July 2017

Retiring to the Lowcountry: Make Yourself at Home

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Naturally speaking, the ocean and waterways, salt marshes and deep forests, the climate, and the beaches shape daily life in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, while it is the golf and tennis, the recreational pathways, the arts, the opportunities for learning, and the warm welcome that shape the lifestyle. Retiring to Hilton Head Island, to Bluffton, or to another nook along the Beaufort County coastline often begins with a visit—or many, many visits—over the course of a week or several years, when the Lowcountry reveals her riches and extends an invitation to make her boundaries your home.

“We figured out what we really wanted on the second day of this visit,” said Ann Albertson, of Cincinnati. After years of the high energy and hullabaloo of family beach vacations on Hilton Head Island, she and husband Thomas were thinking retirement. It only took an afternoon and evening, exploring nature, and design, and food, and music in the quintessential Lowcountry atmosphere at Palmetto Bluff, to show the Albertsons what they sought. “It was the feel. We want that feel every day when we retire in a year. We’re still deciding on exactly where that will be, but we know it will be here in the Lowcountry.”

Once discovered, the favorable climate with an average temp of 71 degrees, year-round recreation, and that feel, often makes the decision to retire here an easy one. Whether transplanting a passion already cultivated, or picking up something new, there is a home and a community to suit nearly every taste. With dozens of unique communities across the Lowcountry as-a-whole, connecting with locals and consulting with a knowledgeable Realtor will assist in narrowing down the where in the question, where to retire? Matching communities and neighborhoods to areas of interest (beachcombers to water, tennis players to courts, gardeners to gardens), there is a fit for nearly everyone. However, to get all the questions answered and the deals done, the finer points and details of each community require local know-how.

Economically speaking, purchasing a home or second home in the Lowcountry is a good investment. Proximity to the water, the beaches, and the resort communities creates an environment where real estate values have historically steady growth and remain stable over time. The coastal real estate market is highly competitive, providing buyers with opportunities to purchase well-appointed, turn-key properties, or build a custom home from the sand up, or even find a home that is ready for a facelift. Tax-wise, South Carolina does not tax Social Security benefits, provides a retirement-income deduction when calculating state income tax, and property taxes are low at four to six percent of a home’s market value.

Homeownership here is often described in terms of distance to the closest water: oceanfront, second, third, fourth, fifth row, overlooking the bluff, five minutes from our boat, a short drive to the dock. For the nautically inclined, there are harbors and docks dotting the leeward side of Hilton Head Island, and all along the waterways, with some planned into communities and others with more public access. Of interest, the harbors at Wexford Plantation and Windmill Harbour (home of the South Carolina Yacht Club), are locked systems—two, of only three such systems on the East Coast of the United States.

Local waters are some of the area’s assets that can be counted on to effect real estate pricing positively. Local officials and residents have systems and organizations in place for the care and keeping of the Atlantic, the May River, the Intracoastal Waterway, Skull Creek, and far beyond. Further, Hilton Head Island is a global leader in consistent and effective beach restoration, with numerous eco-minded organizations watching over and protecting the waters of the Lowcountry.

Hands-down, lifestyle is the most sought-after element of selecting a retirement community, and in the Lowcountry, golf has been the number one recreational activity included in that search since the late 1960s, when masterplan visionary, and father of modern day Hilton Head Island, Charles Fraser brought golf course architects Pete and Alice Dye to Sea Pines Plantation, now Sea Pines Resort, to create Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage golf tournament. With golf pumping through the very bloodline of modern-day HHI and the Lowcountry, the area is home to both private and public golf courses and clubs, offering retirees a range of lifestyle options.

In the footsteps of Fraser, planners, builders, and architects have created myriad golf-anchored communities across the Lowcountry, with home and home sites thoughtfully situated to take full advantage of golf, water, and woodland views, winding their way around the 40-plus golf courses on HHI, in Bluffton and Okatie. Whether looking for a private club experience, a more affordable home club where members, local residents, and area visitors play, or playing whenever and wherever the mood strikes, golf is accessible to everyone.

Offering an array of membership levels and playing options, private clubs such as Wexford Plantation, Sea Pines Country Club, Long Cove Club, Country Club of Hilton Head, Colleton River Plantation, Belfair, Berkeley Hall, Hampton Hall, Moss Creek, Haig Point Club, Hampton Hall Club, and Oldfield, are the hub of all activities within each community, with many offering tennis, swimming, social activities, dining, and more.
The Lowcountry private club lifestyle is attracting another group of retirees, creating what could be called a bit of a youth movement. In addition to the traditional retiree (think 65-years old-plus, leaving behind career for a life of rest and relaxation), the Lowcountry has a high number of retirees and semi-retirees under the age of 55. They have made their money at a relatively young age, can afford to be selective, and are focused on moving to Hilton Head Island or Bluffton for a country club lifestyle. “Being a part of a private club is important to me,” Allen Brown said. Indicative of this new retiree, Brown is 48 years old and single. He sold his interest in an Atlanta-based restaurant group and knew he wanted to retire to Hilton Head Island to play golf—a lot. “I’m sure that will taper off after a while, but right now I just want to play golf, have a place to get a good meal, and a comfortable home with a great view.”

Seeing a vision for their future, retirees are much like the master planners of the communities in the Lowcountry who sought to create unique communities to call home, or to be visited for a round of golf, a tennis match, a meal, or a relaxing stay. Hilton Head Island’s Sea Pines Resort, Palmetto Dunes Resort, Palmetto Hall, Shipyard Plantation, Hilton Head Plantation, Port Royal Plantation, and Indigo Run, paved the way for the development of off-island communities from Sun City Hilton Head to Palmetto Bluff, and so many more.

Retiring to the Lowcountry with idea of playing golf or tennis, biking or kayaking, painting or rocking on the porch, the feel is found here. You are cordially invited to make yourself at home.

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