Island Time


Charles Sampson first visited Hilton Head Island as a boy in 1958, when his family drove three hours from his native Aiken to spend a day at the beach.

“Back then, you drove your car right out on the beach. You’d run back into the bushes to put your bathing suit on,” says Sampson, owner, agent and founding partner of Charter One Realty-North. “If you came to Hilton Head for a vacation, you’d better like the ocean, because that was pretty much it.”

He’s seen a lot of change on the island since then. He’s also experienced the rollercoaster of the local real estate market, from slumps in the mid-1970s and late ’80s to booms and busts due to hurricanes or even Midwest blizzards. The market took five years to recover from the 2008 economic collapse, but since then, each year has been better than the last, Sampson says.


“Except for 2016,” he says. “That’s because we had only 11 months due to Hurricane Matthew. We sold three houses in October that year.”

But weather sometimes tips the other side of the scale, too — weather elsewhere, that is. For example, 2018 was one of the best years in the past two decades for Charter One-North.

“Why was ’18 so good?” Sampson says. “Well, about Jan. 2 or 3, our phones started ringing: ‘I live in Chicago and it’s minus 50 degrees!’”

Sampson never had to endure through that kind of winter in Aiken, where he grew up, but like those shivering in Chicago, he was eager to make the island his home. So much so that he moved here with his wife and baby daughter in 1972, with one semester — actually, just one paper — still standing between him and graduation from Erskine College.

Sampson finished that paper and took a job teaching seventh- and eighth-grade history in Bluffton, while his wife, Frances, started working for Sea Pines. He also was moonlighting at Palmetto Bay Marina on the weekends, ending his teaching career after he was offered the dockmaster’s job. He later worked for Hargray Communications for a decade. Then in 1985, a friend recruited him to sell houses in the Melrose Properties development on Daufuskie Island.

“I jumped at that chance and got my licensing,” Sampson says. “I loved the fact that if I was going to meet clients, I had to get on the boat to Daufuskie.”

After a brief stint working in sales for a Melrose community in Austin, Texas, he began selling properties in Hilton Head Plantation, which had been acquired by Melrose. In 1994, he and two colleagues, Ann Ellis and the late Mike Williams, created Charter One-North. Since then, Sampson has been named Realtor of the Year three times and placed on the Distinguished Honor Roll by the Hilton Head Area Association of Realtors.

But his life hasn’t been solely about real estate. He and Frances will celebrate their 50th anniversary this summer with their three daughters: Elizabeth Moore, who owns and operates High Tide Carpet Cleaning with her husband; Angela Mullis, who played basketball at the College of Charleston and is now an agent with Charter One-North; and Lauren Ciccarelli, an obstetrics nurse at Hilton Head Hospital.

Sampson has long been deeply involved in the community. He currently serves as a board member for Volunteers in Medicine, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and the Technical College of the Lowcountry. His resume also includes volunteer leadership roles for Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity and time as an elder at First Presbyterian Church, a board member at the Coastal Discovery Museum and chairman of the Beaufort County Consortium of Affordable Housing.

He’s also well-known for hosting “pig pulls” to raise money for local organizations and famously deep-fries turkeys for clients and friends during the holidays.

“Cooking is fun for me,” he says.

Sampson has no plans to walk away from real estate any time soon and believes the community is doing the right things to ensure a bright future for Hilton Head.

“The culinary institute (at TCL) is going to be a big plus for the restaurants,” he says. “And the new hospitality (management) program housed at the new Hilton Head campus of the University of South Carolina Beaufort is also going to be a really big asset.”