Inside Kiawah Island’s New Golf Real Estate Developments – Robb Report
As the pandemic gripped the world, two industries, often intertwined, took off. Golf saw its biggest influx of players in more than a decade, while the real estate market appeared to pass Earth’s orbit en route to other parts of the galaxy. There is a long and often uninteresting marriage between golf and real estate in this country, with too many bland developments cropping up over the past fifty years. But for the places that got it right, the past two years have brought a boon.
One such location is legendary Kiawah Island, South Carolina’s private golf and residential barrier island located southwest of Charleston. Kiawah Island Real Estate reports that in 2021 they sold $1 billion in executed contracts, the most in their 45-year history and a 40% increase from $567.9 million in 2020, and a Staggering 299% increase over 2019 closed volume. $199.5 million.
Current demand can be seen in one of the newer projects on the island. South Street Partners has just two homes left in their initial offering of thirteen from their Front Nine Lane development, a collection of residences clustered near the famous Ocean Course. The homes, designed by architectural firm Lake/Flato, went on sale in 2020 with a starting price of $3.3 million. Boom prices for the latter two are now at $4.2 million. The prices — and the scarcity — reflect the offshoring frenzy accelerated by the pandemic, as more people live the working life from anywhere.
South Street Partners owns the remaining parcels of land that can be developed on Kiawah, which is an environmental reserve. As a result, Front Nine Lane was created with a minimal footprint in mind. The vertical structures feature outdoor living areas at the bottom, with smaller bedrooms opening up to expansive common areas to foster family interaction and absorb the natural surroundings of Kiawah’s wetland landscape. The third floors house master suites that overlook the first hole of the Ocean Course and offer expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.
This spring, South Street will launch a new development on Cassique, a private golf club run by the company. Similar in size, scale and price to Front Nine Lane, the Burn, as the development is called, will overlook the second hole of the course. Chris Randolph, a South Street partner, said the impetus for construction was not just demand. “The value proposition there and why we’re doing it is that these homes will be Kiawah’s closest homes to Charleston,” he says. Randolph adds that Cassique is technically not part of the gated community of Kiawah – the two developments, so to speak, share the same entrance road – and also noted Burn’s proximity to Freshfields Village, a commercial development with a grocery store. and restaurants that have opened within the last ten years add to the attractiveness of new homes. Burn’s homes will start at $4 million and range in size from 3,392 square feet to 3,745 square feet. They were also “installed to accommodate a swimming pool,” says Randolph.
The appeal of Front Nine Lane and Burn for buyers, notes Randolph, is the ease of everything. The pre-designed layouts allow customization of finishes, but also allow the construction team to take advantage of economies of scale, by ordering the same materials at the same time for all seven properties. This saves the buyer money, but more importantly, it is more efficient in terms of reduced build time compared to custom building from scratch. South Street can typically cut construction time for new buyers by six months in projects such as Front Nine Lane and Burn, so buyers can often move in within a year of purchase.
Expansion on Kiawah will however be limited in the future. Last summer, there were 140 residential sites left on the island; Randolph said that number has now dropped to “fifty or sixty”, including some remaining parcels of land for high-density development like townhouses. On the remaining lots zoned for single-family homes, the price ranges from $700,000 to $2 million, with the more expensive lots having ocean views.
As of this writing, there are also a few private islands available for purchase, both of which include Kiawah Island Club membership: The 11.37-acre Captain Maynards Island, surrounded by a river and a saltwater creek, is listed for $17.75 million, while the 25-acre Cougar Island, nestled in a bend in Bass Creek, is listed for $12.5 million. Given the current desire for community golf residences – and homes that celebrate life indoors and out – it’s unclear how much longer any of these sites will be on the market.