Thursday, July 13, 2006 - Last Updated: 7:14 AM
Slipping into dockominiums
Dry-stack marina selling individual homes for boats
BY JOHN P. McDERMOTT
The Post and Courier
One of the region's largest dry-stack marinas is being sold unit by unit
to individual buyers after a recent change in ownership, a growing trend
fueled by rising coastal property values and a scarcity of new slips both on
sea and land.
Daniel Island Marina off Clements Ferry Road in Charleston joins several
other local boat-storage rental facilities to be transformed into
condominiums, just as numerous apartment complexes have been.
The seven-acre Clouter Creek property, including four small buildings,
was sold last month for $13.2 million to a group led by homebuilder Freeman
The seller was a company owned by real estate investor Joe Bartone, who
developed Daniel Island Marina in the early 1990s. The facility has 427
units, which Barber said he plans to expand by about 10 percent, and 44
wet slips. For now, only the dry slips are available for purchase.
About 100 have been sold, with the average price rising to $65,000, since
they went on the market last month, said Barber, a partner in
Charleston-based SeaTown Homes LLC. "It's gone better than we expected," he
Daniel Island Marina joins the growing list of "dockominiums" that have
lowered the depth of the boat-rental pool around the Charleston waterfront.
Others include Wild Dunes Yacht Harbor, Tolers Cove Marina, Bohicket Marina
and the renamed Harborage at Ashley Marina.
"It's a luxury item as opposed to a necessity," Barber said.
He began to view the shifting marina market as a real estate investment
after buying a spot for his boat last year at the Harborage. "I've seen
tremendous price appreciation on my slip over there," he said Wednesday.
Barber said his research took him to Wrightsville Beach, N.C., an early
pioneer of the dockominum movement. Slips that sold for $17,000 in the 1990s
now fetch more than $100,000, he said.
At the same time, Barber said, the cost of leasing a dry-stack space in
the Charleston area has risen to about $13 a foot in some cases, up about $3
in the last few years, as growing demand bumps up against a limited number
"Rents are going to continue to go up," he said. "It's hard to get new
The most recent dockominium deals in Charleston have followed a change in
ownership. Because of environmental requirements and the escalating
waterfront land prices, the values of existing marinas have climbed sharply.
"I don't see them giving any permits away," Barber said.
In many cases, prices have climbed to the point that marina buyers no
longer can justify the upfront investment by continuing to rent slip space
exclusively. In other instances, the new owners don't want the hassles of
the leasing business.
The dockominium craze has left some boaters of lesser means in the lurch,
because it lowers the number of available rental spaces. Proponents of the
trend said they offer buyers who can afford a slip equity in a fee-simple
property and protection against rising lease rates. Barber said he plans to
reserve some of the spots at the Daniel Island dry-stack for renters.
Robbie Freeman, managing partner of the company that runs the all-rental
City Marina in Charleston, said dockominiums "have both advantages and
"I think most of the marinas that have been 'condoed' have been good
investments for the people who bought them," Freeman said. "It has also been
good for the non-condoed marinas because people who don't want to buy have
been flocking to the marinas that have not been condoed. But there are very
few of us left that aren't condoed."