**While today's blog post is on the impact of hurricane risk to the Charleston real estate market, my thoughts and deepest sympathy are with those who where impacted by Hurricane Florence. If you are looking for ways to help, read this. **
When I first started in the real estate industry, I was terrified of having a closing in September or October for fear that it might be derailed by a storm. But, over the years, I've grown to accept the fact that, as a Realtor working on the Southeast coast, hurricanes--and their impacts to the real estate business--are a fact of life. So, just how does tropical weather impact real estate in Charleston? I can't speak for everyone, but here are some of the impacts I've noticed.
Impact on Prices... Or not?
Anyone who has been watching the Charleston market for any length of time knows that historic downtown prices have been steadily on the rise for the last few years, in spite of a few major flooding events. Except in some rare incidences, I have not seen dropping in prices directly related to flooding; however, we have most certainly seen a slow down in the rate of increasing prices, though whether this is a result of weather risks or other market factors, it is not clear. Make no mistake, though: As of now, prices in historic Charleston continue to rise regardless of flood risks, as homes on the peninsula are a scarce resource.
Deterred buyers... Or not?
Last year after Hurricane Irma, I was out showing property (on a street that had flooded!) one week after the storm. The fact that the street looked relatively normal just a few days after a major weather event showed that while flooding can be a nuisance, things can often get back to normal fairly quickly if you have the resources to expedite a clean up. That said, while some buyers seem undeterred, I have definitely seen an up-tick in buyers looking to avoid flood-prone area in the last couple of years.
More educated buyers (and agents)
Prior to October 2015, Charleston hadn't had a major, wholesale flooding event since Hurricane Hugo in 1989, leading many buyers to underestimate the risk of flooding and many agents to be unaware (or unable to remember) of the history of certain parts of town. Recent flooding events have resulted in a much savvier buyer when it comes to location and home updates to mitigate flood-damage, and agents are, in my experience, more knowledgeable about these issues.
Strengthening the sales pitch for certain homes, and weakening the case for others
Prior to October 2015, it was rare to see any mention of flooding (or lack of flooding) in a property listing description. These days, it's not uncommon to see mention of "high ground" or "no recent flooding" in the description for homes that meet this criterion. Sellers and sellers' agents know that this question is top of mind for buyers and buyers' agents, so they are putting it out there, front and center. By contrast, homes with known flood history (particularly those with first floor flooding, rather than just crawl space inundation), are struggling to sell unless sellers have taken special steps to curb future flood related hassles.
Homeowner fixes to mitigate future flood-hassles
Sellers with homes in flood-prone areas are increasingly taking steps to mitigate future hassles. One of the most common steps is the removal of under-house duct work in favor of mini-split air conditioning units. This is a controversial topic: Some swear by their efficiency and breathe easy (no pun intended) knowing they aren't going to have to deal with flooded ductwork the next time a hurricane blows through. Others find them visually obtrusive and would rather take the risk. Some homeowners have reached a happy medium--keeping traditional HVAC systems but replacing the duct work with waterproof PVC. While forward thinking home updates will not guarantee a home sale, they certainly don't hurt.
Confusion about Flood Zones
I see a lot of confusion about flood zones, and why wouldn't there be confusion? FEMA's flood maps is notoriously difficult to navigate, and there's been talk of new flood maps for Charleston for going on 2+ years (the new maps are still not in effect, BTW). I frequently have buyers tell me that they "don't want to look any any homes in a flood zone." Since technically all homes are "in a flood zone" (some low-moderate, others higher risk), I have to figure out whether someone making this statement actually means (a) they want to avoid areas known to be flood-prone or (b) they want to avoid all high-risk areas as defined by FEMA, regardless of whether or not the area has any known flood history.
Impact to active transactions
In the event that a hurricane hits in the days or weeks prior to a Closing, things can get complicated--A storm could cause damage to a home resulting in extra needed repairs, it could temporarily halt a buyers' ability to get insurance, or it could delay a closing because a law office is closed. Rather than sort through endless "what if" scenarios ahead of time, I've learned that it is best to assess a situation as it unfolds and navigate the transaction accordingly, for my clients' best interest.
With the storm watch going on day 3 (or is it 4? I lost count), those of us who remain in Charleston are feeling a mixture of optimism that we won't get the worst of it and empathy for our neighbors to the north who are currently facing Hurricane Florence head on. All those impacted by the storm in Eastern NC and the Outer Banks are in my thoughts this morning. Meanwhile, impact to Charleston remains yet to be seen. We are expecting rain and wind starting this evening, as well as possible storm surges--particularly around high tides (roughly 1 AM tonight and 1:40 PM tomorrow afternoon). Everyone stay safe and dry.
Last month marked one year since Ben and I closed on our new home in Wagener Terrace. We have enjoyed our new neighborhood even more than we expected. Learn more about our stomping grounds below!
