Act 388 needs repeal

Act 388 shifted the burden of the school operating budget from primary homeowners, who pay at a 4 percent assessment rate, to second-home owners, who pay at a 6 percent rate, as well as commercial property owners.

As a result, property taxes for 6-percent owners are almost three times more than taxes for 4-percent owners.

Before Act 388 all property owners (4 percent and 6 percent ) paid in to the school operating budget. Even then, 6-percent taxpayers paid more toward operations than did the 4-percent taxpayers.

No one wants to pay higher taxes. A huge mistake was made in 2006 with the passage of this law. Mistakes need to be rectified. The 4-percent property owners who live here, many of whom have children or grandchildren going to school here, have seen their property taxes go down approximately 25 percent. Individuals who do not live here full time and who do not use the schools are being asked to pay 75 percent of the school operating budget.

While no one wants to see taxes go up, how moral is it to ask another class of property owners to pay for our children’s education? This is not a shell game. This is outright legalized thievery imposed on individuals who do not vote here, do not have children in school here and do not operate businesses here. There is more than just the morality of the situation. There are real economic consequences to every one of us living here who are benefiting from the current tax structure.

According to the policy brief “State Property Tax Comparisons: Residential Property,” released in November 2009 by the nonpartisan Jim Self Center on the Future at the Strom Thurmond Institute: “South Carolina’s very unusual taxation of rental and second-home residential property will further erode the property tax base for all local governments.” And it will do this by:

  • Discouraging private investment in rental residential property, which is a necessary component of the state’s housing stock, as well as an important resource for the state’s tourism industry.
  • Encouraging investment in low-cost but owner-occupied housing as an alternative to rental housing.
  • Encouraging conversion of higher-value second homes to primary residences and vice versa

It is now 2012, and what was predicted in 2009 has come to fruition. More than 6,000 taxpayers who once paid in to the school operating budget have now chosen to become 4-percent property owners, according to the Beaufort County Assessor’s Office. Those 6,000 taxpayers pay no property taxes toward the school operating budget. This translates to fewer 6-percent taxpayers paying even higher taxes.

This situation is not sustainable. I agree with state Sen. Tom Davis when he calls for tax reform. Act 388 should be amended so that the 4-percent property owners pay their fair share toward the school operating budget.

This is not asking the 4-percent owners’ taxes to go up when one considers the fact that they should never have gone down in the first place. I want my grandchildren and their children to have the opportunity receive a superb education. The residents of South Carolina should be first in line to pay for their children’s education.

Thanks to Charlie Reed who wrote this piece in today’s Island Packet and who is a Hilton Head Island Realtor and a member of the advisory board for the Property Tax Equalization Initiative.

Beaufort County releases online tax bill explainer

Beaufort County Treasurer Doug Henderson’s phone usually rings constantly this time of year as residents struggle to understand their property tax bills.

Some are curious about stormwater fees, homestead exemptions or the difference between assessed value and taxable value.

Most just want to know, “Why is my bill so high?” he said Thursday.

To help demystify the annual tax bills, county officials created a sample bill online with clickable “bubbles” that explain things such as millage, credits and assessment ratios. It also breaks down how a property owner’s bill is tallied.

The feature was first posted on the county website about a month ago.

“Basically, it was informational for the taxpayer,” Henderson said. “In past years, we would get calls for every little thing on the tax bill. We put it on the Web so people can look at it and point to different things and understand what it is.”

This is the first year the county has used the sample bill, and the results have been promising: Tax related inquiries to the department’s staff have fallen sharply from nearly 1,200 a month at the  same time last year, Henderson said. He didn’t have specifics on the number of calls so far this year. Meanwhile, tax collection rates are higher than last year.

“This is the first time we have put it out on the website,” he said. “We are just trying to think of new ways to do things different and better.”

Tax bills were sent out last month, and property owners have until Jan. 15, 2013, to pay and avoid a penalty. Penalties are added for payments received later than that date.

Bills can be paid online, in person at county treasurer’s offices in Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island, or at BB&T Bank branches in Bluffton, Beaufort, Hilton Head and Yemassee.

If you have questions about your Tax Bill, give us a call. We’re here to help. Let us know how we can be of assistance.
Thanks to the Island Packet for this information.

Palmetto Bluff to limit new homes near May River

The developer of Palmetto Bluff will limit the number of homes it builds near the May River, but will be allowed to build substantially more houses in other, less environmentally-sensitive parts of the upscale community or in other parts of Bluffton.

On Tuesday, Bluffton Town Council and Crescent Resources LLC, developer of the community off S.C.. 46, agreed to limit the number of futures homes by at least 1,300 and as much as 2,064.

The developer will also donate six acres the town will use to build a stormwater pond to limit runoff that would otherwise end up in the river.

In exchange, town leaders agreed to increase the number of homes Crescent Resources can build to 4,000 as long as they are built in other parts of the community or in other parts of town. Until Tuesday, Crescent Resources  was limited to 2,920 homes.

