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Up Towns — Home buyers exit bottlenecked cities and suburbs for bucolic McClellanville, Awendaw – Charleston Post Courier

Small towns and determined to stay that way, geographically sprawling Awendaw and tight knit McClellanville are suddenly hot markets — relatively speaking — as house hunters seek downtime and birds chirping beyond busy urban locales.

“I swear, it’s been going like wildfire,” says Allston Leland, broker-in-charge of Leland Real Estate Co. “This is the busiest in 17 years,” he says. His real estate office stands across U.S. Highway 17 North from the winding wooded roads to McClellanville proper, and he zeroes in on home sales in the long-time fishing village. At the same time, “I have been watching the Awendaw market (and) it’s definitely picking up,” he says.

Noting that hom buyers’ interest kindled six to nine months ago, Leland realizes, “I know it’s going to change.” But the veteran Realtor says he’s going to enjoy the spike in business as long as it lasts.

The recent real estate surge showcases a tale of two towns: Awendaw, a sparsely populated region stretching from the Mount Pleasant border on the south to nature preserves and plantations tucked off Highway 17; and McClellanville, a hamlet dating to the 1860s long known for its shrimping fleet motoring to and from idyllic in-town Jeremy Creek and the Atlantic Ocean.

Leland says the most likely reason for the home sales uptick comes from suburban neighbor Mount Pleasant, which has been criticized for traffic congestion. “It seems to be more hectic down there,” he says. Interestingly, the enlarging town’s sheer popularity may play a role in homebuyer’s discovery of the rural northeastern sector of Charleston County. “The distance psychologically seems closer,” Leland points out, referring to the town’s population and development base sliding north to the Wando High School area and nearby shopping plazas.

He says that locals who have known about the village for a long time are eager to buy a home or land in the rural areas largely in the Francis Marion Forest and some on deep water and tidal creeks “if they see a good deal.” Homes are available from the $200,000s to the $700,000s with a few waterside retreats between $1 million and $3 million.

According to Leland, the area also benefits from a gap in infrastructure. “Our blessing is we don’t have water and sewer (service),” instead homeowners obtain water from wells and rely on Residential Septic System Cleaning Services for sewage disposal. As a result, “We won’t have high density development. Buyers say that should be a safe haven due to the Septic Tank Drainfield Repair.”

Talk of sales growth in Awendaw and McClellanville is anecdotal. But the residential buildup in upper Mount Pleasant can be quantified in a Charleston Trident Association of Realtors annual report on the local housing market. Last year, 1,484 homes sold in the area north of S.C. Highway 41, an 11.6 percent upward bump from the year before and trailing just three submarkets tracked by the Realtors association in total numbers. More than one-third of the residential sales were new construction, fourth highest in the region; and 24.9 percent of the deals involved higher density condos.

“I don’t get the feeling (the sales surge mimics) the Wild Wild West by any means,” Leland says. “I don’t see anything to run it off the tracks.”

Daniel Bates, broker and owner of MCVL Realty in McClellanville, views the village’s home sale growth in part as a “Mount Pleasant exodus.”

The East Cooper town, which approaches 75,000 people, continues to grow “but more and more people are looking to escape to the country in McClellanville and Awendaw,” he says. According to Bates, “40.5 percent of our buyers this year came from Mount Pleasant with another 24.3 percent from the greater Charleston area, making up roughly two-thirds of the properties bought in the area.”

One drawing card is the rise of ecotourism in the area, Bates says. McClellanville-Awendaw has its own chamber of commerce. Meanwhile, Bates notes he manages vacation home rentals and several homes listed for sale “that currently serve as or would make (top-notch) bed and breakfast inns in keeping with the style of the area.”

For more information and photos, go to

Awendaw and McClellanville at a glance

Location: Charleston County.

Total homes: 2,000.

Look and feel: McClellanville, about 15 miles south of the Santee River and Georgetown County, sits in a removed forested slice of upper Charleston County yet can reached the outskirts of metro Charleston in 30 minutes. Householders and renters live around U.S. Highway 17 North in bungalows, wood frame and brick homes scattered along country roads. The village proper sits just east of Highway 17, showcasing traditional decade old residences under moss-hanging oaks. A restaurant, hardware store and real estate office are among the ventures in the tiny central businesses district. A smattering of upscale homes border Jeremy Creek. Residents include longtimers as well as newcomers from South Carolina and out of state looking for a getaway. Children and adults both ride bikes around town, and fitness buffs jog and walk. Vestiges remain of the once thriving shrimp harvesting and processing trade. Further south, Awendaw forms a rural buffer to Mount Pleasant. Its town hall sits off Highway 17 in an enclave. Sewee Preserve and Bulls Bay boat ramp are in the town. Estate homes and lots edge the Wando River. Most homes for sale are built since the 1980s and some are new; although McClellanville boasts historic houses dating to the late 19th century.

Homes for sale: 65

Square footage: 780-5,544

Prices: $37,500-$2,899,000

Schools: St. James-Santee Elementary and Middle School, Wando High School, Cape Romain Environmental Education Charter School, Oceanside Collegiate Academy (temporary, plans to move to Mount Pleasant).

Fun facts: Lincoln High School, long-time public school in McClellanville, closed last year and students transferred to Wando High; in the 1980s, entrepreneurs opened small businesses in a group of buildings off U.S. Highway 17 North and put up a big sign, “Welcome to downtown Awendaw.”

Reach Jim Parker at 843.937.5542 or jparker(at)postandcourier(dotted)com.

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