Location and Boundaries
Wagener Terrace is located in downtown Charleston, above the crosstown. The neighborhood is located north of Hampton Park, west of Rutledge Avenue, and south of Sunnyside Avenue. While the neighborhood mostly consists of 1940s/50s homes, two newer planned developments are located within the boundaries of Wagener Terrace: Longborough (Mary Ellen Drive/Alberta Street) and Lowndes Pointe (Lowndes Pointe Drive) and feature homes built in the 2000s. Wagener Terrace is often confused with nearby neighborhoods, Hampton Park Terrace (below Hampton Park) and North Central (East of Rutledge Avenue).
Some Brief History
Prior to the 20th century, the are that is now Wagener Terrace was primarily farm and wet lands. After the South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition (1901-1902) in what is now Hampton Park, the areas directly surrounding the park became targeted areas for residential development. Wagner Terrace lagged behind the development Hampton Park Terrace to the south of the park, the first streets and lots where platted under the name "Wagener Terrace" in 1918. The first homes were built in the 1920s and 30s with the bulk of building occurring over the next three decades, particularly after WWII. Families who bought homes in Wagener Terrace were largely middle-class Protestant families who worked on peninsula, though the neighborhood was also home to middle-class Greek and Jewish families.
Wagener Terrace has an abundance of "Minimal Traditional" homes, a style of suburban home typical of the 1930s-late 1940s. Typically one story and sided in brick or cement shingle, these homes are often colloquially referred to as "bungalows" but they actually post-date the Arts and Crafts movement. Other Charleston neighborhoods where Minimal Traditional homes are common include Byrnes Downs, Avondale, and Ashley Forest in West Ashley. Throughout Wagener Terrace, you will also find a scattering of mid-century ranch style homes, a few colonial revival homes, and some newer construction (1990's-2000's) in Lowcounty vernacular styles.
On the Market Now
Here's a look at what's on the market now in Wagener Terrace.
We've now been in our 1947 Wagener Terrace home for a year. Fun fact: Our home was built in the same year as my beloved Avondale bungalow, the first home I owned after moving back to Charleston.
I've been working with several buyers who have recently asked: Should we make a move on something now OR should we wait and see what hits the market later in the fall? Like most things, the answer is, "it depends."
But... I do have some thoughts on this question that may help buyers reach their own conclusion. Read on...
You may opt to wait if:
On the other hand, you may consider buying now if:
This spacious and custom Olde Park home has been on the market since late 2017
and is an incredible value in one of Mount Pleasant's most coveted neighborhoods.
If you are looking to be settled in a new home by the end of 2018 and/or you prefer a lower-pressure negotiation experience, then I recommend that you look to BUY NOW.
But... if your moving plans are fluid and/or you have the ability and willingness to make a swift and aggressive offer for the right home, then it may be a better choice for you to WAIT & SEE.
I've had a few prospective buyers and Charleston newcomers ask me about Charleston real estate terms, geographic locations, and other lingo that I often take for granted as being widely known and understood. To help those of you who may be curious, here are some terms to help you navigate Charleston real estate conversations.
This time, I'm focusing on Downtown terms--in future newsletter, I'll tackle other parts of town! And, feel free to email me with your questions if there's another term you have heard and are wondering about.
That's all for now!
What Charleston real estate terms have you stumped?
Legare Street: In addition to being one of the most coveted streets in all of historic Charleston, it is one of the most frequently mispronounced. In fact, newcomers ask me how to pronounce this more than any other old Charleston name. I've heard called la-GARE and la-GARRY--and can you blame them? The actual pronunciation is nothing like it looks!
Legare is pronounced: "LA-GREE" (rhymes with "degree").
Stay tuned for future posts on Vanderhorst, Gaillard, Simons, Huger, Prioleau, and more...
Since I started in real estate several years ago, I've produced a regular newsletter, one that goes out to a growing readership on a monthly basis. I've been pleasantly surprised with the positive feedback I receive each month... In fact, the wonderful feedback keeps me motivated to get my newsletter out each month, even when work or life threatens to get in the way. It doesn't hurt that I enjoy writing and that some of my favorite topics are real estate, market trends, architecture, and Charleston news.
"You knocked it out of the park again! Love your newsletter."
"Of all the newsletters I get, yours is consistently the best. And it’s about REAL ESTATE for heaven’s sakes. As a marketer, I think you’ve struck the perfect balance."
"I always love your newsletters and out of all the many that I get from various businesses I always read yours all the way through. You just have such great photos and fun tid bits."
Between my newsletter and my one-on-one dealings with clients, I have a developed a huge cache of original content pertinent to Charleston and our real estate market. I have started to realize that it's a shame for all that to disappear into the ether once a new newsletter comes out or once a client's deal has closed.
So... I've decided to be a little more intentional about getting all this great content out there. Between this site and my instagram feed, I'll be sharing images, answers to FAQs, and Charleston insider info for all who care to peruse. My hope is that the content I share may be of interest to those actively buying and selling in Charleston, those thinking of moving to Charleston, and/or those who just love Charleston and/or real estate (there are many).
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to engaging.