“It provides us with flexibility going forward,” said Gerrit Albert, Palmetto Bluff’s general manager who attended Tuesday’s meeting. He said it would take many years to reach the 4,000 home limit. He said the goal remains to create a low-density community.

Palmetto Bluff is undergoing a building boom with 46 homes currently under construction — more than at any time since building began in 2003.

Town Council’s decision drew mixed reactions.

Reed Armstrong of the Coastal Conservation League applauded the decision as a way to manage stormwater that will help restore the river’s watershed and prevent further degradation.

“We can hope these actions will serve as examples for other projects in the watershed,” he said.

But Lim Matthews, a Palmetto Bluff resident, worried about the loss of trees and other greenspace in the 20,000-acre community and thinks Crescent Resources  plans lack specifics.

“We property owners chose to live in Palmetto Bluff because of the natural environment and the preservation and conservation commitments,” Matthews told Town Council. “Allowing an unrestricted 1,080 units to be placed anywhere will significantly alter (natural spaces.)”

If you would like to know more about the communities on the Mainland and/or new construction, be sure to let us know!
Our focus is Shipyard, but we list and sell throughout the Lowcountry of SC!
Thanks to the Island Packet for this story.

Sale of high end homes, lots making a comeback

High-end residential real estate is making a comeback in parts of Beaufort County, as more buyers are purchasing lots and constructing custom homes in upscale communities.


  • Palmetto Bluff has more houses under construction than at any point in its nine years of selling homes, according to the community’s broker in charge, Bryan Byrne. Forty-six homes, the majority of them custom, are being built, and 22 more are in the design-review phase. And they’re not little bungalows — homes of 10,000, 11,000 and 18,000 square feet are among those permitted since November 2011.
  • Although Colleton River Plantation has just 15 homes under construction or in the permitting stage, the home-building trend is on the rise. As of the end of October, the upscale community in greater Bluffton had closed on 38 lots and 10 homes — more than double the 23 lot and home closings from all of last year.
  • A similar increase is taking place in Hampton Hall and other southern Beaufort County developments, according to Ashley Feaster, executive officer for the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association.

“For this type of (high-end home) buyer, it’s a matter of consumer confidence,” Feaster said. “We’re finally getting to a point where they’re starting to feel confidence that the market is revitalizing itself.”

Building permits in Bluffton have increased nearly 15 percent when comparing permits issued from January through October 2011 to the same period in 2012, according to Feaster’s records. Estimated prices for the majority of those Bluffton homes are in the $400,000 and up range, Feaster added.

Activity in the high-end market is increasing in other areas of Beaufort County, although not as dramatically, according to Eric Gnau, a real estate agent with Cora Bett Thomas Realty in Beaufort.

“We’re having more showings in those higher-priced homes, say $1 million and up, and soon, more transactions,” said Gnau. He added that six homes in northern Beaufort County have sold for $1 million or more so far this year compared to six for all of last year. Most of those were in Beaufort’s historic district.

The trend is a shift from the past few years when homes priced at more than $1 million were taking two to three years to sell, said Alan Coyne, broker in charge at Keller Williams Realty on Hilton Head.

Construction of high-end homes is particularly strong in Bluffton, Coyne said, because Hilton Head is mostly built out, making undeveloped lots increasingly hard to find.

“The people who have the money to spend are looking for new,” Coyne said. “And they are spending it in Bluffton where they can pick their own lot and build their dream home.”

It’s a stark contrast from the more than 30 lots in greater Bluffton’s golf communities listed as of Sept. 1 for less than $10,000, and a dozen listed for $1 in Belfair Plantation, Colleton River Plantation and Berkeley Hall as lot owners attempt to escape pricey association fees and club memberships. Coyne says those property owners represent a small portion of the market.

He and other Realtors believe that many potential owners with the money to spend are feeling better about the housing market and are ready to take advantage of low interest rates.

Of course, should you have an interest or need more information about available new homes, villas or homesites in the Hilton Head- Bluffton- Sun City area give us a call.

Our focus is Shipyard but we sell everywhere and no one knows the market better!

Thanks to the Island Packet for this story.

Bluffton Growth News

A recent message from Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka indicated the following:

  • A total of approximately 1059 applications were received from January 1, 2012, to October 31, 2012, as compared with 842 from the first three quarters of 2011. This represents a 25% increase in overall submittal activity.
  • The total value for permits for new construction, additions/remodels and pools for 2012 was $97,779,500 as opposed to $88,653,000 for 2011. This represents a 10.3%  increase.
  • The total number of building permit  applications increased by about 21% and planning applications increased by about 39% in the first three quarters of 2012.

Bluffton is growing! Let us know if we can help you find your place in the sun.

