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        As inventories of homes for sale in golf-rich areas thin to nearly nothing, interested buyers need to be ready to jump at good opportunities – especially if they are considering a second home near an outstanding golf course.

        There is no better golf course along the 90-mile Grand Strand of South Carolina than Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. Located in Pawleys Island, just south of Myrtle Beach, Caledonia is a relentlessly attractive layout that combines both classic and ultra-modern touches in perfect harmony. It may be the finest course designed by the late Mike Strantz, whose small but electric portfolio of designs come to life stretches across the nation, from Monterery Golf Club in California to Bull’s Bay just north of Charleston, SC. (And who hasn’t heard of Strantz’ Tobacco Road in North Carolina, one of the most entertaining 18-hole jaunts anywhere?)
Caledonia practice area 1The Caledonia Golf & Fish Club short-game practice area.
        Caledonia is why a new listing in Pawleys Island caught my eye today. A cute little three-bedroom, two-bath condo, it is just one left turn and three minutes from Caledonia’s iconic, live-oak-lined entrance. Caledonia’s equally magnetic partner course, True Blue, is just another 90 seconds down the road; and although it isn’t quite as dramatic as Tobacco Road, you can feel the same designer’s hand (and tractor) all over it. The home is listed at $219,000 and the agent's description includes the following:
        "Within the last three years, owners have replaced the roof, hvac system and water heater. Have your morning coffee on the recently built deck in your secluded backyard adorned with flowers the seller has nurtured. Relax with a book and afternoon beverage in the Carolina room. In the cooler months, enjoy a wood burning fire in your family room. Community has a large natural recreation area to walk and picnic. Reasonable HOA fee includes trash pick-up; landscaping, cable and internet." (See photos below)
        If you are interested, I can put you in touch with the listing agent. Contact me here.
        Annual membership at Caledonia (True Blue membership is included) is a good deal for year-round residents especially, at $1,895 for a single golfer between the ages of 40 and 75; and $1,295 if you are over the age of 75. Corresponding couples rates are $2,595 and $1,795, respectively. However, the membership fee does not provide free golf but rather reduces green fees way below Caledonia’s high-season rack rate of $199, the most expensive of the 90 or so courses on the Grand Strand. Members pay $30 (cart included) for Caledonia and $27 for True Blue.

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by Kenneth Kirkman

        Ken Kirkman for years was a leading coastal environmental lawyer with clients throughout coastal North Carolina. He transitioned into management of large coastal communities, including Beacon’s Reach in Pine Knoll Shores, Bald Head island off of Southport, Landfall in Wilmington, before personally developing the Carolina Colours community in New Bern, where he currently resides. In his career he has also provided consulting services to a number of developments and has acted as legal counsel to municipal governments, land developers large and small, and more than 100 community associations.

