Realty. “There’s a shortage of inventory and most single-family residential homes are selling within 30 days.”
Wedgeworth said homes priced at $1 million-plus have moved slowly over the past year on Hilton Head, leading to higher inventory than usual, but he said he anticipates a pick-up in the spring. Feb. 15 to April 25 is the most active time of year in the Beaufort County real estate market.
The luxury market traditionally does well in southern Beaufort County, but Wedgeworth said political uncertainty, especially in an election year, can cause a dip in sales.
Wedgeworth said he expects interest in bundled communities — developments such as Wexford Plantation and Long Cove Club that include amenities for one fee — to be in higher demand this year, along with higher-end real estate.
“There are some great values in that market,” he said. “I’m expecting a very positive spring. There’s a lot of pent-up demand in the luxury market.”