Over the past few months, I've written several articles about the importance of Lowcountry property values and describing actions our communities can take to stimulate demand for local real estate.
We know from studies that our real estate market is directly affected by the strength of our tourism industry, and that real estate and tourism are the major components of a strong local economy.
An investment in Lowcountry property is likely to be one of the most important purchases a person will make in his or her lifetime. Strong property values are critical not only for personal financial success, but also for the overall health of our region. As we enter 2013, here is a summary of the actions we can take for the future health of local property values.
Stimulate Tourism On Hilton Head Island, where the majority of Lowcountry accommodation tax is generated, there is only a 10 percent tax on overnight lodging. According to the National Hotel & Lodging Association, the national average for tax on overnight stays is 13 percent. By only charging a 10 percent tax on overnight lodging, we are neglecting millions of dollars of accommodation tax that is used for tourism marketing and to support our local arts and cultural organizations.
Reform Homeowner's Insurance Lowcountry property owners often pay much higher homeowner's insurance premiums than other coastal communities.
Stricter state oversight and reviews of future premium increases could save Lowcountry residents money, allow more people to affordably purchase and maintain property and positively affect property values.
Join the Renovation Momentum Major hotels and local resorts are investing more than $100 million in upgrades to their properties. All property owners, homeowners associations and particularly owners of vacation properties should join the renovation movement and upgrade the quality of our Lowcountry accommodations.
Property Tax Reform The unintended consequences of State Act 388 on real estate demand continue to be debated and are at the forefront of our local political leaders resolve to fix. A creative solution to equalize property taxes for residents, commercial property owners and owners of second homes is the right thing to do for the future of our school operating budget and real estate market.
Be a Lowcountry Ambassador It's time to reset our attitudes, positively embrace our community and truly appreciate where we live. Let's take pride in our destination and in our community. If you see a visitor who needs directions, smile and offer to help. Give a little extra space to those out-of-state drivers on our roads, and strive to become an ambassador for our region. Together, we can make a big difference in our visitors' experience.
A focus on tourism, real estate and property values, coupled with improving market conditions and major investments being made in our community represent great opportunity in 2013 for buyers and sellers of Lowcountry real estate.
Robert Stenhammer has been a resort executive for more than 15 years. He is the president of Hilton Head Accommodations.