Market Report - Bluffton and Hilton Head Island

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It has been called by many "the last true coastal village of the South."  

The South Carolina Lowcountry continues to attract retirees from around the world, folks drawn to a year round outdoor playground with mesmerizing scenic beauty. Colorful sunsets make time stand still. The tall grasses of marshlands flow in the gentle breeze reflecting upon still waters, like a scene from a Monet painting. Wading birds, bottlenose dolphin and oysters spewing water up at low tide are eye and ear candy for the soul.

The Bluffton and Hilton Head Island area offer tremendous diversity. Often times, folks immediately think of Del Webb’s 55+ Sun City or expensive gated golf communities. The area offers much more. Now that the Highway 278 expansion is almost complete, access to the Hilton Head Island beaches is easier and faster. Home builders are busy on the south side of town building Bluffton new home communities with homes priced in the low $200k’s.

Folks interested in the Beaufort South Carolina area may want to be aware of the increase in military F-35’s being relocated from Eglin Florida to the MCAS airport in 2015. A local economic growth advocate in Florida, pointed out that the F-35’s “which can take off and land vertically, are the noisiest of the jets” at the base. Locals in Beaufort are hush, hush about it at the moment. From what we’ve learned and observed, we believe the noise pollution could impact real estate sales in a negative way in communities in close proximity to the airport and on the mainland of Beaufort. As long as the flight paths remain unchanged, Lady’s Island, Fripp Island and St. Helena Island should be unaffected. 

Bluffton is about an hour south of Beaufort and truly has it all! Brand label shopping, a large variety of restaurants, high quality medical care already catering to a retirement population and one of America’s best beaches, Hilton Head Island, just across the bridge. From new homes in the $200k’s to multimillion dollar waterfront mansions, Bluffton is one of the best places to retire in the Southeast no matter what your budget.

During our August trip, we visited 41 master-planned communities in the Lowcountry. Here’s our thoughts about a few of the neighborhoods in Bluffton and Okatie:


Adding more trophies to their wall, Belfair 1811 recently received the Prestigious Platinum Club Award by Distinguished Emerald Clubs of the World and is now included on the list of Top 35 Residential Communities in America. The community looks as beautiful as ever. There were 13 new Bluffton homes under construction at Belfair. With 485 homes built to date, the community is 66% built out. In 2014, Belfair’s home sales have been outpacing the nearby competitors. Homes are averaging $593k, slightly above 2013. Lots are averaging a whopping $60k or 160% above last year. They credit their high Discovery Package conversions for their sales. Some of the most interesting social club activities at Belfair include the Belfair Photography Group and Nutrition Services at the Fitness Center. We noticed the membership dues have decreased about $3k a year while the transfer fee has increased by about $5k.


It’s been a busy year at Berkeley Hall with 15 new homes currently under construction and another 16 in plan review. This gated Bluffton golf community is about 50% built out. Golfers in the Lowcountry love Berkeley Hall. In May, over 200,000 Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette readers voted the club as the Best Golf Course/Club in the area. There is so much to do at Berkeley Hall. From world class golf amenities to summer adventures and fishing on the river. Pool parties, themed dinners and art classes are on the long list of fun ways to socialize in the neighborhood. The accolades at Berkeley Hall have served them well. In 2014, home and lot prices have been climbing. In 2013, the average home price was $500k. In 2014, so far they are averaging $670k, a remarkable 34% increase. Lots in 2013 averaged about $50k. In 2014, they are tracking $79k. 


We can never get enough of the 4 mile “Decompression Drive” beyond the gated entrance and into Colleton. It sets the tone for the stunning nature preserve found within its gates. There are very few golf courses in America that are cut across a peninsular surrounded by water on three sides. Colleton River Plantation has two. This 1,500 acre community has 7 miles of shoreline and direct access to the Atlantic Ocean from the deepwater homes. The club has almost 700 members! Colleton River Plantation home prices are higher than competing Bluffton new home communities yet there may be bargains to be found. In 2014, homes are averaging in the mid $700k’s and lots $144k. Lot are averaging 30% higher and homes, surprisingly 14% lower.