        As the original developer of Carolina Colours, a 1,500-acre planned community in New Bern, NC, I had the opportunity to work closely with Bill Love, our golf course architect, in determining what we wanted to accomplish by constructing a golf course in the heart of our community. While New Bern is well known as a great place to live and retire, it is not a golf destination so we knew we would have many residents of retirement age with handicaps all over the place.
        Working with Love, we established several design criteria: Make it friendly for high handicap golfers, including young, old, male and female; limit forced carries from the shorter tees, but make it challenging for the long hitters; allow for multiple teeing grounds with large tee boxes so the players that play multiple times a week can vary their experience; have a good blend of shot making, with 4 par threes of varying length, 4 par fives with differing characteristics, and with the par 4’s being equally divided between short, medium and long. A player will use all the clubs in his or her bag.
CCgreenthrutreesDeveloper Ken Kirkman and golf architect Bill Love focused on how the golf course layout fit harmoniously into the wooded environment at Carolina Colours.
        We also are blessed with a wooded site, natural wetlands, abundant vegetation and varying elevations, so another objective, in addition to our design criteria, was to maintain a natural setting. We did not want a course with condos and small-lot homes crowding the fairways, so our limited number of multi-family structures are not situated adjacent to the course. Love, a long-time chair of the environment committee of the Association of Golf Architects, embraced all objectives and our players agree that our goals were met. The course has been consistently ranked by the NC Golf Panel, one of the few objective rating groups in our region, as the best course one can play in our central coastal region of North Carolina.
        Love is a land planner as well as a golf course designer. We engaged Bill not only to design the course but to do the land planning for all of the residential areas of our large community as well. This allowed him to design residences around the golf course layout, with flexibility to use the natural features in the golf design as he deemed appropriate. Unlike some other communities where the golf course is force-fit to accommodate real estate sales, Carolina Colours is just the opposite. We required significant set-backs from adjacent housing, with a goal of forever having a natural feel to the play of the course. Many holes will never have housing on one side of the fairway.
CarolinaColourscartpathinwoodsPlenty of flora and fauna to contemplate during a round at Carolina Colours.
        The Golf Club was then structured to encourage equity membership at a reasonable price, while offering associate (annual) memberships at higher dues. In order to keep dues in our target range, public access with more restrictive tee-time reservation opportunities was allowed. We made it clear from the beginning that Carolina Colours was not to be a formal country club community but, rather, a great place to live with an excellent golf course.
        We also maintain bent grass greens. We recognize that in the heat of the summer they sometimes get stressed, but the fact that we have both a spring and a fall growing season allows us to keep them playable and naturally green year-round. Our superintendent shares our belief that our greens are one of the best features of our course, and we have found that many of our retiree members who have migrated from the north love to continue play on our bent grass putting surfaces.
        We have a very active LGA and MGA, plus frequent couples’ events. Our community has a very active social life, and the property owner’s association shares our nice activity center with our golf members and players. All residential property owners pay a small fee into the association as part of their property owner dues to support the club, whether member or not, recognizing that maintaining the course is key to maintaining residential property values.
        We have recently added The Carolina Colours School of Golf with instructor Terri Magliacci, a well-recognized teacher who formerly worked as a teaching professional at Westchester Country Club, among others. She has a unique teaching style that focuses on results rather than form, and those players, both young and old, who are utilizing her clinics and individual teaching rave about their improvement. Our nice practice is a great setting to take advantage of her services.
        New Bern was just recognized by Southern Living as one of the best small towns in the Southeast. Blessed with a five-star hospital and outstanding medical specialists, an airport, a number of historical sites, a great downtown with shops and restaurants, an active artistic group and welcoming residents, no small town can offer more. With two large rivers converging downtown, water activities are unlimited. As a bonus, the Atlantic Ocean and public beach access is close (but not too close). We adjoin one of the largest National Parks in North Carolina, which stretches about 30 miles, almost to the ocean.
Within Carolina Colours, our commercial area is anchored by a large Harris Teeter grocery, banks, pharmacies, physical therapy and other services, with more coming all the time. An age-restricted independent living and assisted living complex has just gone under construction.
        Carolina Colours is a decade in the making and is still growing and evolving, as is New Bern and our surrounding region. Many of those that visit decide to call it home.
        If Carolina Colours sounds like your kind of "forever home," please contact the editor for more information and an introduction.
CCClubhouseCarolina Colours' finishing hole and clubhouse . Photos courtesy of Carolina Colours

I have not been able to revisit many of the golf communities I first encountered more than 10 years ago. Therefore, from time to time, I will invite those who are familiar with some of the best golf communities in the Southeast to provide updates here. This first one is courtesy of Shane Sharp, who lives in Greenville, SC, and has written about golf for more than 20 years. He is the owner of Southbound 4, a marketing and PR firm. Champion Hills and the Rumbling Bald Resort are among his clients. [Editor.]

        Western North Carolina does not get the attention as a golf destination that Myrtle Beach and Pinehurst do. But word has spread over the years that it is a wonderful place for golfers to retire, semi-retire or simply relocate to enjoy the good life. At elevations of more than a half mile and with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, the area is home to dozens of private golf communities and several of the country’s top-ranked courses.
        Champion Hills in Hendersonville, N.C. is a prime example. Conveniently located between Greenville, S.C. and Asheville, N.C., the community is less than an hour from each. Having recently celebrated its 33rd anniversary, Champion Hills is taking advantage of the real estate market upswell brought on by the exodus from America’s urban areas.
        Golf Community Reviews reported on Champion Hills eight years ago as the community was enjoying its 25th anniversary and launching into a number of new membership programs and initiatives. Since then, Champion Hills members selected the Troon Company to manage the member-owned club, undertook a major renovation of the clubhouse dining facilities, expanded the Wellness Center and updated Tom Fazio’s distinctive mountain layout, which has aged gracefully over more than three decades.

