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Monday, 28 July 2014 08:22

How to Pay for Your Golf Home

by John Ruocco

     It is interesting that over the past few years, I have had several of my clients either buy second homes down South or simply pick up and move there. So, not surprisingly, one of the questions that has come up is how to finance the move: cash or mortgage? Do you sell your home up here and use the proceeds to buy a place down South or invest the proceeds and take out a mortgage? The answer depends on your own personal circumstances and your comfort level rather than number crunching, but here are a few things to consider.

The Bank Advantage

     First, let us consider the advantage of using a bank for this type of transaction. Sometimes when we apply for a bank loan or mortgage, we feel the bank is our adversary. Why are they asking so many questions? Why are they making me pay all these fees? Can't they understand that I have always paid my bills and I would pay this one too? Granted, it can be frustrating, but there is another way to look at it. The bank is really your partner.
     An example of this partnership from my own personal experience is when my daughter was recently trying to purchase a condominium. When I heard her offer was accepted, the first thing I told her was to get the financial documents from the condo association. The realtor involved assured her that these documents were forthcoming but,

By looking after their interests, the bank is actually looking after yours.

in the meantime, she should apply for the loan and get approved. After going through the arduous process of getting final approval, the bank finally got the condo docs three days before closing. The financials indicated that there was a high delinquency rate on the condo association fees. The bank immediately rejected the deal. If my daughter had purchased this place for cash, she may never have known that. In the end, she walked away from this property and bought another one in another town with a new, more knowledgeable realtor.

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Thursday, 24 July 2014 03:12

A Sweet Spot Price for Golf Homes

        In just the last week, I have received inquiries from four customers, each of whom is looking for a resale golf home or a condo in a golf community. And all specified a price range of $250,000 to $300,000. Either this is a major coincidence, or someone is goofing on me. I'm going to assume the former, but the coincidence got me thinking about what real estate in that price range is currently available in golf communities I have visited and can recommend.
        It turns out quite a lot. Mindful that some people prefer the low-maintenance lifestyle condo ownership provides, and others prefer the more spacious single-family-home approach, here are summaries of two golf homes for sale in some of our favorite golf communities -– one single-family home and one condominium in each.  Plenty of others are available at both lower and higher prices in each golf community.

BayCreekNicklausoversandBay Creek's Jack Nicklaus has a links like feel to it.

Bay Creek Resort, Cape Charles, VA

        This was the first community to be able to boast separate Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer designed 18 hole layouts. They are both impressive and bump up against the Chesapeake Bay, although we prefer the more links-like Nicklaus layout. Bear Creek is located about 10 miles north of one of the engineering marvels of the world, the 20-mile span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel. The community is also about a six-hour drive from Manhattan and a lot closer from Philly and Washington, D.C. Condos and single-family homes are squarely in the price range we are exploring here.  For example, a 3 BR, 2 BA, 1,800 square foot condo in The Fairways section -– so named because of its view of the Palmer course –- is being offered furnished and can slip right into the Bay Creek rental program to generate some income when you are not using it. The offering price is $274,900.  Nearby, in The Hollies section, a 1,750 square foot single-family home, with 3 BRs and 2 BAs, is listed for $259,900.  It is on a small lot, but does have a front yard and sunroom and back patio for views of the woods and Nicklaus course.  Bay Creek recently opened a beach club and fitness center to go with the great golf.

WGreenShamokin6The three nines on the Rees Jones Stoney Creek course have Native American tribe names. This is #6 on the Shamokin course.

Wintergreen Resort, Nellysford, VA

        If we were skiers, as well as golfers, we'd think seriously about having two homes – one on the coast and one in the mountains. And the choice of golf communities in the mountains would certainly include consideration of Wintergreen, where you can play golf at the top of the mountain –- the Ellis Maples Devil's Knob course -- and at the bottom -– the 27-hole Rees Jones Stoney Creek layout. Both are outstanding. We understand the skiing is pretty nice as well. But maybe the most outstanding feature at Wintergreen are the prices for the wide variety of real estate, with condos that start as low as the $60s. For our purposes, we'll take the 2 BR, 2 BA, 1,170 square foot unit on Blue Ridge Drive with long and beautiful mountain views and a short walk to the first tee of Devil's Knob, tennis and the spa. For those seeking a bit more space and an indigenous style of home, a nine-year old Lindal Cedar single-family house features 3 BR and 3 BA, exposed wood beams, pine ceilings, hardwood floors, fireplace, A-frame windows, cathedral ceilings and an open floor plan. Oh, yes, and it comes fully furnished, all for $289,500.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:24