One of South Carolina’s fresh water boating lake communities, Hilton Head Lakes was bustling with excitement. With over two dozen homes under construction, the community continues to rapidly grow. Soon to be available, the Lake Estates and Peninsular neighborhoods. The Lake Estates are homesites closest to The Lake Club and are larger lots to build beginning in the low $100k’s. The Penisular neighborhood are waterfront homesites that backup to nature preserves and are walking distance to The Lake Club. Hilton Head Lakes is one of the only communities offering in-house financing on developer homesites. Approximately 115 homes have been built to date. In March 2014, Benchmark Communities acquired Citizens Homes, Hilton Head Lakes primary home builder. California based Benchmark Communities is a subsidiary of UCP, a publicly traded company. HOA fees are low at Hilton Head Lakes at $1,236 per year. 


Not much has changed since our last visit to Oldfield except the pace of real estate sales which has been climbing as more people discover this hidden Lowcountry gem. Oldfield began building new Charleston-style homes at The Lakeside Village a couple years ago. We observed two model homes under construction. Homes can be built here under $400k. Home prices continue to climb about 5% in 2014 averaging $566k. However the number of lot sales are significantly outpacing last year. Sold lot prices remain steady in the mid $40k’s. Oldfield’s curb appeal is quite different than the rest and has some of the best dedicated walking and biking trails in the Lowcountry. The fitness center and equestrian center’s red painted barn-like architecture are attractive. The community’s outfitter’s center and River Club border the Okatie River.

This gated South Carolina community also has an 18 hole championship Greg Norman golf course. Oldfield’s annual dues are $6,850 or $570 a month. This includes access to the wellness and sports amenities. Full golf privileges will run members another $5,565 per year.


Off the beaten path, Palmetto Bluff is a charming seaside village and new home community within view of Hilton Head Island which will ultimately be comprised of three main villages.  Wilson, has been an extremely successful “historic downtown” where many of Palmetto Bluff’s public events, concerts and festivals are held. The second village, Moreland, is currently in development as the summer draws to a close, and a third village will begin development at a later date. Those in the real estate world know it as one of Bluffton’s trophy properties. There are approximately 400 homes built to date at this preserved, historical Lowcountry plantation set along the May River. The stunning design and architecture of the community attracted Southern Living Magazine’s attention and is now the site of their 2014 Idea House. There are also several River Road Idea Homes to tour in Palmetto Bluff’s Garden District. The River Road neighborhood is designed around a collection of parks, walkways, the River Road Preserve, an inland waterway, and future recreation center, all where residents can gather. New homes in the neighborhood begin in the $600k’s 

The quantity of home sales in 2014 are about the same as they were last year and are averaging about $1.2 million although the average home price has increased dramatically by 30%! Lot sales are outpacing last year and are averaging $241k, at about the same price as the year before. POA fees are $6,750 a year and include the $3,500 annual fee to the Trust. Golf membership is optional. The community has 305 homes built to date and 82 under construction. Palmetto Bluff has more homes under construction than any established Bluffton new home community in the Lowcountry. 


Working our way north, we had the opportunity to spend time again at Spring Island. This low density island between Bluffton and Beaufort is in the truest form - a nature preserve. The lush forest and scenic beauty of the Colleton and Chechessee Rivers are hard to describe. Driving along the roads, you’ll rarely see a home but when you do, the homes are impressive. Almost a dozen homes at Spring Island have been featured in architectural and design magazines, newspapers and books. We observed 7 homes under construction of the 264 built to date. Only 400 homes will be present at the project’s completion. This private island is a sportsman’s paradise. Club members have access to boating and fishing, sports clays, equestrian interests, wellness amenities and golf. Unique attributes of the island include a massive community garden, cultural events, lifelong learning pursuits, and art workshops. 

Membership dues are $13,440 for the year with an initiation fee of $125k. The POA fee is $5,800. Spring Island was excited to share with us the new opportunities to possibly build smaller footprint homes for under $750k. Buyers in this price range who are looking for a place in close proximity to everything and yet removed from urbanism, will be hard pressed to find a more unique and extraordinary community. 

Soon Sea Pines and Port Royal Plantation will added to the collection of beach communities on our website.

This is a just a brief snapshot of what’s available the Bluffton area of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Don’t make the mistake many of our clients have made and assume a quick drive through the area tells all. Tap into our "boots on the ground expertise" and discover the friendliest neighborhoods in which to live.

To learn more about the Lowcountry, ask for our free Bluffton Relocation Information.

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