The sweet spot for home prices in Aiken's Cedar Creek Plantation is under $400,000. The Arthur Hills golf course gets a lot of play but is a bargain for members.
You wouldn't know a housing crisis is upon us or a recession looms by the crowds at the Live South real estate show yesterday in Greenwich, CT. Exhibitors representing more than 70 residential communities in the south didn't have much downtime during the two hours I spent at the show early in the afternoon.
Live South is a great way to collect a lot of brochures and information about specific communities but, like most "bazaars," everyone thinks their product is the best. Until you visit, you won't know how the golf course plays, the proximity of the houses to each other and many of the other nuanced information brochures can't tell you. If you are interested in visiting any communities in the south, please let me know and I will be happy to put you in touch with a real estate agent in the area of your choice who can help you understand what the brochures and salespeople don't tell you. There is no cost or obligation.
Here are a few observations from my visit to the Live South show yesterday:
- I asked some of the exhibitors how property sales were going. The consistent response was that although transactions had slowed a little, prices were holding up well. This is supported by independent data that shows prices in such markets as Wilmington and Asheville, NC rose around double-digit percentages last year.
- The migration from Florida to the Carolinas continues. Thompson Grove, an articulate young man at The Preserve at Wolf Laurel booth, told me most of that community's sales in recent months have been to Floridians. "They are tired of the summer heat," he said, adding that most of them are opting to live year round in his community, even though there isn't too much to do on the 4,000-foot mountain in the winter. They must really be tired of the heat.
- Despite the challenges and expenses of golf course operation, communities in the south are not shying away from building new layouts. River Landing in Wallace, NC, midway between Raleigh and Wilmington, added another nine since my visit a couple of years ago, bringing their total to 36 holes. And the Rarity communities, strung along the huge Tellico Lake in Tennessee, have opened a Bob Cupp course at Rarity Pointe with water views and a decidedly more challenging layout than their original course at Rarity Bay, which was fun when I played it but way too easy. "We think the new course will challenge the Honors Course in terms of quality," said Rarity consultant John Haney. The Honors course, near Chattanooga, is typically ranked in the top 50 courses in the country. Perhaps a little sales hyperbole there, but the photos of the Rarity course looked nice.
- At times during my stroll through the exhibits, I felt as if I was in a bazaar in Marrakesh. Maybe it was competition among the exhibitors or, perhaps, self-consciousness that they had made an investment in the booth and had better engage customers to pay it off. But I thought the show exhibitors were a tad more aggressive this year than typical, although never anything but friendly. I tried to avert my eyes from a few non-golf communities as I strolled down the aisles of the show, but they stepped so close to me that I could not ignore their entreaties to stop and talk. It was friendly but definitely a change from my experience at past shows.
- As always, Myrtle Beach was the best represented area at the show, with 20 Grand Strand communities participating. But the best representation per capita (or per golf course) was probably Aiken, SC, which is just across the border from Augusta, GA. Representatives from four Aiken area communities - Woodside, Pine Ridge, Cedar Creek and Mount Vintage - parried many questions from show goers looking for a nice lifestyle at reasonable costs. Aiken is one of those in-between areas - neither coastal nor mountain - and home prices reflect it. People looking for an amply sized single-family home in a nice community won't pay more than $400,000 for one in Pine Ridge or Cedar Creek, and they could pay a lot less if they want. These communities are good options if you are willing to share your golf course with daily fee players. Woodside and Mount Vintage, more upscale communities, feature sleek private courses by name designers, and their higher price points reflect that, although Woodside has taken some hits in the past for inconsistent maintenance of its three golf courses.