February 2009

Hilton Head Rentals and Golf

Author:  Ann DeMart

A spectacular new home on Daufuskie Island has a view of the ocean so vast that the house appears to be on its own private island. Each room is perfectly appointed. The pool appears to have its own beach. The light gleaming through the windows is inspirational. This is a place for people who want serenity, seclusion and exquisite surroundings. Here’s the best part. You don’t have to own this home or even know the owners to experience these surroundings; this is a rental vacation home available through Hilton Head Rentals and Golf.

The Daufuskie Island home is a new addition to the broad range of vacation rentals offered through Hilton Head Rentals and Golf. Since Tom and Nancy Ridgeway moved to the area 17 years ago, they’ve continued to expand both the number and quality of the homes and villas they manage—from 75 properties the first year to more than 300 properties this year.

The gracious couple offered the hospitality that has made their business such a success as they told the story of how they came to the island and their career in vacation rentals. “One morning at 6:30 a.m., I was standing on the commuter train platform in Darien, Connecticut,” Tom said. “It was one of those frigid, miserable days and I was all bundled up. I had been working for various corporations for 25 years, holding executive positions in marketing and advertising at corporations including Avon Cosmetics and L’Oreal. I’d been traveling to New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago and back to New York. That morning I heard myself say once again, ‘There has to be a better way.’ I had always told myself that one day I’d have my own business. That morning I realized that ‘one day’ would never come unless we did something about it. So we did.”

“We chose Hilton Head, connecting our desire to own our own business, stop commuting and live somewhere beautiful,” he continued. “Now we have a 10-minute commute!” They wanted an established business, and when they found what was then called Home and Villa Rentals, they realized that a business driven by marketing was a great fit for Tom’s background. So they moved and jumped into the business with gusto. “It’s hard work. Every entrepreneur understands that.” Tom said. “And if there’s one thing my previous career taught me, it’s that if you’re in it for the long term, you must offer high-quality products and services. And you have to get the word out. That’s been our foundation from the very beginning.”

“We did our own market research and kept our ears open. We sat down with owners and visitors and asked them what they were looking for,” he said. “In some ways it was simple: Owners were looking to maximize their rental income. The other key factor was to ensure the quality of their properties, keep them maintained as if they were our own.” Nancy added. “That ensures excellent experiences for guests.”

“We have the biggest, possibly the best, inspection program on the island. It really does make a difference,” she continued. The company inspects properties prior to the arrival of guests, after their departure and even while the property is vacant, employing close to 30 people for those jobs. They’ve created assistant inspector positions, too, believing that four eyes are better than two when it comes to such an important task.

The Ridgeways have invested in our community as well as their company, hiring high school students and pairing them up with experienced staff. “One of our inspectors is a teacher and coach at a local high school; he’s been instrumental in identifying strong candidates for the program,” Tom said, showing obvious pleasure at the success of the venture. “It started out humbly enough with two or three kids. They talked about their jobs with others who were highly recommended by the coach. For many, these were their first real jobs. They loved it, and we’ve loved having them be part of our team. They’ll inspect pool and outdoor areas like decks and balconies, and clean grills and garages. They’ve been a big part of our investment in quality.”

Tom also serves the community through active involvement with the Chamber. He’s in his second year on the board, and has been a strong part of efforts to help Hilton Head weather the economic changes by promoting the island during what was always peak season—summer—as well as the off-seasons.

Advertising drives this business, and is as important to attracting guests as quality is to pleasing them. Tom’s background in marketing and advertising has been a big factor in the success of Hilton Head Rentals and Golf. Early on, the Ridgeways invested heavily in Web site advertising. It’s paid off. They were ahead of the curve in online property viewing and reservations. With more than 800 search terms included on their sites, they have a great presence on the Internet. At least 50 percent of the company’s business comes from people viewing and making reservations for properties online. Providing so much more information than print materials, the company’s website offers as many as 18-24 photographs of a property, detailed write-ups and all the other information of the large number and variety of properties Hilton Head Rentals and Golf offers. To make decisions even easier, the company employs 10 vacation consultants who help vacationers find the perfect property.

Golf is a perennial draw here, of course. Tom’s brother, Mark, is the golf coordinator. “He’s done a phenomenal job, creating packages and arranging tee times,” Tom said. “We’re now one of the largest providers to a number of courses both on and off the island.”

What are vacationers looking for these days? “There’s been a big increase in families getting together since 911. Suddenly people realized how quickly their lives could change. Vacation rentals are so much more conducive to reunions than hotels,” Nancy said, “and Hilton Head is such a great family-friendly destination.”

Tom added, “Pet-friendly properties have become very important, and Internet access is increasingly important, no matter what age the visitors.”

Hilton Head Rentals and Golf is known for its large selection of properties. “We try to have as big a menu of vacation rentals and possible,” Nancy explained. “Some companies specialize in one particular size or area. We strive to be diversified, and offer properties from Sea Pines to Port Royal. We do find that high quality, oceanfront and ocean-view villas and houses do exceptionally well, regardless of the economy.”

For those who want a lot of activities and restaurants, Hilton Head is the place. But for seclusion, serenity and a private-island feel, the company has added Daufuskie Island properties to its “menu.” There are 40 cottages and a number of luxury homes. Which brings us back to that stunning multi-floor piece of paradise that’s just 20 feet from the ocean. It could all be yours, at least for a while. If you’d like information about that property or others, or would like the company to handle your rental property, just call Hilton Head Rentals and Golf at 800-Hilton-Head (800-445-8664) or visit hiltonheadvacation.com.

  1. What a great article! I inspected for the Ridgways from 2000 to 2004, and enjoyed my time with Hilton Head Rentals and Golf very much! The Ridgways do such a great job making sure their rentals are in tip-top shape. I have recommended HHR&G every time I’m asked the best way to find a nice home or villa on the Island for a vacation. I’m happy to hear their business is growing!

    — Sandi R    Feb 17, 05:13 pm   

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