HANAHAN - Kyle Dyson just wanted a place to call his own.
Dyson had just graduated from Charleston Southern University and gone to work at his father's construction company. He lived in a one-bedroom apartment in North Charleston and desperately wanted more space. His father, Mike Dyson, had purchased an 800-square-foot home in the Berkeley Hills neighborhood in hopes of flipping it for a quick profit.
His son had another idea. Kyle Dyson wanted to buy the structure that was built in 1950, tear it down to its foundation, and then build a bigger, modern home in its place.
Hanahan still has that small-town feel, even though its population surpassed the 25,000 mark earlier this year. Dyson likes the idea of being able to jump into his car and be in North Charleston's Park Circle, downtown Charleston or sitting on the beach in minutes. While his demolition project took a little longer and was more expensive than going the traditional home-buying route, Dyson, like others, has been willing to wait and spend a little more to get exactly what he wants in the city of his choice.
The idea of demolishing a structure and then building a newer, often bigger dwelling is not a new concept, especially in the more established neighborhoods that surround Hanahan High School. But it has become a trend this year as older homes built in the 1950s and 1960s are being demolished at a record pace and replaced.
The city of Hanahan has issued almost as many demolition permits since January as in the past three years combined.
"We started to see this trend at the end of last year, and now it has gotten bigger," said Mayor Christie Rainwater. "It's an affordable option. I think buyers are seeing the value of investing in our city. There's real potential, and they are taking advantage of it."
Demolishing a standing structure, no matter the size, and replacing it with new construction can be pricey. Between the purchase of the original home and the renovations, Dyson has sunk more than $270,000 into the project. He admits it would have been cheaper just to buy a home already on the market, but the idea of starting from nothing on a bigger lot with mature trees was too much to pass up.
"You don't get lots this big in some of the newer neighborhoods, and not every house is the same," said Dyson, who expanded his new home to almost 1,600 square feet. "Everyone knows everyone around here. People walk to places. This is a unique place to live. It's an up-and-coming neighborhood. I know I made the right decision."
DYSON ISN'T ALONE
Matt Woodford found a home along Dennis Drive - just around the corner from Dyson's property. The house, which hadn't been occupied for years, backed up to Turkey Creek. He could see the potential even when others didn't and wanted to build a home for himself and his young family.
"The lot was completely overgrown. It was a mess," said Woodford, a general construction contractor. "There were raccoons living in the house, the floors were falling in. I wasn't going to demo it at first, I wanted to renovate it, but the trees were growing so close to the foundation that it was just too risky. It just made more sense to tear it down and start over again."
The new home Woodford completed in April was just a couple hundred square feet larger than the original built in 1968. Woodford has more than $650,000 invested in the property but doesn't feel like he overpaid for a home that he's likely to stay in for years.
"Sure, I might have spent a little bit more, but I got exactly what I wanted, and it's brand new," Woodford said. "I see it as a good option."
HOT HOUSING MARKET
The Hanahan housing market has been one of the strongest in Berkeley County during the past three years.
The median price of a home in the city just three years ago was $249,000 with an average price of $254,850. This year, the median price of a home has jumped to $293,700 with an average price of $308,985. In 2017, houses were on the market for an average of 49 days, and now they last just more than a month. Dyson's house has a market value of more than $300,000.
But a hot housing market is just one of the reasons why homebuyers might be considering demolition projects in the city, said Councilman Michael Sally. One big reason for the trend has been buyers trying to avoid dealing with homeowner associations.
"There are lot of buyers that just don't like HOAs, and those older neighborhoods normally don't have HOAs," said Sally, a longtime real estate agent in the area.
Sally also thinks the city has done a better job of enforcing its own ordinances, especially around the small downtown area.
"There are some properties that have been sitting vacant for a while," Sally said. "We are telling owners that something has to happen, not in a strong-armed way, but more like 'what's going on' and then something gets done. They sell it or get a tenant.'"
The demolition phenomenon has not crept into Hanahan's neighbors in Goose Creek and North Charleston, which border the Berkeley County community.
While not common, demolition projects in North Charleston were more popular while the Park Circle area was being redeveloped several years ago. In Goose Creek, with several megadevelopments such as Carnes Crossroads and Nexton either in the city limits or on its border, the practice is almost non-existent, said city Planning and Zoning Director Mark Brodeur.
Demolitions, however, have been seen more frequently on Isle of Palms. Since Hurricane Hugo came ashore in 1989 and with the Isle of Palms connector opening in 1993, dozens of cinderblock homes were destroyed by the storm and replaced with larger homes. The practice continues to this day.
"It's being done on a bigger scale on Isle of Palms," Sally said. "The Isle of Palms looks completely different than it did 10 years ago because of the houses that are being built now. People think that all happened right after Hugo, but there have been more demolitions in the past decade than right after the hurricane."
Sally said most of the demolition projects he has come across during the past couple of years have not always been investment properties.
"You certainly have people trying to flip houses, but the buyers are living in the majority of these kinds of properties," Sally said. "Hanahan is a close-knit community. People walk to the high school football games on Friday nights. You just don't get that everywhere in Charleston."
While Dyson and Woodford don't consider themselves trendsetters, they think others will follow their example.
"I think this is just starting to catch on," Woodford said. "People are seeing the advantages of doing what I did. I think it's going to be a lot more common."
A few doors down from Dyson's home, his family has already started a similar demolition project for his sister.
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