Deidre Woollard: Welcome to another Millionacres Local Spotlight. According to one study recently, Charleston, South Carolina, was the most popular relocation destination in 2020. That's probably not a surprise to my guest today, Wil Riley. He is the CEO of the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors. Welcome.
Wil Riley: Thank you.
Deidre Woollard: I got to know, what's your market like right now? How crazy is demand?
Wil Riley: Demand is extremely high and inventory is extremely low. It's causing prices to be increasing constantly and this is happening throughout the entire region.
Deidre Woollard: What kind of demand are you seeing? Is it people from out-of-state? Is it people from nearby? Is it both? What's the market doing?
Wil Riley: I guess the answer to your question is yes, [laughs] it is both. We are seeing people from local within the state, the Midlands, and the upstate, also from the Atlanta and Charlotte area. Those people have always migrated toward Charleston for relocation. But we're starting to see people coming in from Los Angeles, Miami. But the number one place that people are relocating to Charleston from right now is the New York, New Jersey area.
Deidre Woollard: Interesting. Are you seeing people move mostly toward the city or toward the suburbs, or what kind of spreads are you seeing?
Wil Riley: Again, the answer is yes. It depends on what market they're in. If they're looking to spend a couple of million dollars, they might want to go to the beaches. If they're looking to spend around a million do, they might be more interested in the city. If they're looking to spend $400,000 or $500,000, they may be in some of the suburban areas. Then we also have the rural areas that are available as well. We have a little bit of everything from a price point standpoint.
Deidre Woollard: What's your median price right now?
Wil Riley: I think it's around $380,000 throughout the entire region. Now, each county varies. We have four different counties within our region. Each county varies. Dorchester and Carlton are the lower. Charleston, of course, is the highest. Charleston is about 520.
Deidre Woollard: Interesting. That makes sense. Are you seeing more interest in the lower prices or is it really all across the board?
Wil Riley: It's really pretty much all across the board. I think there are more people that are eligible to purchase the lower-priced homes, but we're seeing people coming in to this marketplace right now with cash dollars. They're coming in, they're buying the more expensive homes, they're paying cash for them, they're closing in 2-3 weeks, and the sellers are really enjoying that opportunity.
Deidre Woollard: What's your inventory situation like?
Wil Riley: Well, we have about a month's worth at the end of the month on the books. Properties come on the market and they are going off. We are seeing a little bit of an uptick in inventory from about three-quarters of a month to about a month, so a slight uptick in inventory. But overall, I think that there are properties that come on the market during the month and throughout the month that people are purchasing. Our sales per month are still in line with where they were this time last year. Post the initial downturn from the pandemic, we're staying fairly in line with that. I think we're going to start to see the sales numbers start to trickle off a little bit just because of inventory, but I don't think that we're expecting any bottom to drop out or anything like that.
Deidre Woollard: How about bidding wars? Has there been a lot of that activity?
Wil Riley: There's some, and I think that most properties that are ready to sell, if you will, are going to get multiple offers, especially if the property is in a pretty primary location. I think that there are a lot of folks that are putting automatic escalation clauses into buyer and seller agreements. There's a lot of competition out there between buyers for properties.
Deidre Woollard: Yeah, that makes sense. Do you feel like a lot of this demand has been driven by remote work and the fact that people just if they can live anywhere, they want to live somewhere beautiful like Charleston?
Wil Riley: Well, according to LinkedIn, Charleston is the number two metro for remote work, which I think is pretty astonishing when you think about the size of our metropolitan area. I think remote work does make it easy for people to live here in this new work wherever you are era that we live in. I think people are starting to take advantage of the things, surrounding themselves as like you said with a beautiful location to do their work from. We have great cost of living here, we have great opportunities for folks. I think the weather is fantastic. They want to be in this area and so we are seeing a lot of people work remotely. We're doing some things to help promote that, the recent opening of the Charleston Technology Center, which is a place for people to pop in. There are some private offices there. There's some nooks in there where people can do work. They can do collaboration in there, remote work. Then also startups are starting to happen within that location as well. We're starting to change some of the way that we do commercial leasing and commercial office space in this area already.
Deidre Woollard: That's fantastic. What are you seeing in terms of problems with growth? Obviously, Charleston is getting a larger population. Has that caused any problems with housing affordability or infrastructure or things like that?
Wil Riley: Certainly, it has. As demand goes up and supply continues to remain low, we will always see that to be a stress point, but some of the things that we're working on to try to help with this is we've worked with some of the local municipalities to try and streamline the new home permitting process so that new homes can come out of the ground so these people have a place to live when they arrive in this area. The other thing that we've been working on is the Charleston area is developing the low country rapid transit system, if you will. It's a bus rapid transit system and it's going to go about I think 18 miles on the original route. We've been working with the local municipalities to create some transit-oriented development zones along where the stops are. There'll be population in the areas that can be supported by the transit system. Then the last thing we're continuing to promote throughout our region, the expansion and enhancement of some of our current freeways, and then the completion of some of the long-term road projects that we've been talking about for years. We finally have some legislators in place that are going to help us push that forward, and make that a reality, and create not only some traffic alleviation, but also create some evacuation routes for some of these folks that are on some of these more remote islands that are part of our community. We are on the East Coast, we are prone to the hurricanes, and we need to keep people safe, and we need to provide them with a way to evacuate when the time comes.
