After nearly 40 years of business in the real estate realm, a homegrown Isle of Palms realty family is downsizing its assets and reconfiguring its management. Carroll Realty’s office will remain intact, but the rest of the building is in the process of being broken down into office condos and sold off as individual units.
Over the past few years, previous owner and mayor Jimmy Carroll has been slowly liquidating himself from the family business. In 2015, he sold the controlling interest of the business to his nephew, Michael Carroll, his nephew’s wife, Ashley Carroll and his sister Kathy Carroll. Now, the family has decided to sell the building itself.
“I’m trying to lessen the everyday management obligations of the operations of such a building and streamline my life,” he said. “I’m still a full-time realtor but the additional day-to-day duties of running a busy real estate office are no longer mine.”
Prior to selling it, Carroll offered his share of the business to his three sons who regularly worked for him throughout their childhood years. But none of them wanted to carry on the family’s realty legacy.
“It’s kind of bittersweet. I had originally hoped that my sons would have wanted the business, but I’m still glad to keep it in the family,” he said.
Last week, Carroll listed six offices on the second floor of the 9,200 square foot building for sale. Most units are 512 square feet and Carroll is asking for approximately $525,000 per unit. All current leases expire at the end of 2019 and new owner’s possession would begin Jan. 1, 2020.
Despite numerous offers for wholesale purchases, Carroll said he doesn’t want to be paid off or given cash for the units. He wants to own the finance so he can ensure an income for Carroll Realty − which he referred to as his family trust.
The downsizing of Carroll Realty did not come as a shock to the family. Carroll confessed he always knew this day would come; in fact, he actually planned for it.
Roots of Carroll Realty
In the summer of 1978, Carroll emerged onto the real estate scene in the most inauspicious of ways. A College of Charleston graduate at the time, he was home on break after taking his LSATs in preparation for law school at the University of South Carolina. To pass the time, he figured he’d try his hand at real estate. He soon realized he would no longer attend law school.
Three years later, he and his mother Kathy Carroll decided to launch a business of their own: Carroll Realty. However, at the time they didn’t have a brick and mortar and interest rates ranged from 16-18%.
“People would say ‘why the heck are y’all starting a real estate company in the worst of economic times?’ Our feeling was if we could make it during the bad times, we would flourish at the good times,” Carroll said.
Living on Sullivan’s Island at the time, in 1986, Carroll and his mother rented a 500 square-foot office space where Mex 1 Coastal Cantina is today. Carroll and his friends did all of the renovations themselves, but progress was temporary because shortly thereafter Hurricane Hugo hit.
Carroll compared Hugo to the real estate market crash in 2008. The difference was people didn’t have a place to physically stay. They still came to vacation during the housing turmoil.
“I thought my world was over. My office was torn down. I basically had to start over again,” Carroll said. “It was devastating. Personally, I lost everything I owned.”
After the havoc of Hugo, in 1990, Carroll decided to build the business on Isle of Palms where it’s still located at 103 Palm Boulevard near Breach Inlet. Once again, he had to start all over from scratch, except this time he planned ahead.
Carroll built every unit on different meters and HVAC systems, so in the future he could sell them separately as office condos when the time came to downsize. His logic then, and now, was to sell them individually as opposed to one buyer because in the worst case scenario he wouldn’t have a completely vacant building.
Carroll credits his mother and family friend Helen Clarkin for teaching him the business. He initially worked for Clarkin before branching out on his own.
During the formative years of his business, Clarkin gave him a piece of advice that helped shape the roots of Carroll Realty. She told him he needed to not just give back to his business, but to his community.
Carroll would go on to give 15 years of leadership for the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors and eventually be named president. Around the same time, in 1999, he became president of East Cooper Top Producers. He was near the peak of his real estate career, but just beginning his philanthropic pursuits.
He began taking time off to help volunteer for East Cooper Habitat for Humanity. After helping build several homes with “sweat equity,” he became a member of their board of directors.
In 2000, due to a business law change, Carroll chose to donate Carroll Realty’s escrow interest earnings to the Habitat. Since then, his company has donated enough funds to build three complete Habitat homes. One home was named in honor of Carroll’s mother who has since passed away.
“I just fell in love with it. I like the fact that it’s not a handout but one works toward their home ownership,” he said. “People get a home and that’s the ultimate American dream.”
Still feeling like he hadn’t done enough, Carroll ran for Isle of Palms City Council. In 2011, he was elected and by 2018 he became mayor. He still continues to donate his mayor salary earnings to Habitat for Humanity.
Carroll confessed that being mayor has cut deeply into his income as a realtor. He said it takes up far more time than he ever expected and besides the name recognition it truthfully has not helped him as a realtor.
“I’m still a realtor and I’ll be a realtor until my mayor’s gig is up. When the mayor’s gig is up I’m totally done with everything,” Carroll said.
Over the years, Carroll has watched the island’s real estate market drastically evolve. He remembers being able to buy a lot and a house for under under $50,000. Nowadays, a typical lot costs half a million dollars depending on location. If the property is beachfront then it could cost anywhere from $2-3 million and upwards, home not included.
Today, Carroll’s fiancé, Carol Powers helps him maintain day-to-day functions. He didn’t specify exactly when plans to stop renewing his real estate license, but admits he’s looking forward to his future endeavors in retirement which include traveling in a RV countrywide, but always coming back to the island to “rejuvenate and get some sand between their toes.”