At Cassandra Tollens-owned motels in Carolina Beach, furry and feathered family members are welcome.
Few lodging establishments in the county beach town of New Hanover allow pets, but Tollens, a real estate investor who dips her toes into the hospitality industry, said it’s one of the amenities that would differentiate its motels from many others.
Tollens is among a growing number of buyers investing in beach hotels, particularly in Carolina Beach, where motel sales have increased this year.
Industry players say the investments make sense at a time when increased working holidays, the availability of outdoor equipment and other factors have made beach towns even more attractive to travellers.
Tollens, who recently moved to the area from Charleston, South Carolina, bought the 12-room Carolina Beach Inn for $1.85 million in May and the 22-room Cole’s Motel & Pool for $2.35 million. dollars in September.
Her attraction to the Carolina Beach Inn began with her own family’s trips to the beach.
“I’ve always seen it and just thought it was the cutest little building,” Tollens said. “It really stuck with me. And I always told my husband that if it ever went on sale I would take it, and of course it went on sale in May.
She said she ran into about 25 other potential buyers for the Carolina Beach Inn, located just steps from the beach at 205 Harper Ave. “But I communicated really well with the sellers. They were great people. They had spent so much sweat, blood and tears, 12 years of hard work. I think for them, knowing that they were going to sell to someone who felt and had the same passion was important to them.
“So we got it, and then Cole’s Motel was put up for sale, and we [Tollens and her husband] thought, wouldn’t it be fun to have another one and connect the two? Because they’re literally a street away from each other,” she said.
At first, the couple planned to stay in Charleston and hire someone to manage the properties, but Tollens continued to spend more time in Carolina Beach.
“I really enjoy sitting on the rockers and talking to my guests and holding everyone’s dog and waving at them…that’s the fun part,” said Tollens, who has five dogs of her own.
Other motel investors have been attracted to motels in the region’s beach towns.
For Rob McCord, owning a motel in Carolina Beach is a smart investment amid current travel trends.
The company he leads, Wilmington-based Sailfish Real Estate Capital LLC, has purchased the 28-room Oceaneer Motel at 1621 Lake Park Blvd. South earlier this year for $5 million.
The group has other vacation rentals on Carolina and Kure beaches, but the Oceaneer is its first motel.
“We have a strong interest in the Southeast, but primarily in North Carolina,” he said in a Greater Wilmington Business Journal article in June. “We see the demographic tailwinds – lots of growth and lots of repeat tourists who will return to short-term rental properties, whether rental homes or hotel rooms.”
In March, a group of partners purchased the 112-room Golden Sands Hotel and the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar at 1211 Lake Park Blvd. South, for $16.8 million.
Partners in the purchasing entity, Golden Sands Resort LLC, were Jim Wallace, Doug Foster and The Focus Properties, a Raleigh property investment, development and management company.
Wallace, who in addition to being a real estate investor is the founder and CEO of Wilmington-based Intracoastal Realty Corp., said he and one of the hotel’s former owners, Jim Pope, were friends For more than 20 years. When Pope told Wallace he wanted to sell the property and retire, Wallace decided it would be a good investment.
In addition to the hotel, which dates from the 1980s, and the restaurant, the property includes a pier and two swimming pools.
“He’s got a wonderful brand, a great reputation in the community, and we’re just going to continue to build on the great culture that Jim Pope has already established there,” Wallace said.
McCord, as well as the new owners of the Golden Sands Hotel, have been shopping with renovations and updates in mind, and changes for the better are also part of Tollens’ plans.
Cole’s Motel at 213 Raleigh Ave., which will be renamed to incorporate the “Carolina Beach” brand, needs a complete renovation, she said.
The motel dates to 1955, according to New Hanover County property tax records, which also show the Carolina Beach Inn was built in 1951.
The need for expensive repairs and updates could be one of the reasons more beach hotels are changing hands, Tollens said, along with owners seeing the prices other properties are getting.
“They know they need the work, and it’s easier to go ahead and sell them and get that money now than to go through all this renovation headaches and go through this process because it’s not easy,” she said. “There are so many budgets in place, you have to go through permits, you have to go through the city, you have to go through the architect… Then you have to line up your construction team. That’s a whole other battle in itself.
The Tollens plan to make the Cole’s Motel property clean and safe, but do not want to tear it down completely.
“I love bringing projects and homes back to life,” Cassandra Tollens said.
While working in real estate since 2004, she said, “I never thought I would be in the hotel business. But now that I’m here, I love it.