Deidre Woollard: That's interesting. I wanted to bring up the question of flooding because I know Charleston does get flooded pretty often. What things is the city doing to deal with climate change?
Wil Riley: Well, we've been working with the entire region with regard to the flooding issue. We've devoted quite a bit of resources, and quite a bit of staff talent to working with the local municipalities on the flooding issues. One of the things that we've worked really hard on is, FEMA has flood ratings for each community, and there are certain things that communities can do to better their flood ratings. When they have a better flood rating, the flood insurance for the homeowners in those areas is lower. We've worked with all of our local municipalities to try to get those ratings as high as they can be for those areas so that the homeowners will have the least amount of flood insurance payments that they have to make. There are also quite a few different things in the works within the city of Charleston. There's a proposed barrier wall in the harbor, there are several different things that are going on the harbor deepening. Some of these things, I think, will help to hold off, if you will, the rising tide that we keep seeing out in the Atlantic.
Deidre Woollard: Thank you. Let's talk a little bit about tourism because I saw recently Charleston got voted best American city for the ninth year in a row from travel and leisure. Tourism is always a big driver for the city. Are you seeing tourism back in full force this year?
Wil Riley: I wouldn't say full force, but I think travelers are starting to come back to the Charleston area. We miss them. It was very difficult, especially for folks in the tourism business, food and beverage business. A lot of people changed jobs during the pandemic as a result of so few people being in the area. One of the things that we did see towards the end of the summer, and if you've ever been to Charleston at the end of the summer, you know that it's probably not the prime tourist time. But because of the pandemic and because of the loosening of some of the restrictions toward the end of the summer before the numbers started to go up, we were seeing pre-pandemic numbers for late summer, for travelers and tourists in the area at our local attraction. Tourism is a huge business for Charleston. Many people that come to retire here, it's how they became acquainted with Charleston by coming here repeatedly over the years. I think it's important that we continue to work to get tourism back where it was. But I think it's going to be different. We have a lot to offer here, and a lot for people to see. We have beaches, history, gardens, did I say beaches? It's just a beautiful area for people to come to, and we want to make sure that they don't forget about us, and they keep coming.
Deidre Woollard: It is a beautiful city. What is the situation for short-term rentals? What are the legislation issues in Charleston about that?
Wil Riley: One of the things about short-term rentals, we got an early jump on that. When there first started to be some negativity, if you will, around short-term rentals. We worked with the local municipalities to try to help create ordinances that respected private property rights, that respected the ability of homeowners to be able to do what they wanted, so to speak, with their property. But we also wanted to make sure that we are being fair to the people that were the residents in those communities, and so each different community certainly has their own rules. It's not like the whole region has adopted one plan for short-term rentals. But we work to try to make sure that within a community everybody is on the same playing field. I think we've really worked hard to make short-term rentals equitable for the primary residents, and for the people that are interested in renting their properties out.
Deidre Woollard: What neighborhoods are most attractive to real estate investors moving into your area?
Wil Riley: I would have to say anyone that fits your budget. It depends on what you're looking for. I think there are great areas. If you want the small town vibe, and the great opportunities that the small town brings, there are suburban areas like Summerville or Mount Pleasant or Goose Creek that are fantastic areas to look at. If you want something that's more rural, Moncks Corner, some of the more rural areas in Dorchester County. Those are great opportunities. If you want the hustle and bustle of the big city, if you will, for Charleston, the Peninsula is certainly a great area to look in. West Ashley, James Island, John's Island, Mount Pleasant, all of those areas they just have so much to offer, and it's so different in each one of those particular areas. Like I said earlier, if you're interested in investing $150,000 or if you want to invest five million dollars, we've got the product for you here.
Deidre Woollard: You mentioned earlier some of the changes with infrastructure that are coming. What kind of things are making you really optimistic about the future of Charleston? Is it some of the start-up growth? What is it that really makes you feel like the city is growing and changing?
Wil Riley: Well, I'm a native of this region. I have lived here all of my life, and so I have seen tremendous change over the last 50 plus years. We're going to leave it at that. But I will say, one of the things that strikes me and makes me very optimistic about Charleston and about this region, is the blending of the old and the new. The old buildings, and the new buildings, and how those come together to create the skyline that we have now in Charleston, we never had one of those before, but now we do. But how those buildings have come together to create that skyline, and to create that now Charleston, and how the old and the new people have blended together so well to create that melting pot that Charleston is, and how the old, and the new values, and ideas have blended well together. I think those are the things that the adaptability of the old and the new in Charleston, and how that's come together, I think that is one of the things that makes us a region that people want to be part of.
Deidre Woollard: Well, that's really beautiful. I think that's a great place to end this. Thank you so much for your time, Wil. Listeners, you could check out the latest stats at charlestonrealtors.com. Stay well and stay invested. Thank you