There was a time, not that long ago, when the thought of a home in Myrtle Beach costing over a million dollars was unthinkable. Unlike the coastal communities of Charleston and Hilton Head
Island, Myrtle Beach has long been a favorite destination of working class
families — not exactly a beacon for people who have paid a lot of
money not to have their ocean view obstructed by
a sunburned family of six. The luxury home market
in Myrtle Beach, and the entire Carolina coast for that matter, has
exploded over the last few years, and it does not look like it is going to
slow down any time soon.
The market took off in the mid
’90s, and has grown substantially. It is amazing how much the market for
million dollar homes has increased, just over the last two years.
One of the best things about the Carolina coast — besides the beautiful
weather, gorgeous beaches, and rich history and culture — is the diversity
between the numerous communities we cover here at Carolina Homes & Interiors. From the historic districts of Charleston, the ultra-exclusive
island resort communities of Kiawah and Bald Head Island, to the sleepy
fishing villages that dot the coastline, every community has its own — how
do you say — je ne sais quoi. For a long time, the Myrtle Beach vibe was
not one of a luxury home haven. But how things have changed. Million
dollar listings are now as common on the Grand Strand as sunburns.
Despite Myrtle Beach’s entrance in the million dollar home race, the
most expensive home in South Carolina in 2004, listed for a cool $6.9
million, was sold on Hilton Head Island.
As the phenomenon of the million-dollar-plus home becomes more
common, there have been a few adjustments that have been made to accommodate
the newest and wealthiest members of these communities.
Slowly, and relatively obscurely, these new million-dollar homeowners
are changing the culture and economy of many of these seaside communities.
The kitschy little shops that sold t-shirts and painted shells
to tourists are slowly being replaced by high-end retail stores, spas, and
other exclusive services that, not all that long ago, would not have had
a market in those locations.
In some areas, developers have created specific million dollar communities
within communities. It is these communities that have seen
the most growth as of late, and, in places like Myrtle Beach, have proven
themselves to be a monumental success.
It was Hilton Head Island where the luxury home community first
came to be commonplace. The granddaddy of resort developments is
Sea Pines, which had five of the top ten most expensive homes sold on
Hilton Head Island over the last two years within its gates.
In Charleston, the million dollar home market is vastly different
from the newly developed Hilton Head Island. The homes that fetch
the highest prices in these areas are the beautifully preserved historical
homes, some of which predate the writing of the Constitution, scattered
throughout the historical districts of these communities. Seven
of the top ten homes sold in Charleston in the last two years were located
south of Broad Street, which has been Charleston’s most exclusive
neighborhood for the last 300 years.
Even the port town of Wilmington has recently seen a huge jump
in million dollar listings, with over 100 homes selling over the last two
years for over $1 million. “The number of $1 million-plus homes
available in the Wilmington market area has increased substantially
over the past five years,” says a long-established area real estate firm. Currently almost 100 residential properties are on the
market at or over $1 million. I think this is a reflection of the general
appreciation of our market and an indication of the growing level of
sophistication in the marketplace. This also reflects the type of buyers
who are choosing to call our very appealing area home. That is why many
are proud to say that they were born and raised locally. More and more people
are discovering what they have known all along.
But where this phenomenon has had the largest impact has been in
the Grand Strand. The most active area stretches from Pawleys Island
north to Murrells Inlet, known by locals as the “South Strand” or the
“Waccamaw Neck” area. Six of the top ten most expensive homes sold
over the last two years are found in this area. Even the once unassuming
beach town of Garden City, just northeast of Murrells Inlet, offers
luxury homebuyers a wide range of housing options that now sell for
over $1 million.
In fact, the million dollar home market in Myrtle Beach has grown
so strong that developers can build million dollar homes on speculation, with complete confidence
a buyer will be found before construction has been completed. Many say that even
if it doesn’t sell right away, it is not really a problem because the luxury
vacation rental market is so strong.
Further north up the Strand is Grand Dunes. Some say this upscale
development has single-handedly changed the way Myrtle Beach markets
real estate, elevating its position in the area as one of the premier
million dollar home markets on the Strand.
Even some of the older portions of Myrtle Beach have become markets
for million dollar homes, simply out of the demand for oceanfront
property. On the stretch of Ocean Boulevard commonly refereed to
by locals as “The Golden Mile,” stretching from 38th Avenue to 82nd
Avenue, this beachfront area is the location of several homes on the
market, most selling for over $1 million, and was the location of a $4.75
million sale. Henry Reynolds of Coldwell Banker Chicora Real Estate
made that sale, and coincidently, sold the first home in the area for over
$1 million over a decade ago.
In Myrtle Beach, a lot of people desiring a high-end beachfront home
are buying property with a home on it, either moving or demolishing the
existing home, and starting fresh. People are buying homes
built in the ’50s and ’60s and putting something new in their place.
The biggest reason for the boom in the Grand Strand has been the ability
of the many municipalities that govern the area to anticipate growth
and have it planned for well ahead of the developers. Many new infrastructure
projects have already been wrapped up or are in the final stages
of completing, including the John Gresham Parkway, designed to ferry
thousands of motorists through the area without the lengthy traffic delays
that were common during the summer months, and the $185 million
expansion of the Myrtle Beach International Airport, which is expected
to generate all new records for air traffic into the area, further expanding
the market for million dollar homes.