January 2013

Jan 2013: Behind The Gates

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr.

Our Behind the Gates series has, not surprisingly, profiled a fair number of golf communities, most of them conceived and built during a period when golf participation was booming and the private golf community model was at its most viable due to demographic trends. The original plan for Hampton Lake called for it to become “the next one” in Bluffton, but something changed along the way as developers recognized a market shift.

“The real estate market was in a much different place. Golf was kind of at the heart of every community,” said Hampton Lake’s marketing director, Kristen Lee, “so they thought they would launch the next one with another Pete Dye golf course because they’d been wildly successful prior to that. They started to do survey groups in tandem with the development plan and found a decreasing interest in having golf, especially among women.” According to Lee, high dues associated with golf communities was a major concern. “What they were hearing constantly from the surveys was water—we want to be near the water. So they made a complete shift. Now, if you look at the lake from the aerial perspective, you’ll notice that it follows the outline of a golf course.”

Hampton Lake’s demographic profile is somewhat difficult to pinpoint Lee admits, largely because the community’s concept is aimed at broad appeal. “I’m asked that question all the time,” she said. “There is no profile. We’ve tried, though. There’s a big retiree component, but they skew younger than retirement communities. They’re certainly a decent portion of the makeup, but there are a lot of young families too. You’d be surprised with the age and demographic variety when you’re out and about around the amenities. Younger grandparents will buy because they’ll say our grandchildren are never going to want to leave here. You know, we’re going to be the coolest grandparents ever! And then families come for the same reason; all this is within the community for our children.”

Although Hampton Lake offers an array of resort-like amenities, it is purely a residential development. Owners may rent out their home long-term, but must coordinate with the Hampton Lake Club. Lee said that there are a handful of rented homes in the community, and short-term rentals are not permitted. By and large, Hampton Lake is owner-occupied by permanent residents, fostering a neighborhood feel that, when mixed with its unique amenity package, gives Hampton Lake a “town-within-a-town” character.

“I’ve worked at several different communities, and just the authentic way this membership has grown is really cool,” Lee said. “There’s like 30 different member groups from Bunko to tennis. It’s just a really involved, welcoming group of people. Lots of happy hours too!”

At the heart of “Lake Living” is Hampton Lake’s namesake 165-acre, golf course-shaped fresh water fishing and boating lake. Lee likens it to a finger lake whose abundant private coves and almost 15 miles of shoreline create some interesting and unique waterfront home site opportunities. The other major amenities are clustered in a resort-like configuration, the Lakeside Amenity Village that gives Hampton Lake a vibrant, festive sense of place. “That was definitely by design,” Lee said. “Once they made the shift to a lake, this was going to become the “non-country club” feel. So, for example, Backwater Bill’s (Grill), the direction was going to be rustic, really good, creative food for a reasonable price. All of that was thought through at length.”

The amenity package includes a resort-style pool that would fit right in at a world-class theme park; an adults only pool; a children’s playground and pool; a boathouse and general store to accommodate kayaking, boating and fishing on the lake; tennis and fitness centers and spa; nature trails, nature museum and campground; a dog park; a lakeside beach and outdoor bar; and a reception center.

All of this is available to Hampton Lake homeowners for POA dues that are significantly less than the golf club communities. “The dues are under $3,000 for the year and include all of the amenities,” said Lee. “So that’s kind of an equalizer. That’s something younger families can afford. It’s something that’s attainable for everyone.” By the way, although golf is not the centerpiece at Hampton Lake, owners do have the option to become members at nearby Hampton Hall Club.

This year, Hampton Lake kicked off a unique concept to help simplify the real estate shopping process. The new Model Park places a selection of model homes from a variety of builders in one place to help homebuyers visualize what they can build on their new home site. “The Model Park helps us sell home sites, because when you’re standing on a home site with woods, it’s hard for most people to envision their home,” said Pratt Reed, Hampton Lake’s senior vice president of sales. “This lets them see these custom homes that can be adapted to their lifestyle, and that’s very effective. Now they can walk into these homes with construction costs in the low $300,000’s up to the $600,000’s—they might own a wooded home site or a water home site—and it allows them to come in here and say, ‘Wow! I can get this for $350,000 and built on my home site, which I picked up for $60,000. So for about $400,000 I can have an amazing home.’ It’s a lot easier for people, because we mainly have home sites to sell.”

The range of styles available covers pretty much all product types: single-family homes including cottages, or patio homes, from about 1,300 square feet up to larger estate sizes. “We do have some attached product—multi-family—too,” Reed said. “We call it attached or lock-and-leave.” These include single-story, quad-attached villas from 1,900 to 2,100 square feet; carriage homes, which are two-story, linearly-attached townhomes with master suites on the first floor; and coach homes, which are high-end waterfront condos. “They look like huge estate homes from the outside, but they’re actually four units each with two upstairs and two downstairs,” Reed said.

At present, there are approximately 116 completed and occupied homes in Hampton Lake, with another 36 under or approved for construction by the Architectural Review Board, or in ARB review. “We are over two-thirds sold out,” said Lee. So even when it reaches total build-out, the relatively low density coupled with a lakeside setting will help Hampton Lake maintain very unique, uncrowded serenity throughout the community. “You can’t believe this one shoreline property,” Lee added. “It’s on the water with huge outdoor living space that’s like reclaimed forest and a great floor plan—and it’s $449,000. You hear 449 on the water and you probably have something in mind, but this will blow you away. So we definitely like to get people out there to look at the model homes.”

Hampton Lake is nestled between the Bluffton Parkway, Buckwalter Parkway, May River Road and the Okatie Highway, which gives it both a degree of seclusion and, at the same time, accessibility. The location is convenient to Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Beaufort, and Savannah.

All that it has to offer has not gone unnoticed. In 2009, Hampton Lake won the prestigious “Best Community with 151 Homes and Over” award given by the National Association of Home Builders and Professional Builder magazine… and the owners agree.

“The staff at Hampton Lake and its amenities are second to none. It’s no surprise to us that Hampton Lake was a BALA Award Winner as the Best Community in America and was previously awarded the Best Club in America,” said Hampton Lake residents Mike and Elise Calvert who relocated from West Chester, Ohio.

“We have lived at Hampton Lake for a little over a year and a half, and it’s hands down the best decision that we ever made,” added Steve and Gwen Burrell from Nashville.

Hampton Lake is located at 20 Hampton Lake Drive, Bluffton, SC. For more information, visit the Hampton Lake sales office at 98 Fording Island Road (Hwy. 278), Bluffton, SC, call (866) 875-LAKE (5253), or visit online at HamptonLake.com.

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