Champion Hills hole 1Photos courtesy of Champion Hills

The Golf Course
        For golfers used to flat-land courses, Fazio’s circa-1987 layout offers a dramatic change of pace – and scenery. The designer’s routing pitches and rolls through heavily forested hills, deep ravines and mountain streams. Fazio and his all-star team of shapers deftly pulled ridges into valleys and filled hollows to create “playing platforms” that provide golfers with level lies despite the 350-feet of elevation changes. As a result, only six holes feature uphill routings while 14 holes are predominantly level or downhill.
        Fazio and his wife moved to Hendersonville at about the time he commenced work on Champion Hills. He chose the town as a place to raise his family and host his business, opening an office in downtown Hendersonville. Today, he spends winters in Jupiter, Fla., but he returns to the western Carolina mountains in the summer.
        Golfweek magazine recently elevated Champion Hills from 70th to 64th on its list of the Top 200 Residential Golf Courses in the U.S. In recent years the community has typically finished in the Top 10 in other golf rankings, including Golf Digest’s “Best in State.”

Champion Hills ClubhouseChampion Hills Clubhouse

The Community
        Inventories of homes for sale are near a two-decade low in many southeast golf communities, but Champion Hills currently offers an array of residential options –- estate homes, low-maintenance cottages, lock-and-leave villas and a few remaining building lots. Lots for sale are priced from $50,000 to $300,000 and sized from one-half to 1 ½ acres. Move-in ready homes range from $500,000 to $3 million featuring golf course, mountain and wooded views.
        In addition to the community, the surrounding area is a big draw for those who those in search of a mild, four-season climate and vibrant downtown. In 2020, Hendersonville was rated the No. 1 place to retire in North Carolina by the financial technology company SmartAsset. A few years prior, it was ranked the No. 1 “Great Unknown Place to Retire” USA Today. Suffice it to say, the word has gotten out.

Membership Options Expanded
        Champion Hills offers full-equity and 12-month trial memberships. Both include full access to golf, dining, a wellness center, pool, spa and tennis courts. Most residents are either golf or social members. Full-golf members can enroll in the Troon Privé program which grants them access to 600 of the nation’s top private, resort and daily fee courses in the Troon network.
        “Our members are well-traveled, and they appreciate being able to visit other parts of the country and play at other world-class facilities,” says General Manager Dana Schultz. “For our members who have homes elsewhere, Troon has a wide-variety of courses they can experience, often in proximity to their other seasonal residence.”
        The big news coming out of the Champion Hills club this spring was the announcement of the “Equity 55” Membership, a full-golf membership designed for those age 55 and under. With Equity 55, Champion Hills’ $40,000 initiation fee is divided into four equal payments spread over four years and dues and replacement reserve fund contributions have been reduced by 50%.
        “Equity 55 meets the upswell in demand by a younger demographic in search of both a club and community to call home,” says Schultz.
        Whether your winter residence is in a place like Florida and you want to cool off in the summer, or if you are looking for a full-time residence in a mountain location, Champion Hills can elevate your golfing lifestyle.
        For more information or an introduction to Champion Hills, contact the editor.

Champion Hills luxury homeOne of the luxury homes at Champion Hills

 

I have not been able to revisit many of the golf communities I first encountered more than 10 years ago. Therefore, from time to time, I will invite those who are familiar with some of the best golf communities in the Southeast to provide updates here. This first one is courtesy of Shane Sharp, who lives in Greenville, SC, and has written about golf for more than 20 years. He is the owner of Southbound 4, a marketing and PR firm. Champion Hills and the Rumbling Bald Resort are among his clients. [Editor.]

