Market Conditions, South Carolina

The Pulse of Kiawah Island and Best Charleston Home Builders

Charleston Home Builders
Published on May 22, 2015


On the national real estate front, first quarter 2015 real estate statistics indicate that a true housing recovery is at last underway, with new home starts in the U.S. at the highest since late 2007. However, most of the one million plus new home starts in April 2015 were realized in the Northeast, West, and Midwest. In most of the South, you might be surprise to know new housing starts and the housing market in general remains somewhat flat overall, except in certain regional pockets such as Naples and Sarasota Florida. Nationally, the sale of vacation homes is also at highest levels since 2003 and many are found in Charleston, one of the top places to live in South Carolina.

For Kiawah and neighboring Seabrook Island, the median single family home sales price took a dip in April to $750,000, while condo and townhouse prices were up by over 17% at $415,000 (according to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors® MLS). On Kiawah Island only, first quarter sales island-wide were down for villas, cottages and lots, although single family home sales were still robust, with 18 properties selling at an average price of $1,925,000. Approximately 60 percent of Kiawah Island’s planned development is built out and, as of March 31, there were 197 developed lots available—the highest number in six years. What all of this means is that new home buyers looking at Charleston beach homes for sale can expect a stable but relatively flat market for the time being, making it a great time to claim their own piece of Lowcountry bliss. Existing single family homes and villas on Kiawah start in the $500s, while condos and lots can be found in the $200s. With inventory levels still high, and an array of fine Charleston home builders available, this is the year to visit Charleston and experience the coastal South Carolina Kiawah Island resort lifestyle.

Kiawah Island, one of a dozen South Carolina Sea Islands in Charleston County, is a coastal paradise situated approximately 20 miles southwest of Charleston that boasts 10 miles of pristine, private beaches and seven 18-hole championship golf courses. The established, 10,000-acre gated island community appeals to retirees and young families alike looking for luxury Charleston beach homes for sale, either as a primary residence or second home. Awash with natural beauty and exceptional amenities, the barrier island was recognized as the “#1 Island in America” by Conde Nast Traveler, one of the “Best Places for Second Homes” by Barron’s, and has garnered many other awards including “Best Golf Community in the U.S.,” “Top Five U.S. Tennis Resorts” and “Top 10 America’s Best Beach Towns.”

For Golfers, it doesn’t get much better than Kiawah Island, which hosted the spectacular 1991 Ryder Cup and the 2012 PGA Championship, as well as many other prestigious tournaments. Happily, the PGA has recently announced that it will return to Kiawah’s magnificent but challenging Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course for the 2021 PGA Championship. Golfers of all ages and abilities can enjoy all levels of play on the five-star Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s seven golf courses (designed by golf legends such as Nicklaus, Player and Watson) and sharpen their game at the Golf Academy.

For the non-golfer, two tennis centers offer 23 courts, and five inviting clubhouses located throughout the island offer top notch swimming, health, and fitness amenities for all ages. Nature lovers revel in the flora and fauna of the island’s tidal creeks, marshes, Atlantic beaches, forests, freshwater ponds and the Kiawah River. The Kiawah Conservancy, an active community group, has ensured the preservation of over 320 acres of barrier island habitats for birds, wildlife and sea turtles for generations to come. This South Carolina Sea Island community is the epitome of Southern charm and hospitality, with dozens of clubs, and activities throughout the year. Kiawah Island residents enjoy 30 miles of bike paths, parks, pools, boat landings and family-friendly outdoor recreation the length of the 13.5 square mile island. Kayaking, fishing and boating are favorite water sports, but relaxing in the sun is still a top pastime.

There are eight restaurants and a Village market with shops and services on the island for everyday conveniences. However, the proximity to Charleston’s fine dining, shopping, vibrant arts community, and world-renowned cultural opportunities, such as the Spoleto Festival, are more reasons for the popularity of the South Carolina Sea Islands. 

When considering Charleston beach homes for sale, you’ll find that there are a number of excellent luxury Charleston home builders serving the area. Whether you intend to design and build on your own lot, or remodel an existing home, you’re sure to find a builder familiar with the special requirements for building fine homes on South Carolina Sea Islands. Here are just a few highly rated Charleston area builders, including Kiawah Island approved builders, to consider:


Since 1983, Bennett Hofford Construction Company, Inc. has been building high-end, custom homes in neighborhoods throughout the Lowcountry and along the South Carolina coast, as well as historic restorations and commercial land development. One of the first builder developers on Kiawah Island, Bennett Hofford has also built on Seabrook, Edisto and Wadmalaw Islands. In 1990 Bennett Hofford received the Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects, and in 1993 the company received the Grand Award from Builder magazine. The company prides itself on exceptional craftsmanship and use of the finest materials.


