By Hannah Dockery
Over the past seven years, Seabrook Island has changed significantly. From a transition to mandatory club membership to a major construction project updating island amenities, Broker-In-Charge of Seabrook Island Real Estate Joe Salvo feels that from a financial standpoint, the changes are paying off.
Owned and operated by its property owners instead of private developers, the island functions under three entities: the Town of Seabrook Island, the Seabrook Island Club, and the Property Owners Association (SIPOA). The three facets perform separate tasks while working together to better the island. “We each have different primary responsibilities, but we each want the other organizations to be successful,” said David Bauhs, SIPOA President.
The Seabrook Island Club was first founded in 1991 after the island real estate developer went bankrupt. A number of the Seabrook residents joined together to purchase the island amenities from the bank, while having the Club operated under optional membership. In November 2004, the community voted to implement the mandatory club membership policy at the start of 2005; this meant that all future homebuyers would pay an initial membership fee as well as annual dues to the Club. As a result, the membership numbers grew from about 1,200 to the current 1,726, out of a total 2,500 property owners. “Normal real estate turnover now provides consistent cash flow for the island’s upkeep and consistent financial security for maintaining and operating all island amenities,” said Salvo.
Seabrook resident Jim Leib served as Vice-Chair of the SIPOA “Island One” Committee to work towards establishing mandatory membership. “One of the things about the Island One initiative was that people required to join the Club could resign after a seven year commitment,” he said. “For those who joined in 2005, that meant this year they could resign. We prepared for the worst and budgeted for a potential net loss of 67 memberships. We have only loss 11, year to date. That tells me people are happy with what we’re doing.”
Bob Scott, Seabrook Island Club Treasurer, is pleased with the progress of the mandatory membership policy. “As a result of the mandatory membership initiative, the Club is sitting on $2.7 million in operating cash and reserves. That’s a million dollars more than just a year ago, and a long way from almost bankruptcy in 2003,” he said.
The membership policy is not the only major change that has affected Seabrook. In 2007, the amenities on the island underwent massive renovations during a construction period of around 20 months. The stucco and steel Beach Club and Club House were torn down and replaced. The new Lake House was completed with a fitness center and swimming pools. The Tennis Facility was built, and the Equestrian Center was updated. “We were spending a fortune maintaining old facilities that were in disrepair,” said Ed Williams, Chair of the Building Committee. “It was a risky time to do something like that, but it was a wise decision.” The $31 million project finished ahead of schedule and under budget. “The new amenities were built in the heart of a crisis and now we’re reaping the benefits,” said Bauhs.
Current Club President Ken Kavanaugh is pleased with the way the Club is running since renovation. “Without bragging, I would say that the Club is having an excellent year,” he stated. “The new amenities have continued to prosper. It’s a combination of the new amenities, outstanding management, great staff, excellent members who are extremely supportive, as well as our volunteer board members.”
Though the new amenities have given Seabrook the feel of a resort island, it likes to think of itself as a community instead. Within the last year, a new marketing initiative has brought the three managing entities of Seabrook together to form the Visibility Committee. “We all have a role in promoting Seabrook Island and encouraging visitors to discover Seabrook, visit, and hopefully eventually make it their home,” said Mayor Bill Holtz. “There’s nowhere else I would rather be,” commented Visibility Committee Chair Ken Ingram. “The people are terrific and I couldn’t be happier.”
“In the end, you can’t argue with the numbers,” said Salvo. Year to date sales on the island are up significantly from last year, and total sales volume on the island are up 60 percent, with an average sale price of those properties up 15 percent. “These increases are significantly better than the other Charleston coastal communities,” said Salvo. “It’s a pleasure to be able to share our positive financial story and our new amenities with potential real estate buyers.”
Photos Provided by Seabrook Island Real Estate