        Western North Carolina does not get the attention as a golf destination that Myrtle Beach and Pinehurst do. But word has spread over the years that it is a wonderful place for golfers to retire, semi-retire or simply relocate to enjoy the good life. At elevations of more than a half mile and with the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, the area is home to dozens of private golf communities and several of the country’s top-ranked courses.
        Champion Hills in Hendersonville, N.C. is a prime example. Conveniently located between Greenville, S.C. and Asheville, N.C., the community is less than an hour from each. Having recently celebrated its 33rd anniversary, Champion Hills is taking advantage of the real estate market upswell brought on by the exodus from America’s urban areas.
        Golf Community Reviews reported on Champion Hills eight years ago as the community was enjoying its 25th anniversary and launching into a number of new membership programs and initiatives. Since then, Champion Hills members selected the Troon Company to manage the member-owned club, undertook a major renovation of the clubhouse dining facilities, expanded the Wellness Center and updated Tom Fazio’s distinctive mountain layout, which has aged gracefully over more than three decades.

Champion Hills hole 1Photos courtesy of Champion Hills

The Golf Course
        For golfers used to flat-land courses, Fazio’s circa-1987 layout offers a dramatic change of pace – and scenery. The designer’s routing pitches and rolls through heavily forested hills, deep ravines and mountain streams. Fazio and his all-star team of shapers deftly pulled ridges into valleys and filled hollows to create “playing platforms” that provide golfers with level lies despite the 350-feet of elevation changes. As a result, only six holes feature uphill routings while 14 holes are predominantly level or downhill.
        Fazio and his wife moved to Hendersonville at about the time he commenced work on Champion Hills. He chose the town as a place to raise his family and host his business, opening an office in downtown Hendersonville. Today, he spends winters in Jupiter, Fla., but he returns to the western Carolina mountains in the summer.
        Golfweek magazine recently elevated Champion Hills from 70th to 64th on its list of the Top 200 Residential Golf Courses in the U.S. In recent years the community has typically finished in the Top 10 in other golf rankings, including Golf Digest’s “Best in State.”

Champion Hills ClubhouseChampion Hills Clubhouse

The Community
        Inventories of homes for sale are near a two-decade low in many southeast golf communities, but Champion Hills currently offers an array of residential options –- estate homes, low-maintenance cottages, lock-and-leave villas and a few remaining building lots. Lots for sale are priced from $50,000 to $300,000 and sized from one-half to 1 ½ acres. Move-in ready homes range from $500,000 to $3 million featuring golf course, mountain and wooded views.
        In addition to the community, the surrounding area is a big draw for those who those in search of a mild, four-season climate and vibrant downtown. In 2020, Hendersonville was rated the No. 1 place to retire in North Carolina by the financial technology company SmartAsset. A few years prior, it was ranked the No. 1 “Great Unknown Place to Retire” USA Today. Suffice it to say, the word has gotten out.

Membership Options Expanded
        Champion Hills offers full-equity and 12-month trial memberships. Both include full access to golf, dining, a wellness center, pool, spa and tennis courts. Most residents are either golf or social members. Full-golf members can enroll in the Troon Privé program which grants them access to 600 of the nation’s top private, resort and daily fee courses in the Troon network.
        “Our members are well-traveled, and they appreciate being able to visit other parts of the country and play at other world-class facilities,” says General Manager Dana Schultz. “For our members who have homes elsewhere, Troon has a wide-variety of courses they can experience, often in proximity to their other seasonal residence.”
        The big news coming out of the Champion Hills club this spring was the announcement of the “Equity 55” Membership, a full-golf membership designed for those age 55 and under. With Equity 55, Champion Hills’ $40,000 initiation fee is divided into four equal payments spread over four years and dues and replacement reserve fund contributions have been reduced by 50%.
        “Equity 55 meets the upswell in demand by a younger demographic in search of both a club and community to call home,” says Schultz.
        Whether your winter residence is in a place like Florida and you want to cool off in the summer, or if you are looking for a full-time residence in a mountain location, Champion Hills can elevate your golfing lifestyle.
        For more information or an introduction to Champion Hills, contact the editor.

