Sarasota has a lot in common with Charleston—but our real estate is totally different.
By Robert Plunket
Click here to see our Real Estate Junkie talk Charleston on TV.
If you like old houses, the one place in the United States you must visit is Charleston, South Carolina. It has the best collection in the country, with many dating back to the 1700s. Luckily, the city was not burned by Sherman during the Civil War, so they remain intact and updated – and very expensive.
Charleston and Sarasota are the same type of city. Both attract rich people looking for a second home or retirement residence, both are heavy on arts and culture, and both are crowded with tourists. Charleston is much more historic than us (the Civil War began here, George Washington used to come visit, Porgy and Bess is set here) but then, it’s not a lavish tropical resort the way we are. And though Charleston had the country’s first museum and theater, our present day arts scene is actually better – more diverse and livelier.
The classic Charleston house is called the “single house” because it is set with the narrow end facing the street and is only one room deep. Long porches run along one side, and at the back is a walled garden.
Here’s a particularly nice example, at 6 Water Street. It’s currently on the market for $3,765,000. It was built in 1820, at the height of Charleston’s power and influence, and has 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, and 5,600 square feet.
Note the way the living room is furnished. Virtually every house in Charleston looks like this. If there were ever a town for English and American antiques, this is it.
Another housing style in the historic district is the carriage house. Here is one at 73 Church Street that dates all the way back to 1716. Now that’s old. It’s got 2,600 square feet, 3 bedrooms and 3 baths, and is listed at $2,195,000.
A more affordable choice in the historic district is a condo, and some of the old homes and commercial buildings have been renovated into smaller units. This 1890s home on the Battery – probably the best street in town – has several available for under a million. The finishes are top-notch and the location can’t be beat.
A trip to Charleston is the perfect long weekend getaway. It’s an easy 8-hour drive from Sarasota, and I did it on one $50 tank of gas (one way, of course.) Stay at a B&B for maximum historic impact, eat at 82 Queen (probably the nicest restaurant in town), tour the old homes that are open to the public – and set Sunday afternoon aside for open houses.