“We did the math and determined that, on average, since January, we’ve welcomed a new family or property owner to our community every 43.2 hours,” said Robert Duffy, general manager of St. James Plantation. Development of St. James Plantation began in 1991 and it has since become southeastern North Carolina’s top selling retirement community. With more than 4,000 property owners, St. James Plantation is recognized for spurring much of the region’s growth and development over the past 20 years.
According to Mr. Duffy, it’s a combination of forces that is driving St. James Plantation sales activity. “Current interest rates are a key component that’s fueling our market,” he says, “but St. James also offers much of what today’s buyers are seeking. It’s a perfect combination.” Indeed, according to Mr. Tom Condon, St. James’ director of sales, “St. James’ amenities are first class, already completed and have been paid for. And its location is unquestionably desirable.” But, he adds, “Today’s real estate buyers are wary. So, having a 20 year track record of success gives the necessary reassurance that’s motivating sales at St. James.”
Building for “The Sweet Spot”
St. James Plantation developers considered current real estate trends that showed buyers are seeking smaller homes with less demand for maintenance and easy access to amenities. “We also had our own database of prospects and sorted through what we knew they were looking for,” said Mr. Duffy, adding, “Research, together with our empirical evidence, showed a price range in the mid-$200s to mid-$300s would be our sweet spot.” As a result of that research and the confidence that comes from 20 years of successful development, St. James Plantation has embarked on an ambitious building schedule, introducing four new areas of focus that are driving much of the current sales activity.
High-End Buyers Still Out There
While smaller homes have driven much of the sales activity, St. James’ Woodlands Park neighborhood is attracting buyers and builders of larger homes on amenity lots. The neighborhood’s Parkview Collection features five custom home models averaging 2,700 square with prices from the $400s. Over 200 homesites have been sold or are under contract in Woodland’s Park which features walking paths, biking trails, a dog park, and a large lake with an outdoor amphitheater for concerts and plays.
Amenities and Track Record Reassure Buyers
In July, 2011, Where to Retire magazine named St. James Plantation one of the “50 Best Master Planned Communities” in the US. Such accolades have driven inquiries from the northeast and mid-Atlantic states, as well as Midwestern cities in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. Just this year, Marketing Director Katie Campbell, together with others on the St. James sales team, have traveled to Philadelphia, Washington DC and cities in New Jersey. She recites the consistent list of items that buyers want to see. “Smaller homes, provided yard care, outdoor living space, main living floor plans, and a variety of amenities – not just golf – that are already in place,” she says have been among the consistent requests. “Buyers see that St. James already has everything in place, with reliable management. I think that is very reassuring in today’s real estate marketplace,” she says.
St. James Plantation
St. James Plantation is located near the historic seaside town of Southport, NC, between Wilmington, NC, which is 30 minutes north, and Myrtle Beach, SC, one hour to the south. The property has some 6,000 acres of total landmass, with over 1,500 acres dedicated to nature preserves. St. James Plantation has over 4,000 property owners, which was incorporated as a township in 1999. Development began in 1991, with some 3,500 homesites sold over the past 20 years. Amenities include 81 holes of golf, a private oceanfront beach club, full service marina with dry storage and wet docks, Har-Tru tennis courts, 15 miles of walking and biking trails, a lakefront amphitheatre, four clubhouses, fitness, swimming, spa and dining facilities, and a marketplace for in-community shopping and marketing.