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Myrtle Beach Condo Living

A STORY HAS CIRCULATED FOR YEARS SURROUNDING the selling of the Maisons-Sur-Mer, the first successful Grand Strand condo project in what has become a booming industry in Horry, Georgetown and other counties up and down the coast. The story is that to the surprise of real estate salespeople and developers, the people who vacationed next door in a campground were among the first buyers of the sophisticated, posh Maisons-Sur-Mer.

While the story can’t be confirmed today, the fact is that some of those campers back in 1973 were driving pretty darned expensive recreational vehicles, suggesting they could afford to buy whatever condo they wanted to. But whether the story is fact or merely apocryphal, there’s one incontrovertible — the condo industry on the Grand Strand leaped out of the Maisons-Sur-Mer experience with all the alacrity of Jack-jumping-over-the-candlestick.

Maisons was, and mostly is, intended for permanent residence on the oceanfront. However, it was not an overnight success, primarily because this early condo put too many units (250) on the market at one time. It began as about 80 percent transient and 20 percent permanent before reversing itself into a success. Only a few condominiums in the complex are rentals; almost all are permanent residents who like the closeness and the services offered to the owners.

And frankly, these days a relatively few of the Multiple Listing Service of the Coastal Carolina Board of Realtors are being sold as permanent residences. But the condominium units are nonetheless selling by the hundreds up and down the 50- mile coast known as the Grand Strand of Horry and Georgetown counties.

Penny Boling, broker-in-charge of Century 21 Boling real estate, is better known to her friends back home in Wisconsin as “Scarlett” because of her adoptive accent in South Carolina. But in Myrtle Beach she’s known as the “Queen of Condos” because her firm has sold so many condominiums.

“People have done well on this exciting 20-yearlong roller coaster,” Boling says as she chats with developer David Stradinger. She and Stradinger can tick off other early condos — the Brigadune, Ocean Bridge and A Place at the Beach. Stradinger himself lives in a condominium.

Then there’s the Beach Colony, which was the condominiums built in Myrtle Beach after the second home tax passed during the Reagan administration, and after the Kingston Plantation condos. Beach Colony opened on Feb. 17, 1994, which means that the condo rush of late is barely a decade old.

However, the rush has been as powerful as the Atlantic Ocean, and Boling explains that at the Sea Island condominiums, the building was sold out in one day. So what brings the customers to the table even if most of them will not be immediately living here permanently? Boling says rental revenue to offset the mortgage price is one reason. Another is a lifestyle that wants “to shut the door and go” when the residents want to take a trip. Too, some buyers are just tired of maintaining lawns and doing housework in their larger houses back home. Low interest rates certainly help. Another is the availability of many, diverse restaurants and entertainment venues in the area.

And then there is what may be the open-alldoors key: The increasing value of condominium properties in and around Myrtle Beach. Boling notes that when, in January 2000, the Kiplinger Management newsletter predicted that Myrtle Beach properties would increase in median value by 71 percent by 2010, the condo rush began anew. The Kiplinger prediction, based on studies by DRI/McGraw-Hill, was that a median value property of $160,936 in Myrtle Beach would escalate to $275,267 median value in 2010.

Stradinger himself lives in a condominium building that has no transient occupancy, and he loves that sort of living. However, Stradinger and his Winchester South Wind Development Corp. are building a new oceanfront condo tower on North Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach. “We think that residences as large as 2,800 square feet will be about half permanent residents and half second homes, rather than rentals,” Stradinger says. “If it works out that way, it will be an anomaly.”

According to Stradinger, the former city manager of Myrtle Beach, almost all the successful condo developments have been built on the oceanfront. “Not many condo buildings further inland have initially been financially successful,” he says.

Meanwhile in North Myrtle Beach, a 390-unit condominium is being constructed and sold “in the heart of shag country,” referring to the state dance of South Carolina which is headquartered in the Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach. This building will not be directly on the oceanfront. However, Stradinger, who is not involved in that project, says he hopes such a non-oceanfront condo will be successful. If so, that would signal a new trend.


 

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