From The Blog

KIRE President Dan Whalen’s Take on Sales, Trends and Relationships

by sue schaffer

Kiawah Island Real Estate (KIRE) President Dan Whalen has spent a lifetime in commercial and residential real estate sales, nearly all in high-end and golf property sales and development. Through it all, he has held senior leadership positions, earned frequent acclaim and set sales records. But what makes him tick is relationships. He firmly believes that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” His caring attitude has helped him to build those relationships.

Dan joined KIRE in January of 2020, just ahead of the COVID pandemic shutdowns. Despite the inauspicious start, the real estate slowdown was short, as people found Kiawah an ideal place to ride out the pandemic; 2020 home sales were the highest ever, topped again in 2021. Then, historically high sales became historically low inventory.

“COVID was crazy,” Dan remarked. “Sales were flying off the shelves, then low inventory became a challenge. But we are now getting through it. We have had so many people buy in the last two years that we can’t expect a wave of properties on the market for at least two or three more years.” He explained that a six- to eight-month supply of homes on the market is considered a balanced inventory. Kiawah now has about a four and a half month supply (125 properties); at the lowest point, only 55 properties were listed.

Despite low inventory, 2022 was still the third highest year in Kiawah sales history. Dan noted, “2023 will be interesting with the stock market fluctuations and high interest rates. However, buyers on Kiawah often aren’t affected by interest rates, and demand for well-executed places like Kiawah will remain high.”

While Kiawah homes are selling easily, certain factors enhance salability. “The view trumps everything else,” Dan said. “The best view is some sort of expanse rather than woods or another house. People love the nature from their backyard and the solitude.” He also noted the importance of upgrades. “A lot of homes have age and most people don’t want to update themselves. Those upgraded with thought and care sell best. The kitchen is primary, then baths, especially the master. Pools are extremely popular. An open main living space, new floors and windows, new appliances, quality countertops are in style today. Since the start of COVID, and especially this past year, a Kiawah Island Club membership, preferably a golf membership, is a big plus.

Dan is a “people person” who enjoys helping both his agents and their clients. He usually meets clients once they have signed a contract. “First time purchasers have so much excitement,” he noted. He loves that aspect as well as the job’s challenges. Most of his time is spent supporting his agents, “whether with getting a listing or a sale, or working out a property contract.” He understands and expects the frustration and disappointment when deals don’t work out, but he often gets involved before that point comes. “If a contract is going awry, I work with both agents for resolution. I try to take personality, ego and emotion out of the equation and get the people to take a step back.”

Dan values relationships in the people he hires as well as in the realm of sales, although the KIRE workforce is stable. “People don’t think about retiring when the market is so good. I have only hired three people since I started,” he commented. “I look for experienced people who have years to continue working and who understand Kiawah.” In his hires, he looks for people with a Kiawah network, “a great asset,” he said, and who know the island.” Real estate experience is important; Kiawah experience equally so.

He is also building relationships with other Kiawah real estate companies. “I have been trying to make our company more approachable to the outside. I believe in doing what’s right, and you are rewarded in the long run,” he said. To that end, he has reached out to Akers Ellis, Pam Harrington, Carolina One, Ravenel and Sotheby’s. “We have come a long way in three years.”

Dan’s personal history with the island began in 1991, when the Ryder Cup introduced him to Kiawah. He came to the tournament with the groomsmen for his upcoming wedding and fell in love with the island. After that, he came for golf trips and later family vacations every few years while working for various companies around the southeast. He was at The Cliffs in Asheville when a recruiter contacted him about the Kiawah opening. Ending his career at Kiawah has been a long-term dream. Dan considers Kiawah to be the “pinnacle of gold real estate, then and now.”