A most unusual golf community home

        Across the 15th tee from the condo I own at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, is a unique home that has been on and off the market since 2007, when it was first listed for $1.2 million. Its design is so unusual that it will only appeal to a small niche of folks, namely those who love Japanese art and design. But for the right couple, it could be a steal at its current listed price of $649,900.
        It is a deceptively large home, with three bedrooms and 2 ½ bathrooms, but interior space of over 3,700 square feet. The house is set on a double-sized lot and features the ubiquitous live oaks of the Carolina Low Country, dripping with Spanish moss and, with a bit of pruning, views of the adjacent lake, marsh and Jack Nicklaus designed golf course. For a home that was once listed in the $1 million category, taxes are ridiculously low at less than $2,500 annually.
       Even before you enter the house, you have a sense of the personality of the design, as koi ponds flank both sides of the walkway that leads to the front door. Inside, the style

The home's style is decidedly Asian, but its components are high quality American and European made.

is decidedly Asian, but the appliances and structural components are of high quality and expensive American and European made. With high ceilings throughout, the top-grade Pella windows provide for plenty of natural light. The modern kitchen features stainless steel appliances that include a Sub-Zero refrigerator and Gaggenau range and double ovens. The work island and other countertops are granite.  (See photos below.)
        Elegant taste and outstanding design extend to the living and sleeping areas. The master bedroom features two large walk-in closets and, upstairs, a bonus room opens to a walkout terrace. Other extra touches include French limestone, a patio, a large laundry room that can accommodate an office setup as well, geothermal heating and cooling, and an oyster tabby exterior that gives the home an unusual but indigenous appeal.
        The semi-private Pawleys Plantation is owned by National Golf Management, which runs 22 other golf clubs in the Myrtle Beach area; reciprocal privileges are available to club members and, currently, NGM has a push on to recruit new members. The special promotion initiation fee is just $5,000, and the club has sent some of its members $500 certificates to give to any friends who might join. (As a member myself, I have a couple of them if anyone out there is interested.) Dues are just $250 per month but at peak times you will have to share the course with resort guests and others.
        If you are interested in more information about this unique house or membership at Pawleys Plantation, please contact me.



28WidgeonMasterBRPhotos courtesy of Jamie Beard, the Litchfield Company.

Wednesday, 09 July 2014 06:13

How to play a grand array of golf courses

        I'm editing the initial draft of the main feature for the July edition of Home On The Course, our free monthly newsletter. The piece that I am calling "How to Play Smorgasbord Golf," details five strategies for those aiming to play a lot of golf in retirement without breaking the bank. For serious golfers considering a move South for year-round golf, the options are almost dizzying. Our five strategies help put a little balance into the search for the perfect golf home and best rotation of golf courses you can play consistently.
        Sign up for our free Home On The Course newsletter now by clicking here and we will make sure you receive the July edition, which will be published in the next few days, and all future issues. And if you are in the early stages of your search for a vacation or retirement golf home and would like our suggestions about where to look, we invite you to fill out our Golf Home Questionnaire. It takes less than five minutes, we never share your personal information without your permission, and we will get back to you within a few days with a suggestion of golf communities that match your requirements...including those with multiple golf courses inside the gates or nearby. You can access the Golf Home Questionnaire by clicking here.
MusgroveMillpar4fromteeAs the golf industry continues to retrench in the wake of the recession, savvy entrepreneurs have built portfolios of excellent private clubs they can offer to members as a package. No one has stitched together excellent private courses than has John McConnell in the Carolinas. The tough Musgrove Mill in rural Clinton, South Carolina (above) is a member of the McConnell group of courses.

