Seabrook Island builder, marketers move forward with first new townhomes since late 2000s real estate swoon

Salt Marsh townhomes completed its first phase in 2007-08, then everything ground to a halt until this year. Now plans are underway for phase two of the Seabrook Island property.

By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

Few builders in 2007 would have thought that plush three-tier townhomes, many with striking marsh and water views, would stall just a year later.

But that’s exactly what happened with Salt Marsh, a well-received Seabrook Island townhome neighborhood near the island’s real estate office.

“We got phase one complete (with 25 townhomes) when the crash came,” says Bill Britton, who with a business partner developed the first section.

Since 2008, “There has been no new building,” he says. Finally this year, the resort economy rallied to where infrastructure, foundation and framing work has started on the final stage. A model home is being raised, and two pre-sold houses are set to begin construction, says Britton, who is the sole developer on the last phase.

ECM Inc. custom builder in Mount Pleasant crafts the townhomes. There will be 38 residences in the final build-out.

The new midrises will be slightly smaller than the original properties, 1,800 square feet versus 2,050. As with the townhomes built in 2007, the new ones will be three stories and three bedrooms, boast high-end features and include numerous lots with unencumbered marsh and water views.

Located outside Seabrook Island’s security entrance, Salt Marsh townhomes has a private gate of its own. It touts neighborhood attractions such as a swimming pool and community dock.

As a sign of the evolving market, the original townhomes sold from $575,000 to $1 million, while the new crop of residences will be $395,000-$565,000, Britton says.

Looked at another way, buyers now will be acquiring the same quality townhomes — slightly smaller — at prices from 30-45 percent below the 2007 costs.

And there’s more. The new purchasers will have access to $31 million in amenity improvements built in the late 2000s on the island.

The town of Seabrook Island, real estate promoters and townsfolk effectively teamed to back construction of a lake house, opulent new clubhouse by the ocean and a beach club across the street, while rebuilding the out-of-date tennis facilities and spiffing up the equestrian center. The final signoff was by the property owners themselves, who voted in the mid 2000s to back the building plan.

What’s more dramatic is the eventual work would take place at a time when the local real estate outlook was uncertain, having taken only the tiniest steps toward a recovery.

Now, the investment looks prescient as new island purchasers including at Salt Marsh townhomes will be able to take advantage of one of the more complete and desirable amenities packages, which also includes two top-notch golf courses, at a resident-owned resort.

David Allen moved to Seabrook Island with his wife and three children in 2010. The Rochester N.Y., family had been visiting the island for years, eventually buying one of the Salt Marsh townhomes boasting incredible sunsets for $900,000. The Allens are selling the townhome to build a house elsewhere on the island.

Treasurer of Seabrook Island’s property owners association, Allen is most enamored with the town’s friendly, home-town feel made more accessible by its many gathering points.

“That’s one of the things that makes Seabrook so special. You get to see all your neighbors,” he says, citing the ocean club as well as Salt Marsh community dock.

“There’s so many opportunities to meet new folks.”

Salt Marsh townhomes likely will be the last major residential development on Seabrook Island, launched 30 years ago. Future real estate activity and growth will be through resale efforts, Britton says.

To reach Salt Marsh townhomes, take Maybank Highway to Bohicket Road and turn left. Follow Bohicket to the four-lane Betsy Kerrison Highway. Veer right at the traffic circle. Make a right about a mile ahead at the Seabrook Island Real Estate office. Circle the office on the right to get to gated Salt Marsh entrance.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.