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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Best: Week In Review

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The clubhouse at Colleton River, where some property prices are as low as $20,000, looks out to the Pete Dye golf course and beyond to marsh and river.  The community also includes a Jack Nicklaus Signature course.


        Golf lot prices hit harder than homes.  I was surprised to see a “foreclosure” golf-view lot for sale for just $49,900 in the upscale Colleton River community just off Hilton Head.  At .59 acres, this is no patio lot.  I figured the bank was desperate to cash out, but when I looked further at prices in Colleton River, they were as low as $20,000 (not foreclosures).  “…lots in our golf communities have all taken a big hit,” says Bluffon, SC, area real estate agent Tom Jackson.  “Great timing for someone who wants to build.”  Figure $175 a square foot to build a home in keeping with those around it, and you could be all set for under $550,000 in one of the south’s best regarded golf communities.  Most homes in Colleton River range from the high six figures to  $1 million plus.  The golf is excellent, featuring both Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye golf courses that are studded with live oaks and marsh views.

        Here we go again?  Most economists point to minimal down payments and low interest loans as fundamental reasons for the current housing mess.  My brother Bob, a San Francisco-based financial

"Curing a debt bubble with more debt" just doesn't work.

adviser, included a simple but compelling chart in his latest newsletter to clients that implies déjà vu all over again.  It showed that the FHA (Federal Housing Authority) mortgage program requires just a 3.5% down payment for a home, or $7,000 on a $200,000 home.  Figure in $1,500 in closing costs, and the total $8,500 cash needed by a buyer of modest means is totally covered by the current government homebuyer credit.  “Curing a debt bubble with more debt,” Bob writes.  He concludes that “zero down, courtesy of the government…will ensure that a whole generation of marginal borrowers will keep the housing recovery on shaky ground.”  I hope the economic wizards in Washington know more than Bob, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

        Cliffs Communities in UK press report.  United Kingdom newspaper reporters love a good scandal, and they have probably written as much as U.S. papers have about Tiger Woods’ problems.  This past week, the Guardian of London’s web site took a more business-oriented tone and looked at the

Tiger Woods used his family to help promote only one of his business dealings, his design for The Cliffs Communities.

prospects for Woods’ fledgling golf design business.  “For all that was written about the hypocrisy of Tiger Woods,” wrote Guardian blogster Lawrence Donegan, ”…there was only one sponsorship deal in which he explicitly used his family as a selling point, and that was the deal he had with a golf course community in South Carolina called The Cliffs.”  (See our earlier discussion of the Cliffs dilemma by clicking here.)  Also last week, a Golfweek article speculated that “any route they [The Cliffs] take could be challenging, considering what has been an almost singular reliance on Woods.”  The Cliffs ducked all Golfweek inquiries about their marketing plans regarding Woods.  The longer Woods stays out of the public eye, the tougher it will be for The Cliffs to generate the property sales they need at High Carolina.  And when Woods eventually returns, he may be embraced by the golf nuts who follow his every swing, but whether that translates into $1 million property sales remains to be seen.

        Grape expectations.  Homes in golf communities in Florida suffered some of the nation's worst price drops in the earliest days of the housing crisis.  Since 2005, many homeowners associations and developers have been retrenching, cutting costs and staff to get by.  The last thing they are spending money on is marketing, especially fancy brochures, but one Florida golf community is bucking that trend.  I settled back in my recliner early one morning this week, opened up my copy of the Wall Street Journal, and a large, eight-panel, full-color brochure from Vineyards fell to the floor.  Vineyards is located in Naples and features condos starting in the $400s and single-family homes from the $600,000s in an amenity-rich community.  The Vineyards brochure declared the development is “debt free,” which is a very nice place to be these days.  I will write more about Vineyards in coming weeks.

         A robot comes out of its hole and sees its shadow… PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wants the organizers of the annual Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, PA, to
The groundhog, an official said, "is treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania."

replace Punxsutawney Phil with a robot.  PETA believes it is unfair to keep the animal in captivity and to subject it to bright lights and big crowds that gather at the annual celebration.  The organizers of Groundhog Day, upon which a prediction of the spring season depends and one entertaining movie was made, counter that the animal lives in a climate-controlled enclosure that is inspected annually by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.  A comment by Groundhog Day official William Deeley put everything in perspective and, perhaps, PETA in their place, when he said, “the groundhog is treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania.”  We await additional comment from People for the Ethical Treatment of Children Organization (PETCO).
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Larry Gavrich

This blog was conceived and is published by me, Larry Gavrich, a former corporate communications executive who founded HomeOnTheCourse, LLC, in 2005.  Our firm advises baby boomers and others seeking a lifestyle in which golf is a major component.  My wife Connie and I own a home in Connecticut (not on a golf course) and a condo at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, on a Jack Nicklaus layout.  We began our search for our home on the course more than 15 years ago, and the challenges of the search inspired me to research golf communities and write objective reviews of them.