Near Charlotte, a Grand Bargain of a Golf Community

        Thumb through any magazine aimed at retirees, including golfers, and you are apt to see a dozen or more ads for golf communities. And for those who have ever asked for information about golf communities from one of the web sites that promotes them, your inbox probably fills up day after day with updates about real estate, the golf course and the latest community event.  Some golf communities have the budgets to bombard their potential customers with messages, but most others –- many of them perfectly fine places to retire -- lie in the weeds (metaphorically speaking).       
Skybrook3fromteeThe tee shot on the par 3 3rd at Skybrook provides a preview of the bunkering and elevation changes across the entire 18 holes.       
        I stumbled across one of these recently in Huntersville, NC, in a location that should be attractive to retirees looking for proximity to a major city without feeling they live in a densely populated area. The community of Skybrook is not huge, at 1,100 acres and 1,300 homes when fully built out; it is just about a half hour from Charlotte, NC, one of the major cities of the exploding southeastern U.S., and about the same distance to Lake Norman, also located north of the city. I stopped at Skybrook on my way to Greenville, SC, because of the community's John LaFoy designed golf course, which I hoped would be as much fun to play as two of the architect's layouts I had played previously -- Glenmore, just west of Charlottesville, VA, and The Neuse, in Clayton, NC. I wasn't disappointed (more below).       
        The most impressive aspects of Skybrook are the price points on the mostly large and well-designed homes, many of those for sale listed at around $100 per square foot, land included, and some below that level. Every once in a while in a golf community you may run into the odd house –- and sometimes they are "odd" in terms of their details –- priced below $100 per square foot, but you don't typically have a decent selection of those inside the boundaries of a well-landscaped, well-organized golf community. At Skybrook, you do.
        "Skybrook is only 14 years old," says local Realtor Kevin Martin, "and it grew fast."


        One reason Skybrook developer quickly, says Martin, is that its developer, who is still on site, sold parcels of land to local builders who then sold home designs and construction services to customers. This created some price competition among the builders, each of whom bought enough land to form little neighborhoods within Skybrook. Today, each neighborhood is clearly marked with a large stone sign indicating its name. This gives Skybrook both diversity and harmony in terms of design; within the neighborhoods every house looks as if it belongs there, but there are plenty of design choices throughout the broader community. The changes in elevation reminded me of the higher priced Chapel Hill community Governors Club and gave each neighborhood in Skybrook an almost mountain-situated character, although Huntersville is decidedly not in the mountains.
Skybrook6approachThe approach to the par 4 6th hole at Skybrook
        Typical of the bargain prices in the community is a three-story brick home with 4 bedrooms and 4 ½ baths spread over 4,900 square feet. The gourmet kitchen features new granite countertops, Viking gas stove, Viking double ovens, large Sub-Zero refrigerator and plenty of cabinet and pantry space. With a new water heater and new HVAC system, updating the mechanicals will be decades away, a fact the next owner can enjoy while sitting on the Trex decks off both the main level and upstairs office. The $499,000 list price works out to about $100 a square foot, including the .42-acre site located at the edge of the golf course.
        I enjoyed the layout of the Skybrook golf course as I had Glenmore and The Neuse, and I saw some touches I recognized and liked at the other two -- the changes in elevation, the funneled fairways and tilts, the bunkers that gave both contour and framing to the fairways, and the well-protected greens. Indeed, at a few of the greens that were backed by brick-faced homes, I felt as if I were back at the mostly brick-appointed Glenmore. Yet I liked the points of distinction as well; the greens at Skybrook seemed somewhat larger and a bit more contoured than those at the other two layouts. When the greens return to peak shape and are cut a little more aggressively, they will be a special treat to putt ("treat" being a relative description, especially if the ball is above many of the pin positions). There was great variety in the green complexes, with some permitting unfettered access and others with mounds or bunkers in the way, necessitating more loft on the approach. I had no feeling of redundancy as I made my way around the course.
Skybrook18approachThe pleasant round at Skybrook comes to a close at the uphill, well protected 18th hole.
        Condition was an issue on the golf course, but my local playing partner for the day said the turf had come a long way since the bank default by the course's previous owner. Greens had been aerated 10 days earlier but, except for a few bare spots that had been dusted with sand, they putted just fine at a medium speed. Troon Golf, a well-respected operator, is now in charge of managing the course in behalf of the bank, and given enough resources, they should breathe life back into an excellent layout.
        It could be that the status of the golf course has impeded price increases in the community's real estate. If so, now could be a good time to score a bargain in an up and coming area of North Carolina. If you would like more information on Skybrook or any of the golf communities in the Lake Norman area north of Charlotte, please contact us.


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