Champion Hills luxury homeOne of the luxury homes at Champion Hills

 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021 18:43

A Lot to Like…in Berkeley Hall

        A picture is worth at least the 300 words that accompany the one below, especially when the image communicates that there are still bargains available in top Southeast region golf communities; and especially if you act decisively and buy a nice piece of land on which to build your dream home.
        This morning I learned that a couple I have been working with had purchased a beautiful lot in Berkeley Hall, one of the three top communities in the popular Bluffton, SC, just over the bridge from Hilton Head Island. The lot, as you can tell from the drone photo, is at the end of a cul-de-sac across the water from mid-fairway of a par 4 on the Tom Fazio layout. The lot sold for $95,000 in a community in which homes are listed from $449,000 to $1.5 million (just six are currently on the market). Lots, however, are priced from just $39,000 to $299,000, and there are only four of those left. (My real estate professional in the area, Tom Jackson, tells me builders recently bought a group of 20 lots which implies more new homes are on the way over the coming months.)

MarkAbbyLot

        I recall dozens of lots available just a few years ago in Berkeley Hall, as well as its neighbors Belfair Plantation and Colleton River. Many of those lots, including the one that just sold, had been listed for as much as $400,000 during the communities’ heydays until the recession of 2008 sent prices plummeting. Some dropped as low as $1 as their speculating owners sought to get out from under the obligation of club fees and homeowner’s association dues. Local real estate professionals and property owners are glad those days are well in the rearview mirror.
        If you would like more information about the Bluffton area golf communities or an introduction to Tom Jackson, please contact me.

Friday, 05 March 2021 12:09

Oh No, Not Another Book

        As I await my second Covid shot next week, I am still living my life as something of a shut in. If the weather was warmer and the snow had melted from the fairways, I would be out on the golf course here in Connecticut but, for now, most of my days are spent where I am sitting at this very moment – at a rolltop desk in front of my laptop, either writing something related to golf or doing my research for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. When I tire of the writing and research, I head to the man cave to watch an episode or two of some British mystery series. (A couple of weeks ago, I finished binge-watching five seasons of a quirky New Zealand detective series, The Brokenwood Mysteries, that I enjoyed.)
        Simply put, I have time on my hands and I spend a lot of it writing. In November I published Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home, my first ever book. Apparently, I can’t help myself because another one is on the way in April or May, also aimed at the Baby Boomer golfer. I am co-authoring this one with Brad Chambers, who is the impresario of ShootingYourAge.com, a blog site dedicated – as its name implies – to sharing information to help the senior golfer play the best he or she can. Brad is also the author of the book Think Better, Play Smarter and Manage Your Way to Better Golf Scores.
        In the new book, whose working title is Playing Through Your Golden Years, we cover some of the territory in Glorious Back Nine but with some updates and a fresh spin or two. Brad is contributing a lot about the golf game itself, which I ignored in my book because it was focused primarily on golf communities and the golfing lifestyles of retirees.
        One of the questions I receive often enough to warrant some consideration is about the possibility of using your home as a rental to help generate some income and defray expenses. An excerpt on that topic from the upcoming book follows.

Renting Out Your Home: Landlord Beware       
        You may be wondering “Can’t I rent out my condo or home when I am not using it?” Yes, you can but, no, you won’t, in most cases. Imagine, for the moment, that your winter home is a condo in Sarasota, FL, which you won’t use for the six months from May through October. Daytime summer temperatures in Sarasota are relentlessly in the low 90s. The golf courses tend to empty out except for the few brave souls who are heat resistant (or can snag the 7 a.m. tee times). There is virtually no market for rentals in Florida in the summer. Also, if you are going to rent out your place to strangers, you will likely not furnish your home in the way you want it, fearful others might not take proper care. (Think golfing buddies far from home, or families with young children.)
        Still, in locations near a beach and other summertime activities, some people do make a go of renting their seasonal home in what, for them, is the off season. A couple of thousand dollars per week can go a long way in paying the taxes and dues you are on the hook for even when not in residence. But be aware there are some traps in renting your place out for more than two weeks a year, the limit the law permits to qualify for advantageous tax treatment. You will have to compete with others renting out their units, and that will mean spending money on marketing. You must also engage a local cleaning service to restore your unit or home to its condition prior to a re-rental. Marketing and housekeeping can be handled by a local real estate or management company on your behalf, but expect to pay up to 40% of your rental income in management fees.
        One final note: By-laws in many golf communities do not permit short-term rentals, defined as under six months. This could put a crimp in your plans, especially if you plan to officially live in, say, Florida, six months and a day each year in order to pay no state income tax (as a Florida resident). If you are contemplating getting into the landlord business with your second home, the strong advice here is to visit a tax accountant first.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021 07:52