        My first visit in 2008 to Bright's Creek in Mill Spring, NC, was a mixed bag of impressions. It was not easy, even with a GPS car system, to find the road that led into the community. I stopped at a gas station to ask for directions, and the proprietor told me he had never heard of Bright's Creek. It turns out the gas station was a mere three miles from the Bright's Creek front gate. Location, location, location was not working in the young community's favor; a billboard or even a discreet sign would have helped. Marketing was not a strong suit at Bright's Creek in its first few years.
HorseGolfatBrightsThe new owners of Bright's Creek are full-on in their support of both high-level golf and equestrian activities. Photo courtesy of Linda Valerio Stenzel
        When I finally did arrive, an enthusiastic sales person greeted me and, after a pleasant drive through the community, he handed me a key for a room at the community's "lodge," one of the most comfortable and spacious rooms I've encountered in over 10 years of golf community visits. The bathroom was huge, the shower area itself was almost obscenely big, and the room looked out on the golf course's impressive practice area. It was tough to drag myself out of those rooms early the next morning for a round on the Tom Fazio layout, but my attitude changed after a hole or two. The impeccably conditioned course, which sits beneath a ring of mountains, has all the hallmarks of a top Fazio track, which is to say the big cloverleaf fairway bunkers, the buried cart paths and an overall delight for the eye. It also provides challenge enough to have played host to professionals a few years ago.     

   I am working on an article for about the golf ratings panels in North and South Carolina. Just a casual review of the panels' two rankings lists for 2014 shows one particular oddity; South Carolina, with a coastline 114 miles shorter than North Carolina's, nevertheless boasts 11 coastal region golf courses in its top 15, whereas North Carolina shows only two (both in Wilmington).

MayRiverpar3The South Carolina Golf Rating Panel gave May River Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus design, its #2 ranking in the state.

        The evidence seems convincing that serious golfers looking for the best golf courses on the east coast have a better choice south of the border between the Carolinas than above it. The South Carolina panel tapped the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, previous host to both the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship, as the best course in the state, followed by May River Golf Club in Bluffton (near Hilton Head) at #2 and the famed Harbour Town Links on Hilton Head at #5. The other top 10 coastal choices from the panel include Long Cove (Hilton Head, #7), the Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach (#8) and Secession Golf Club near Beaufort (#9). South Carolina's second 10 include eight other golf courses that are located within just a few miles of the ocean.
        North Carolina's Sandhills and mountain golf courses are every bit as prized as South Carolina's coastal courses, starting with Pinehurst #2, which is ranked #1 by the North Carolina state panel and recently played host to the men's and women's U.S. Opens. The rest of the North Carolina panel's top five is a potpourri of geography, with the second-ranked Grandfather Golf & Country Club located in the mountains, the Country Club of North Carolina back in Pinehurst, the Old North State Club on Bandin Lake in the middle of the state, and Quail Hollow in a suburb of big-city Charlotte.

OldNorthState7The North Carolina Golf Rating Panel deemed Old North State Club, on Bandin Lake and in the golf community of Uwharrie Point, to be the 4th best layout in the state.

        The highest ranked club on the North Carolina coast is Cape Fear Country Club in Wilmington (#14), followed by the nearby and fiercely private Eagle Point Golf Club (#15), the invention of New York financiers looking for a personal playground. You don't see another coastal course on the North Carolina list until the 37th spot, the (Pete) Dye Course at Landfall. The 41st spot belongs to Bald Head Island's links style golf course, and the 42nd and 45th rankings are held respectively by two courses at Sunset Beach's Ocean Ridge Plantation, Leopard's Chase and Tiger's Eye.
        The conclusion we draw from these geographical golf course anomalies is that if you are a serious golfer looking to relocate to serious golfing territory, look to North Carolina if you like mountain and inland golf and to South Carolina if you prefer coastal golf. And look to us if you would like some assistance in homing in on the golf community and golf course that best suit your requirements. Contact us here.

        Everyone loves a bargain. Not only do we save money when we score one, but there is an ego rush that says loudly (and proudly) that we were smart enough to identify it and bold enough to land it.
        From time to time, "bargain" golf homes for sale arrive in my email inbox from Realtors and golf communities throughout the Southeast. To get my attention, their cost per square foot cannot exceed $125 and they should be located in a community I've visited and can recommend, one with a challenging and well-conditioned golf course and a track record (or the promise) of stability.
This 3,600 square foot resale home at Grand Harbor on Lake Greenwood is listed for
just $329,900, or just over $90 per square foot.  Its great room features an antique
mantle surrounding the fireplace and lots of built in cabinetry.

