April on Hilton Head Island means the azaleas are blooming, the Heritage is here and local Realtors are happy. Some out-of-town visitors who come for the 43rd annual Heritage golf tournament will buy property. And of the millions of people who will watch on TV, some may decide they'd like to visit Hilton Head Island -- or even live here.
The PGA Tour event that put Hilton Head on the map was conceived as a real estate marketing event in 1969, when Charles Fraser wanted people to know about his innovative new development called Sea Pines. Now, the Heritage is an important opportunity to show why Hilton Head Island is a great place to live, local Realtors say."People often ask me when the best time of year is to sell real estate on Hilton Head Island.
The answer is April, in large part because of the tournament, said Realtor James Wedgeworth of Charter One Realty and Marketing. His advice to sellers this month: "Make sure you have your property priced to sell because you want to sell it when people are here to look at it."
Heritage visitors tend to be older than Hilton Head Island's summer tourists, meaning they have more disposable income to spend on a vacation home. Great weather, blooming flowers and spring break and Easter visitors also help make April a good month for real estate, Wedgeworth said. Past clients who own vacation homes or live permanently on Hilton Head often invite out-of-town friends to visit them and attend the tournament. Some of the guests fall in love with the island, Realtors say.
"It brings in people who have never been here before," said Robbie Bunting, a Realtor and associate broker on Hilton Head Island. "The excitement is in the air. It becomes almost like a drug for our buyers."
Real estate agents say that the weeks immediately before and after the Heritage are busier in terms of showing property and writing contracts, but contacts made during the tournament week can equate to sales later.
"It's never been about pairing the Heritage with a flurry of buying and selling," said Chip Collins, owner of Collins Group Realty. "People are here to enjoy the tournament and that lifestyle week."
But sometimes spouses take a "divide and conquer approach," with one attending the tournament while the other goes out scouting, he said. Many local real estate companies have hospitality tents or villas near Harbour Town Golf Links, where agents invite clients and prospective buyers to enjoy a catered lunch.
HOW TO ENJOY THE HERITAGE
Bunting devoted his latest blog to ways to enjoy the Heritage, providing visitors with tips and photos that could entice out-of-town buyers. "If you own a boat or have a friend that has one, one of the favorite things to do is to anchor off the 18th fairway and watch as the golf pros play the finishing hole. The biggest party night is Saturday night in Harbour Town. If you are looking for great spots to watch the tournament, you may want to check out the 13th hole, the 17th hole, and the 18th hole. The Heritage is a great place to 'see and be seen,'" he wrote on his blog at www.robbiebunting.com.
VOLUNTEERING FOR CHARITY
Many real estate agents volunteer at the tournament, which since its inception has raised $21 million for local and state charities. Collins works at Sea Pines Montessori school's booth near the 10th hole, where money raised supports the school and funds scholarships. Alan Coyne, broker at Keller Williams Realty, manages the Sunset Rotary tent called "the 19th hole," where profits and tips from beer sales go to charities and Alzheimer's research.
SAVE THE HERITAGE
Realtors and real estate companies have contributed money to the Heritage Classic Foundation's partnership program, in the hopes that the tournament stays on the PGA Tour schedule for years to come. Efforts continue to find a title sponsor, after Verizon dropped out last year. Collins also raised about $5,000 for the tournament by riding his bike from Hilton Head Island to Greenville earlier this year.
"We've got to do what we can to show that we're behind this," he said.
Wedgeworth recently appeared on WHHI TV and talked about the Heritage's importance to the island's real estate industry. He believes the most important benefit of the tournament is the exposure provided by the national and international sports media's coverage.
"If the chamber of commerce had to go out and buy all the free advertising we get on national TV, they couldn't afford it," he said.