Isle of right — Laid back lifestyle, rebounding home values draw buyers to water-locked lands

A rare breed lives on such islands as Dewees with 150 homes and 2,000 visitors a year or Pumpkin or Cusabo islands with one house apiece. Unlike these land masses not connected to the mainland, places such as James and Johns islands count 10,000-20,000 people and they’re attached by bridges.

Then there’s Goat Island. The wooded strip across from Isle of Palms and only accessible by boat is maybe the best known. But a Goat Island also can be found near Murrells Inlet. And a small bit of property off Lake Marion near Summerton also claims the name.

Karen Hardman, an agent with Santee Associates Realty, is most familiar with the Clarendon County locale. She’s listing a remodeled home including dock and boat ramp on the lakeside Goat Island for around $220,000.

She says the Lake Marion market benefits from relatively modest priced houses. “You can get (houses) up to $1 million,” she says, while noting that homes in the $200,000s are more common.

The Santee region stands about equidistant from the Lowcountry, Columbia and Florence. “We are getting a lot of people out of Charleston and Summerville,” Hardman says.

Prices have gone up a bit, she says, although they “aren’t back to where we were.” Meanwhile, “sales are up as well,” she says.

It’s been since the early 2000s when the market was strong in both home transactions and values, she says. Back then, “The phone would ring off the hook.” But the real estate market shrank nationwide and the country went into a recession in 2007. The residential business didn’t recover for years. “We weren’t getting any calls,” Hardman says. Real estate in Lake Marion country continued to struggle until just a few years ago, but interest in properties has picked up again.

Many buyers are seeking vacation homes, while another active group involves retirees purchasing permanent homes for their senior years. Also, “we get some military people” stationed in Sumter or Charleston who like the lake area. And some people who continue to work like that it’s no more than an hour from three cities. Sometimes, one couple may work in Charleston and another in Florence, so the Lake Marion area is somewhat proximate to both. Lake Marion and environs benefit from resort attractions, including three golf courses in Santee itself. She says the Goat Island house stands across from a golf course.

“It (the real estate market) has gotten much stronger in the last few years,” Hardman says.

Increasing prices and climbing sales identify most of the metro Charleston island communities, too, according to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.

Year-over-year, home values blossomed 37.1 percent on Seabrook Island to $480,000 in 2017 from $350,000 in 2016 to top the list of beachside cities and towns. Three sectors declined, Daniel Island tumbled 5.9 percent to $612,500 while Isle of Palms dipped 1.4 percent to $715,000 and the Edisto area slid 1.3 percent to $350,000 last year. Elsewhere, Sullivan’s Island soared 25.9 percent to $1.7 million last year; Kiawah Island jumped 17.9 percent to $725,000; James Island rolled up 15.9 percent to $319,250; Johns Island rose 5.9 percent to $291,263; and Folly Beach gained 5.5 percent to $527,500.

The fastest-growing barrier- or water-ringed area by sales was Seabrook Island, leaping 37.8 percent last year from 2016. Edisto bounced up 19.9 percent year over year, Isle of Palms climbed 18.4 percent, Johns Island surged 16 percent, Kiawah increased 14 percent, James Island went up 5.6 percent, Folly Beach rose 3.9 percent and Daniel Island eased up 3.8 percent. The only place to drop was Sullivan’s Island, where sales fell 4.8 percent.

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The most active market in terms of transactions was James Island with 960 sales.

Figures outside the Charleston area weren’t readily available, but some families and couples are moving to places like Lake Marion.

“They are coming our way, to get out of the hustle and bustle,” Hardman says.

For more information and photos, go to

Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or

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