        I took special notice of one I received in the last few days, a 3 bedroom, 3 ½ bath, 3,600 square foot house on the 11th fairway of The Patritot golf course on Lake Greenwood just a few miles from Greenwood, SC. The home is priced at just $329,900, which equates to a construction cost of about $91 per square foot. That is about as low as you will find in any quality golf community, and Grand Harbor Golf & Yacht Club, which is now under the stewardship of the Texas-based Golf Challenge Group, matches the definition of "quality." The golf community's course features a unique Davis Love 18-hole layout marked by facsimiles of Revolutionary War ruins, commemorating a famous local battle a few miles down the road. Even without the extra-added attractions, the Love course is typical of the designer's predisposition to build challenging golf courses that can be made easier, or more difficult, by moving up or back one tee box.
        The house features a raft of nice touches, including hardwood and ceramic flooring, custom cabinetry, a large great room with an antique mantle over the fireplace, traditional dining room with a stained glass window, double-sized shower in the main floor master suite, and two suites upstairs for guests, as well as a large media room (great "man cave" potential). Included in the purchase price is membership in the golf club.
The Davis Love golf course at Grand Harbor is literally in ruins, which commemorate a
nearby Revolutionary War battle.

        Grand Harbor is one of those golf communities that seems "out there" in terms of remove from civilization but is actually just 10 minutes from a town, in this case Greenwood, with a full range of services. Greenville, one of our favorite towns in the south, is just under an hour away.
        We can't imagine a bargain home like this in both a lake and golf community will stay on the market too long. If you would like additional information or an introduction to the listing agent, please contact me. If you would like to arrange a discovery package at Grand Harbor and to check out as well their many new homes and home sites for sale, I'd be happy to assist as well. While you are in the area, a stop at other golf communities like Stoney Point and Savannah Lakes Village should be on the itinerary. We can help with that as well.

Far out, far cheaper       
        I had a conversation today with a real estate agent in Greensboro, GA, which is home to three excellent golf communities, all different in their own ways -– the large, multi-amenities Reynolds Plantation; Cuscowilla, a hybrid resort and second-home community with a fabulous Coore & Crenshaw designed golf course; and Harbor Club, which is more of a "neighborhood" golf community than resort oriented. As reported here, Harbor Club recently debuted a new model home that seems right-priced in the $400s. During my discussion with the real estate agent, I asked what it might cost to build a new home if someone were so inclined. "As long as it is not too fancy," she told me, " they could probably do it for $110 a square foot." "Seriously?" I asked. "Does that include dirt floors and masonry walls?" "No," she responded, "that includes hardwood floors and granite counters." In other words, if you want to build a house, build it in Greensboro, GA, or any of the many other remotely located golf communities where everything –- taxes, labor, materials -– is cheaper. Oh, yes, and the land is cheaper too...

Paradise revisited
        True island living is not for everybody. In fact, in my 10 years of helping baby boomers find retirement and second homes in southern golf communities, island living has not been for anybody. But I keep trying because somewhere out there is a couple perfectly suited to the island lifestyle. By "true" island, I don't mean one like Hilton Head or Skidaway or Kiawah that is easilyFrom whence the Haig Point ferry departs to the island. reached by bridge and can suffer mini-versions of big city traffic jams. No, a true island golf community is reached only by ferry service –- or a helicopter, if you can afford it –- and the only means of conveyance are golf carts and your own two feet. On the southeast coast, the only two golf community islands are Bald Head Island, just off the North Carolina coast and reached by ferry from the charming town of Southport; and Daufuskie Island, home to Haig Point and its 29-hole Rees Jones marshland golf course, whose ferry embarkation center is on Hilton Head. Last weekend, a couple I am working with from Connecticut took a look at some of the top golf communities in the Bluffton and Beaufort areas and, out of curiosity, took the ferry out to Daufuskie to check out Haig Point. They were smitten. I'm not sure whether they will ultimately buy there, but they plan a return visit to see if shopping for groceries via ferry and making all the other accommodations necessary to live in paradise will dull their enthusiasm. I hope not...

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 13:32

Why Live in Pinehurst...and Why Not

        This week, the eyes of the golfing world have been on the Pinehurst Resort in the Sandhills of North Carolina. (Side brag: I picked Martin Kaymer to win the U.S. Open in my fantasy golf pool.) The USGA held its men's championship event last weekend and will conduct the women's event this weekend at Pinehurst #2, the iconic Donald Ross designed layout that was restored by the hottest golf architect firm today, (Bill) Coore & (Ben) Crenshaw, and is getting wide acclaim from pros, golfers and the general public. It looks terrific on television, that's for sure.