This premier Lowcountry custom home builder has been racking up awards for 17 years with an emphasis on quality. They are currently focused on Kiawah Island homes, and are an approved builder there. Buffington consistently receives the highest ratings and reviews from their homeowners, and is known for excellent customer service. Their national and regional awards include eight National Association of Home Builders awards for building and design excellence, and 12 “Best Resort / Island Product” PRISM awards from the Charleston Trident Builder’s Association.


Another Kiawah Island approved builder, Cinder Creek is a family-owned business whose principal is Charleston native Neal Crowell. Neal worked with two national builders for years before returning to Charleston to work and raise his family. The company is dedicated to building custom dream homes that they would be proud to own. They offer architectural and design services for those who are not already working with an architect. Additionally, Cinder Creek has developed supply chain and building system techniques that allow them to deliver beautiful luxury homes on schedule and in record time.


Dolphin has built over 200 custom Lowcountry homes in neighborhoods on Sullivan's Island, Isle of Palms, Kiawah, Seabrook, Wadmalaw, James Island and more. The Charleston design/build firm provides value and customer service with its three-step process, guaranteed completion date, and five-year warranty. They are a Guildmaster Award winner 2008-2014 for consistently delivering a superior customer experience. To further emphasize its commitment to the Charleston area, Dolphin donates five percent of its net profit to humanitarian and arts causes in the community.


Originating as a husband and wife team in London with family roots in the real estate industry, this custom builder team takes pride in its attention to detail, learned from years in construction in England. Kingswood came to be in 1996 when the Leeke family emigrated to the U.S.; they have been building elegant custom homes in South Carolina since. Kingswood has earned two dozen regional awards for design, build, and service excellence, as well as media recognition with cover articles in QC Exclusive and Charleston Style & Design magazines.


This custom builder has been in business since 1978, and began building fine homes in the Charleston area in the mid-1980s on spec. The family-operated business grew quickly with a reputation for excellence, and they’ve built custom homes in a variety of architectural styles on Kiawah since 1985. As a Kiawah Island approved builder, Koenig is focused on building and maintaining long-term relationships. They also operate a subsidiary property management firm to assist seasonal homeowners with tasks such as weekly home monitoring and hurricane preparedness. Over the years, Koenig has been recognized multiple times with PRISM, Pinnacle, Aurora, Watermark and Guildmaster awards.


Another family-owned and operated builder, R.M. Buck has spent the past 20-plus years building stately homes on Kiawah and Seabrook Islands‚ downtown Charleston and throughout the Lowcountry. Bob Buck started building in the 1960s, and began a custom cabinetry business for upscale New England ski resort homes in 1977. Today, his company is still known for their furniture–grade custom cabinetry and finishes‚ which they make in their own Island Cabinet Company on John’s Island. The Buck family’s attention to detail makes for satisfied customers. The company is also community oriented, and supports local causes such as the Kiawah Conservancy and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.


This fine custom home builder began in Charlotte, NC, over 35 years ago building executive homes in some of Charlotte’s most prestigious neighborhoods. The firm moved to the Charleston area in 2004, started building on Daniel Island, and is now expanding to Kiawah Island. Robert Morgan Fine Homes earned 2005 Prism Awards for Best Product, Single Family Home/Custom Home for two of their beautiful homes. President Robert Lee says, “We believe in enduring quality and lasting value by using the finest, cost effective and energy efficient materials when constructing a home.”


This award-winning Lowcounty builder is another excellent Charleston home builder that also builds predominately on Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island and in the downtown Charleston area. Seamar has been erecting distinctive homes on Kiawah for over 35 years and prides themselves on both attention to detail and a transparent process. As Kiawah has grown, so has the company, adding personnel and processes as well as separating the design and building functions into two district companies in order to better serve their clients. Partners Richie Faenza and Steve Parham have both built in the Charleston area since the early 1980s, with Parham joining the Seamar team in 1994. Together they bring a wealth of experience and expertise to their home owners.


This custom home builder is recognized as one of the finest in the southeast, and has built over 150 custom homes in the Charleston area over the past 30 years. It all started when Steve Brenner, Solaris’ president, sunk his life savings into a piece of property on then little-known Kiawah Island as a college student. He has been building since 1982 on Kiawah Island, where Solaris’ work is exemplary and their reputation for historical and foreign reproductions is unsurpassed. The company culture is one of “do the right thing” with personal relationships being of the highest importance. Solaris’ breathtaking homes speak volumes about the quality of materials and construction that goes into each custom estate home, and the firm has tackled challenging projects such as a multi-generational home and a historical restoration of a Historic Charleston landmark property with great success.

Kiawah Island has many lovely vacation home rentals available, as well as the Sanctuary Hotel & Spa, where Kiawah Island visitors are pampered in style. Perhaps a summer trip to the South Carolina Sea Islands is the perfect prescription for this year’s long winter doldrums.

If you’re visiting Kiawah Island and Charleston for the first time, don’t hesitate to ask for our free Charleston relocation information to help you learn more about the large metropolitan city and South Carolina Sea Islands, one of the top places to live in South Carolina.