Investors see shrinking 2-year window to buy up REOs

NEW YORK – Nov. 16, 2012 – The big discounts in the housing market are fading, and investors are taking notice that time is ticking. Blackstone Group LP, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms, says that investors likely have less than two years to buy up foreclosed U.S. homes as prices rise and supplies shrink.
“Prices are starting to move faster,” Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate for Blackstone, told Bloomberg. “That’s one of the risks that emerge as more people like us get into the space and as individual homeowner confidence grows. Frankly, buying a home today is pretty compelling.”
Blackstone has spent about $1.5 billion on 10,000 foreclosed homes this year alone. It is the biggest buyer of single-family homes in the nation. According to Blackstone, the investment firm purchases $100 million in these kinds of properties per week. The strategy is to purchase foreclosed single-family homes at steep discounts and turn them into rentals.
“The recovery in house prices could surprise people,” Gray told Bloomberg. “They have just gotten beaten down so much and we’re not building enough to keep up with the population growth. Affordability is there. I think as homeowners get a little bit of confidence, we will steadily have more people lean toward buying homes, faster home-price appreciation, which will be good for this investment strategy and good for the economy at large.”
Source: “Blackstone Sees 2-Year Window to Buy Distressed Homes: Mortgages,” Bloomberg (Nov. 14, 2012)

Looking for some positive signs?

Why Buy Now? 

  • Positive housing news:
    • Housing starts surged 15% in September (fastest pace in more than four years signaling housing is recovering).
    • Home prices have increased from levels since last year with median prices gaining 7.8%.
    • Inventory levels have declined by 29% since last year.  Lower inventories have actually spurred on bidding wars in certain sectors around the nation and Short Sales and Foreclosures are down 28%.

Current interest rates remain at historic lows

We’re here to help you find your place in the sun.

September Sales Figures In!

We have just received the monthly sales figures for September, 2012 and are encouraged as the villa market continues to show signs of improvement with a 38% increase in sales. Average sale prices are holding steady as inventory levels continue to trend down.

Home sales have stalled from the summer activity highs but still there has been a 3 fold increase in the total number of sold homes in Shipyard 2011 v. 2012. Due to the number of lower priced homes sold (Kingston Cove), average sale prices have slipped from last year. That said, inventory levels remain stable and the forecast moving forward is looking positive as mortgage interest rates continue to be at all time lows and increasing consumer confidence has caused more and more buyers to decide now is the time to buy.

If you feel the same way, contact us today and put the all time Shipyard sales leaders get to work finding your place in the sun!

August Sales Numbers

Looking over the sales numbers from the Hilton Head MLS for Shipyard villas and homes sold in 2012, we see some encouraging signs.

Villa inventory is down, sales are up 32% over 2011 levels with prices still under pressure but holding.

Home sales are up almost 3 fold from 2011 with average prices less and taking longer to sell.

Contact us for a complete overvierw of the market or for a copy of our monthly eNewsletter with more data and helpful information to keep you up to date and in the know.

Hilton Head Island Open in Shipyard starts today!

We’re a part of this event and hope you can make it.

From today’s Island Packet-

Nothing was going to keep Jim Stubbs away from one of his prized ideas for the future of tennis on Hilton Head Island. His plans were too big to be pushed aside by any potential conflict.

Stubbs, the events director at Van Der Meer Tennis Academy, was looking to create a tournament where the area’s most talented players could compete against one another for the right to be named the sport’s best on Hilton Head.

But after the event — appropriately dubbed the Hilton Head Island Open — failed to stir much interest prior to its spring debut, Stubbs pushed the tournament back to September. Since then, it has gained some traction, more participants have signed up, and the inaugural event is set for its anticipated launch this afternoon at the Van Der Meer Shipyard on Hilton Head.

“I’m certainly excited for the event for the coming years,” Stubbs said. “I like the idea of building a tradition.”

Challenges like the one the Hilton Head Island Open faced are expected of a new tournament, something Stubbs certainly realizes. But more than 50 players will take part in this year’s event, which will feature singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Stubbs expects those participation numbers to grow in the coming years.

“One of the ideas behind the tournament, in calling it the Hilton Head Island Open, is to try to promote all the tennis players that live on the island and find out who is the best of the best,” Stubbs said. “It’s a lot of the players that play in the local tournaments, that’s the backbone of it.”

The upside of the event’s early road block is it actually helped establish an official date for future tournaments, as the Hilton Head Island Open will continue to take place in September for the foreseeable future, Stubbs said.

“I feel like it’s a really good time for a tennis tournament,” he said.

The initial tournament also will be a valuable primer for the youngsters who will compete in next weekend’s USTA sanctioned event on Hilton Head.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be a nice little tournament,” Stubbs said. “It’s a good warm-up for some of the juniors to play in the open division, because next weekend we’ve got the Van Der Meer Classic.”


Today through Sunday, Van Der Meer Shipyard, Hilton Head Island

Schedule: Play is expected to start this afternoon with finals matches set to begin at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Admission:Free, and open to the public

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