If you are looking for a break and mild introduction to National Golf Club's layout, forget
about it. From the start, Jack Nicklaus' design is a sculpted challenge. National Golf Club
was recently purchased by Pinehurst Resort and has become Pinehurst #9.

        Golf is plentiful and excellent in the Pinehurst/Southern Pines area, some of the highest quality courses, and some of the most famous, on the east coast. The Pinehurst Resort now can boast nine courses in its rotation after it added a few months ago the National Golf Club just down the street, an established golf community we visited and reviewed here. (Click for our review of National Golf Club.) Blue-collar golfers with a zest for travel rave about the unforgettable Tobacco Road, just a half hour away and about as wild and exciting a layout as you will every play. Back closer to Pinehurst, Mid Pines, another Donald Ross classic, and Dormie Club, a new course by Coore & Crenshaw that adheres to old principles of design, help give visiting and local golfers more than a month of golf courses they can play without repeating a single one. For those serious about a golf retirement, there are myriad options in the Pinehurst area, both golf and real estate related.

        For those caught up in the glow –- and marketing power -– of Reynolds Plantation on Lake Oconee in Georgia, it is easy to ignore the 1,000-acre Harbor Club, less than five miles up and around the lake. But anyone visiting the wonderfully appointed Reynolds would be well advised to make a stop at Harbor Club, which may not boast six golf courses, multiple clubhouses, and an ownership the likes of Metropolitan Life Insurance, but then how many golf communities do?
        Now, there is an additional reason to add that stop at Harbor Club to the Reynolds visit; a new model home of more than 3,000 square feet with an open floor plan popular with baby boomer retirees. The price of the spacious new model should prove popular, starting at $489,000. Dubbed The Pine Lake, the new home plan features three bedrooms, a two-car garage and some extra touches, such as arched windows and natural stone details on the foundation. An extra 800 square feet on the terrace level and 400 square feet upstairs can be finished off to provide another bedroom, media room or storage space. Prior to building, the dining room area can be redesigned as a study.
A good piece of the Weiskopf/Morrish golf course at Harbor Club bumps up against Lake Oconee.

        A bit more than half the planned golf homes in Harbor Club have been built. Home sites start at a mere $20,000, with those with lake views priced correspondingly higher. Single-family homes start in the $200s and run into the millions for the best views down the lake. Harbor Club has a few townhomes as well, starting in the mid $100s.
        The golf course, designed by Tom Weiskopf & Jay Morrish in 1991, is a honey and winds its way through the community and along parts of the lake. Although the golf club is semi-private and, therefore, open to the public, green fee rates are pretty high -- $105 at the peak morning hours –- and ensure the member's have full access.
        Mindful that its golf community overlaps with Reynolds offerings, Harbor Club has been investing in improvements, including a new marina and boat storage facility on Lake Oconee and the opening of a new neighborhood of homes in April, which generated 63 sales over a single weekend. For more information on Harbor Club, or to arrange a visit to both Reynolds Plantation and Harbor Club, please contact us.
        Footnote, especially for Yankees fans: Legendary baseball star Mickey Mantle was an active member at Harbor Club once his baseball playing days were over. Something of a shrine to The Mick occupies a small rotunda in the 15,000 square foot clubhouse.
The Pine Lake model at Harbor Club is their newest, and starts at $489,000.

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Home of the Week

Talamore Country Club

Talamore Country Club
Southern Pines, NC


  •    This 16-years young condo, perfect as a second home, comes fully furnished and is located inside the Talamore Country Club golf community just a few miles from the famed Pinehurst Resort. With 2 BR, 2 BAs and nearly 1,400 square feet of living area, the home is perfect for a couple looking to get their golfing fix in one of the most celebrated areas for golf in America. Features of the home include a master bedroom that opens onto a balcony; a large kitchen; formal dining space; and laundry area. An adjoining (lock-out) unit includes a kitchenette and private bath; it too is fully furnished. Talamore's Rees Jones designed golf course was ranked by Golf Digest in the top five of all new golf courses after it opened in 1991. For members and guests who would like to take a walk on the wild side at Talamore, we understand that llama caddies can be arranged with a bit of notice.


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