We reported in yesterday's post about the vibe at the Live South show in Greenwich, CT (the show ends at 5 p.m. today, Sunday).  Here are a few additional notes we took during our tour of the show:

  • Live South founder Dave Robertson shared some of his organization's research that indicates golf is hot again, ranking second -- behind walking -- as the most desired activity for those contemplating a move south (55% of respondents attending Live South show included golf on their list).  Tennis and swimming also showed impressive gains in interest.  31% indicated a preference for a gated community, a significant increase from pre-9/11 levels.
  • During his seminar called "How to Choose the Right Place," Robertson indicated there is an average of 7.3 months of housing inventory in the south, below the historic lows of 10% back in the 1990s.  We have no reason to dispute the number but, like politics, all real estate is local, and averages mislead.  In Wilmington, Robertson's hometown, real estate brokers tell us the inventory is at 15%.  A range of inventories is a more helpful figure than an average.
  • Robertson indicated that most new homes in the south are in the 1,800 to 2,500 square foot category but that two master suites has become the rage, the better to accommodate kids and grandkids.  On the other hand, he told the amusing tale of the couple who decided to move into an age-restricted community largely so they could unburden themselves of a 35-year-old son who lived at home.
  • Soft housing market be damned.  The marketing folks we talked with at the show booths said they haven't seen any price erosion in their communities, although they acknowledged that inventories of unsold homes were up.  The representative from a construction company confirmed the same from the builder's side (slower sales but no price erosion).  We were especially impressed with the number of brand new communities touting their wares at the show.  Since they opened last fall, three of them said they had sold more than 120 home sites each.

    On a large buffet table, everything looks good if you are hungry.  But you just don’t have the time or stomach to taste everything.  You take a piece of this, a piece of that and move on.
    So it is with trade shows and, especially, with a real estate trade show where every booth sports large and wonderfully colorful displays and is hosted by well scrubbed salespeople eager to fill you up with sweet and savory dreams of a beautiful life.  Choose well, and you can make a nice meal of it.
    We made a swing through the Live South Real Estate Show in Greenwich, CT, yesterday evening and found much to recommend to those who want to do some preliminary one-stop shopping for a southern community.  The show runs through Sunday, with three more weekend shows scheduled for Boston, Detroit and Cleveland (see LiveSouth.com for the schedule).
    Be mindful that the 60 exhibitors represent a nice selection, but are far from a totally representative sample.  It appeared to us that the communities at the show were in the middle of the pack in terms of price points.  We spoke with some agents about lots that began as low as $35,000 and others where they started north of $200,000.   The big guys, the ones with huge marketing budgets like the Cliffs Communities and Ford Plantation, were absent.  
    A number of new communities were there.  We had good conversations with representatives from Queens Gap, east of Asheville, NC., which will include a Jack Nicklaus signature course, and Cutter Creek, another new community located near Greenville, NC.
    Exhibitors pay $5,000 and more to display their wares to hundreds, sometimes thousands of people over the course of a weekend.  It is money well spent, one exhibitor told us.
    “We do about 25% of our business from these shows,” he says, adding that he and his colleagues in their South Carolina golf community close deals with about 20% of those who visit the property.
    The Live South shows are a great way for people just beginning to look for a southern home to get a good sampling of what is available.  Yes, every place looks like paradise from this side of the booth and, as Live South founder Dave Robertson advises, you should the amenities and location you want and then go visit before you make any commitment.  And we would add one further piece of advice, almost as obvious as the aforementioned:  If you can afford it, live in your chosen place for a month or two before you buy.  There are nuances of living in a community that you won’t discover during the “Discovery Weekend” packages most communities offer.
    One final note:  Make sure your mailbox is large enough to handle the avalanche of material you will receive in the weeks after the show.