Kiawah Is. house sells for $14M

The house at 181 Ballybunion Drive on Kiawah Island sold Thursday for $14 million, the largest residential real estate transaction ever in Charleston County.

Charleston County recorded its largest residential real estate transaction ever Thursday when an oceanfront Kiawah Island home sold for $14 million.

The seller of 181 Ballybunion Drive was a former top-level Wall Street executive. The buyer is a company formed by an owner in a major beverage and food distributor with business ties to the Lowcountry.

The house fetched more than $1,400 on a per-square-foot basis.

The three-story, Robert Stern- designed mansion sits on two lots measuring a total of 2.3 acres and includes a pool, elevator, six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a gourmand's kitchen, a third-floor retreat with a private deck and a guesthouse.

Other features of the 9,900-square-foot spread include red cedar shingles, painted mahogany trim, coffered ceilings, a butler's pantry, two staircases, a wrap-around porch that fully encircles the residence and a winding boardwalk to the beach.

The 250-foot oceanfront lot, more than twice the size of others on the beach at Kiawah, was recently appraised with the house at $12.8 million. The property tax bill in 2009 was $147,299.

On the market for more than five years with Kiawah Island Real Estate and sold at a reduced price, the luxury property last listed for $13.75 million. The price rose to $14 million when some furnishings were included in the sale, said real estate agent Don Rutledge, who had the listing.

"It's huge," he said of the transaction.

Rutledge did not want to discuss details of the purchase, saying "people who buy and sell go to great lengths to protect their privacy. I can't break that trust."

The sale was recorded this week.

"It's the largest residential real estate transaction in Charleston County history according to the Charleston County Tax Assessor's office," said Mike Touhill, a spokesman for Kiawah Development Partners, which owns Kiawah Island Real Estate.

The deal is yet another high-water mark for the luxury real estate market in the Charleston area. About a year ago, 37 Meeting St. changed hands for more than $7.37 million, setting a new record for the peninsula. More recently, a waterfront home near Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant's historic Old Village went on the market for $10 million.

This week's Kiawah deal, for now, tops them all. According to documents filed with the county, the seller was former Morgan Stanley executive Paul G. Kimball and his wife, Kathleen Kimball, of Wyoming.

The buyer was 181 Ballybunion Ventures LLC, a company managed by Jude Reyes, county records show. He is an owner of Chicago-based beer distributor and food conglomerate Reyes Holdings LLC.

No mortgage was recorded with the transaction. A spokesman for Reyes said he declined to comment on the purchase.

Reyes Holdings was founded more than three decades ago when the Reyes family bought a Schlitz beer distributorship from a Spartanburg company for $740,000. In 2006, the company purchased Henry J. Lee Distributors, a North Charleston-based beverage company.

Reyes Holdings is now the 26th largest privately held corporation in America, with more than 10,300 employees and annual sales of more than $11 billion, according to its website.

Charleston businessman William J. Gilliam paid $5.8 million for about 10 acres on Kiawah in 1989, Rutledge said. In 1992, Gilliam subdivided the property and sold a sizable lot to the Kimballs for $1.9 million. The current house was built in 2002, according to county records.

Touhill of Kiawah Development Partners pointed to the sale as evidence of renewed confidence in the second-home real estate market on the island.

Kiawah Island Real Estate reported its closed sales volume so far this year at $97.5 million. Pending sales that have not yet closed will bring the transaction volume to more than $120 million, Touhill said.

The 61 transactions closed this year is up 31 percent over the same time period in 2009, he said.

"The increase in our real estate business this year is indicative of the confidence that buyers have in the value of Kiawah Island real estate and the financial health of the island," said Charles P. "Buddy" Darby, chairman and chief executive of Kiawah Development Partners. "Our strategy to stay the course and continue to increase the island's value has put us in a strong position to lead the recovery of the second-home market segment. The recent surge in sales is validation of that strategy."