Many couples looking forward to a warm-weather retirement continue to wait for a few more years before considering seriously the purchase of a golf home in the South, and with good reasons. One or both partners, for example, may still be working, with only a couple of weeks for vacation annually. In that case, a golf community home at this time would be an unnecessary and expensive luxury. Another reason to wait is that children are not yet out of college, let alone high school, and until education and related expenses are paid, another home –- mortgage or not –- is out of the question.
But for tens of thousands of couples, the waiting game may be nothing more than an uneducated guess about the real estate markets and the economy. "The value of my primary home," one argument goes, "is not back to where it was in 2006." They are waiting for prices to rebound fully. Or the follow-on reason, "," Prices in the South aren't rising that fast." This second assessment is comparatively wrong; in dozens of golf communities we follow, almost all are showing incremental to strong price increases, led by some markets, like Naples, FL, that crashed the hardest during the recession. These markets are roaring back, with many homes appreciating in double-digit percentages annually over the last couple of years, multiple times more than price increases in most areas of the North. As we wrote recently, property sales in The Cliffs Communities, one of the hardest hit of all luxury golf communities, increased by an average $200,000 each compared with 2013 figures.
We are seeing more modest, but still strong, price increases in golf communities that did not suffer as much during the recession, especially those in the Carolinas that are perceived as medium-priced ($300,000 to $500,000). Suffice to say, real estate in these golf communities is appreciating faster than in most northern U.S. areas. Put another way, couples that want to move South and are waiting for the value of their primary home to increase may ultimately cost themselves money. Yes, their current home may increase in value by, say, 3% per year, but the home they might target in the South is likely to appreciate 6% or more. Over time, they will lose buying power and have to settle for a smaller home or one located in a golf community of somewhat lesser quality.
There are other costs to waiting, and those have to do with the costs of living. In general, and looking at the full range of living costs, a move South can save more than 25% in overall living expenses compared with life in most suburban areas of the North. According to BestPlaces.net, where an easy-to-use calculator compares the living costs in any two different cities, we note that it would be 33% cheaper for my wife and I to live in Pawleys Island, SC, where we have a vacation condo, than in our Connecticut town, where we maintain our current home. (The bulk of the savings is from the difference in housing costs, but in all other categories, it is still cheaper to live in Pawleys Island.) If our expenses, say, are $50,000 a year, our savings will be more than $15,000 annually after we move. (We are planning that move a few years from now.) If we spent $100,000 a year on food, entertainment, taxes, real estate related costs and all the other expenses of life, the savings would be a robust $33,000 a year. If our home in Connecticut has a current value of, say, $500,000, it would have to appreciate almost 7% annually to keep up with the cost of living savings of a move to Pawleys Island. Those kinds of savings is like getting a second social security check every month.
If you are ready and able to relocate to a warmer climate and just need a willing partner to help you figure out which golf communities best match your requirements, please fill out our Golf Home Questionnaire. Once we understand your criteria, we will provide you with a few initial thoughts on which golf communities match up the best. Our services are free, and you are never under any obligation whatsoever. Click here for the Golf Home Questionnaire. We are also happy to provide references from satisfied customers on request. If you have any other questions, please contact me.