The Song Remains the Same in Southeast Markets

LakewoodRanch ClubhouseThe clubhouse at Lakewood Ranch near Sarasota, FL
        My go-to Realtor in the Sarasota and Venice, FL, real estate markets, Dennis Boyle, toured a couple I referred to him around his area the last two days. They are looking for a permanent home not far from the Gulf of Mexico beaches. He wrote me the following yesterday:
        “The market here hasn't been like this since just before the crash in the mid-2000s. Some builders have stopped all sales for the rest of February because they can't keep up. Other builders are allocating just a homesite or two a week. There are virtually no resales left to be had in the better lifestyle communities. We looked at communities that [with more than] 6,000 homes in one area of Venice called Wellen Park, where the new Atlanta Braves Spring Training park was recently built. There were no resales to look at. The…choices of lots were sparse. It is similar in Lakewood Ranch and other new community areas.”
        As I wrote recently about the current state of real estate markets in the Southeast, quoting Yogi Berra, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Dennis’ report is consistent with what I am hearing from all over the Region. The fork in the road for couples considering a home in the Sunbelt says, “This Way Now.”

Saturday, 13 February 2021 00:04

Good Reasons to Visit Golf Communities Now

        One of the pieces of advice I offer clients is that, if you have the time and resources, try to visit a golf community you might be targeting as a future home in a couple of different seasons. Travel to some southern locations in, say, spring or fall, and you will get an entirely different feel from a visit in summer or winter. Winter is a good time to find out how you might have to adjust to some climates in the South.
        Today, I received a promotional email inviting me to take advantage of a Discovery Package at the community of Keowee Key in rural South Carolina. It was a good deal – 3 days and 2 nights in an on-site condo with a complimentary dinner for two in the Clubhouse and golf for two on the George Cobb designed course…for $349. However, I thought the promotion at this time was a bit odd – not because it is winter but because, as I write this, Keowee Key has just four properties listed for sale under $750,000; in late 2019, I recall plenty available in the $300,000 range.
        Christine de Vlamming runs the marketing effort at Keowee Key, and I wrote her an email indicating my curiosity about promoting a community with very few homes for sale. Wouldn’t, I asked, that tend to alienate clients who would come to Keowee Key looking to buy? Or, alternatively, wouldn’t it encourage people to take advantage of a “discount” vacation, even if they weren’t serious about living there?
        “We have a series of questions for all applicants that helps us to qualify them,” Christine wrote back within a half hour, “[to] avoid vacations.” She went on to explain that there are some properties for sale but they tend to go on the multiple listing service and come off quickly.
        “We still want to keep the backlog [of prospects], she added. “Many folks do not move… until a year or so later, after they find us. We want them to fall in love with our personality.
        “It’s all working very well despite how it looks.”
        If you would like more information about Keowee or to take advantage of their Discovery Package, I would love to make the introduction for you. There are dozens of other discovery packages available in Southeast Region golf communities. Contact me here and we will figure out an itinerary for a visit to a few of them.

CreekClubAuthorPage 1The Creek Club at Reynolds Lake Oconee, where homes, especially those priced under $1 million, are in ever-disappearing supply.

        For many retirees who planned to move South to a retirement life of warm weather, lower cost of living and plenty of golf, the dream may seem as if it is dying, given the rapidly escalating prices of golf community homes and the radically shrinking inventories of homes for sale.
        Dying, maybe, but not dead, and in the next issue of my free newsletter, Home On The Course, I describe a way for retirees to proceed full steam ahead, higher prices be damned. Yes, we Baby Boomers hate the thought of taking on debt, especially after many of us have spent 30 years paying off our homes. Why would we want another mortgage now?
        That’s what I thought until I was persuaded otherwise. For the rest of the story, subscribe now to the newsletter to be sure it arrives in your inbox in the coming week. It’s free. Also, in the February issue, I scan some of the most popular markets for golf communities in order to describe how one Realtor justifiably defined his market as “on fire” and why it doesn’t look as if the flames will go out for some time to come.
        Subscribe now. Thanks.

