UNDERSTANDING THE AREAS OF

HILTON HEAD ISLAND & BLUFFTON

Often, when I meet with new clients, they have been vacationing on Hilton Head Island for many years.  Some of them are even the second or third generation to return to the Low Country, year after year, to enjoy everything that this lovely island has to offer.  I am consistently amazed that, although they have spent many vacation weeks here, most of them have little knowledge of what hides behind the gates of the island’s plantations.  When these folks begin their real estate search, they are naturally interested in the area that is most familiar to them.  However, when I take them into other plantations and explain the differences to them, 8 times out of 10, they end up buying in one of the neighborhoods that was previously not even on their radar.   I’ll cover the most important characteristics of these communities for you.  Keep in mind that other differences and similarities exist.  But, they do not generally contribute to the definition of the community as a whole.

OUTSIDE OF THE PLANTATONS

First off, I think it is important to note, that two very popular areas of the island are not behind a gate at all.  Folly Field located toward the north end and Forest Beach on the south end, appeal to buyers who are not interested in resort amenities.  There are few, if any, covenants governing what you can and cannot do with a property that you own there. 

In Folly Field, you will discover homes ranging from old beach cottages and sugar shacks, to large, new vacation homes.  The majority of the single family homes here are older and smaller than those of Forest Beach.  A large portion of the real estate that is available here are condos (or “villas” as they are called on the island).  Folly Field is attractive to buyers because real estate prices tend to be lower.   This is mostly due to the fact that it lacks a walkable retail village.  Aside from one Italian restaurant chain location, folks must bike or drive to grocery stores, shops, and restaurants.  But, Folly Field enjoys quick access to the ocean on foot and relative quiet, even in the height of the season.  

Forest Beach, on the other hand, is anchored by a retail village called Coligny Plaza.  Coligny is undoubtedly the most popular retail area for vacationers and stands between North Forest Beach (mostly single family homes) and South Forest Beach (mostly villa properties).  Coligny Plaza attracts vacationers from every corner of the island.  You can walk out of the ocean, across a boardwalk into one of 23 different food and beverage establishments in under 5 minutes.  To purchase a property within walking distance of Coligny means paying a higher price but, easy rentals for those who seek to offset the cost of a beach home.  Coligny is has it all:  Grocery stores, restaurants, pubs, movie theater, resort wear and clothing stores, souvenirs shops, ice cream shops, coffee shops, bars, and surf shops.  There is even a shop dedicated to cupcakes and one with 12 different machines churning alcoholic slushies!  Real estate for sale in North Forest Beach is mostly single family structures.  Narrow, sandy streets exist on both sides of Forest Beach Drive, the main road one block off of the ocean.  Few of the small beach cottages that existed here originally still remain.  Most of them have been torn down and replaced by large, palatial beach homes of every architectural style you can imagine. Setback laws allow for new structures to be built close to property lines.  So, large structures are tightly packed together in most cases.  Giant live oaks with Spanish moss shade the lanes which allows for a pleasant, easy walk to the beach path from virtually anywhere. There are some year round residents but, most properties are second homes and vacation rentals. 

South Forest Beach is almost entirely made up of villa complexes.  Many ocean front condo properties are gated.    If you are interested in purchasing a villa here, pay particular attention to the age of the complex as older buildings made of wood are costly to maintain when they are this close to the ocean.  This usually increases the monthly regime fee (condo fee).  You should also be sure to understand the financial stability of the complex you are considering.  It’s like buying stock in a company.  You want to make sure that the company is run well and has adequate capital reserves.  Finally, be sure to understand the percentage of long term tenants to vacation rentals.  If there are a large number of long term tenants, the complex has probably failed to rent well on the short term market.  It really doesn’t matter why.  It could be one of several reasons.  But, you want to invest in a condo complex that has the success of a beach resort. 

To purchase a property within walking distance of Coligny means you will pay a higher price than you would in Folly Field. But, it also makes for easy vacation rentals; a big incentive for those who seek to offset the cost of a beach home.   You will have greater freedom to make changes to your property than you would inside a plantation.  But, if you’re looking for peace and quiet, this should not be your first choice.  If you want to park your car when you arrive and not use it again until you leave, you should look carefully in the Forest Beach area.