Builder Mick Kenney has noticed that two passions stand out among homebuyers at his Bay Bridge Cove development: wine and cooking.
Two recent celebrity chef events at the 55+ community on Kent Island, Maryland, have received major turnout, and that interest carries through to the new-home sales process. Homebuyers meet with a kitchen designer in the community’s kitchen showroom, and they’ve been spending big on upgrades. “This particular buyer and this demographic, they’re looking for the gourmet kitchen, which means a double-wall oven and a really nice gas cooktop,” says Kenney, vice president of new homes for McKee Builders.
With demand for gas so high, going all electric wasn’t in the conversation when McKee Builders developed the 273-home community on an island without access to natural gas. Propane would fuel the amenities buyers demand. And by utilizing a community propane distribution system, the builder could fuel all of the homes in the densely built community from centralized propane storage, without the logistical and construction challenges of individual tanks.
“For ease of construction, it makes a ton of sense,” Kenney says of the propane distribution system supplied by Liberty Propane. “There’s so much less infrastructure in the ground.” Individual tanks would have quickly cluttered the community’s small lots. Instead, each home is individually metered, with a gas line running from buried tanks located in common space. Buyers, especially in this demographic, love the simplicity.
“We have quite a few people who will be lock and leave, who will be in another residence for part of the year,” Kenney says. The buyers won’t have to coordinate with a retailer for propane deliveries. “Not having to deal with that stuff is big for them,” he says.
Attracting 55+ Buyers
Located just off of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, across the bay from Annapolis, Bay Bridge Cove attracts downsizers from the “Western Shore” region of Maryland outside Baltimore and Annapolis, Kenney says. They’re familiar with Kent Island after traveling through it on the way to the beach, and they’re eager to escape the congestion on the western side of the bridge.
“We love the feel of the project, just the whole general area,” Kenney says. “When you get there, you feel like you’re on vacation. There’s tons of water access for people who like that. It’s not far from the Eastern Shore to the beaches. There’s lots of culture there, lots of opportunity for people to get involved in community activities. It just hit all the boxes for us.”
But it wouldn’t feel much like vacation if buyers didn’t have access to the gas amenities they expect in their home. In addition to cooking, propane furnaces for heating were a must, Kenney says. “We know that with our demographic, 55+, there is definitely a negative feeling about all-electric heat pumps,” he says. “People hear ‘heat pump’ and they go, ‘Oh no.’ So we definitely were looking at propane from the start for heating and for optional cooking, for sure.”
Propane fireplaces are an optional amenity that about 40 percent of buyers opt for, mostly for the aesthetic value, Kenney says. Propane clothes dryers and stubs for outdoor grills are also available as options.
A 5,100-square-foot clubhouse serves as the heart of the community, with a fitness center, swimming pool, bocce court, and tennis courts. Having propane available allowed the builder to equip the clubhouse with a gas fireplace and a small outdoor kitchen with a propane fire pit. The pool will also be heated by propane. “We always do a heated pool in our communities, and it’s always gas-powered,” Kenney says.
Gas appliances add value to the homes at Bay Bridge Cove, but the propane infrastructure is cost-neutral. McKee Builders paid only for the engineering fees; Liberty Propane supplies, installs, and owns the gas infrastructure. Liberty also offers a rebate for each propane hookup, which McKee passes through to the buyer as a credit on their first invoice.
Frank McKee, the owner of McKee Builders, purchased the land for Bay Bridge Cove in 1999, and it took more than 16 years to get through all the approvals. But the project finally broke ground in 2016, and sales in 2017 have been strong, with 27 contracts already completed. With lower real estate prices than areas west of the Bay Bridge, the community feels like a bargain, Kenney says — especially when buyers can have all the amenities they desire in a dream retirement home.