        “An inventory shortage in many of the most popular locations has put pressure on pricing and will continue to do so, barring further economic upheaval beyond COVID- 19, until the last of the Baby Boomer generation heads south in 2035. Healthier older citizens are staying active and remaining in their golf community homes longer than did their cohorts years earlier, further exacerbating the inventory shortages. And many millennials who play golf will move South since they will be working from home, and a lower cost of living and warmer climate will provide opportunities to play the game they love year-round.”
        Consider that paragraph as a concise “annual report” of golf community real estate in the Southeast for 2020. The words are mine, from the preface to my book Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Dream Golf Home. Nothing over the last few months has changed the inventory situation; if anything, the competition for the relatively few available properties in the most popular golf communities has intensified. It is the hottest market for golf community homes I have seen in the 15 years I have been following the market.
        The current market recalls for me the wisdom of the Fram Oil Filter mechanic of TV fame some years ago: “You can pay me now,” he said, somewhat menacingly, “or you can pay me later.” Those who wait another couple of years to execute their plans to move South may be paying 20%, 30% or more than the cost of the golf home they are considering today. Here’s why.
Wachesaw approach 1Wachesaw Plantation in Murrells Inlet, SC, where only two single-family homes are currently listed for sale, both in the $600,000 range. I have been following Wachesaw for more than 20 years, and I cannot recall an inventory of homes for sale that low nor prices that high at the "entry" level. Prices in Murrells Inlet increased nearly 10% in 2020.
        Markets are out of balance in terms of inventory levels. A normal availability of homes tends to be somewhere between six and eight months. In a popular golf area like Myrtle Beach, inventories are as low as two months in some communities.
        Obviously, the laws of supply and demand dictate that when supply is low and demand high, prices are bound to rise. Cathy Bergeron of the Litchfield Company says homes “in our area are selling faster and we are seeing multiple offers...”
        The North Carolina community of Cypress Landing, located on the Pamlico River near Greenville, is not the most well-known golf community in the South, but customers found it in 2020. The community saw 65 homes sold in 2020 compared with 54 in 2019, but the real story was in the inventory situation. In the five years from 2015 through 2019, according to David Grahek, the average number of homes for sale each year was 28; at the end of this past December, just 10 homes were listed for sale in Cypress Landing.
CypressLandingwaterandfairwayCypress Landing in Chocowinity, NC, is located beside the Pamlico River. At the end of 2020, 10 homes were listed for sale in the community, against an average annual number of 28.
        Supply and demand are having a profound effect on the “buy in” price in some communities – that is, the lowest price for any home sold during the year. At Carolina Colours in New Bern, NC, the lowest price paid for any home in 2019 was $290,000, according to developer Ken Kirkman. Last year, it was $350,000 as the overall median sales price in the community jumped 18% year over year.
        None of these numbers are isolated cases. It is very much the rule across the Southeast that golf community homes are in short supply, that interest is high among sales prospects and prices are rising by double-digits in most places. It is hard to imagine any change in high demand, low supply and the continuing migration south for the next few years at least. The drivers are obvious -- the pandemic’s lingering effects; the many millions of people who will be working at home for the foreseeable future; Baby Boomers who haven’t given up on their dreams of a warm-weather retirement; the comparatively low costs of living in most areas of the Southeast; and the historically low mortgage interest rates that show no sign of rising anytime soon.
        It is a strong sellers’ market but many sellers don't seem to want to move. Buyers can wait it out and hope prices won’t continue to rise at the double-digit rate. But something dramatic in the economy may likely need to happen to reverse the current trend. And that may be worse than spending more on a golf home now than you would have last year.
CarolinaColoursTeeMarker10In Carolina Colours, New Bern, NC, the median price of homes sold jumped 18% year over year, and the lowest-priced home sold jumped from $290,000 in 2019 to $350,000 in 2020.

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