Southern communities push ahead with plans, hope for best

The Arthur Hills course at the age-retricted Colonial Heritage community in Williamsburg, VA, is one of the toughest layouts I've played in recent years, with many forced carries, as this one on the 13th hole.  Perhaps that is why the community is targeting a "younger" demographic, 45 year olds.

    As I reported here yesterday, I attended this past weekend's Live South Show in Greenwich, CT.  Live South brings a few dozen communities to a hotel exhibition space where local people can take a one-stop shopping spin through the hall, ask questions of each community's agents, sign-up to receive marketing materials and, if inspired, arrange for a visit and tour.  The next show stop is in Parsippany, NJ (click here for the Live South web site and show schedule).
    Although the agents I spoke with were still smarting from the worst sales year in their experience, they were ever hopeful that things will pick up this year.  Already, as a few told me, they had sold more properties in January alone than they had in the previous three months.  In one case, that was just six properties.  I have also noticed at real estate discussion boards on the internet that agents in some areas of the northern U.S. saw a similar uptick in activity in January.  The Cliffs is backing up its own optimism with a spend of more than $14 million for promotion in 2009.  In this economy, that is quite a statement, at least for The Cliffs.
    Here are some notes on my discussions at Live South.  

Forty-five is the new 55

    Colonial Heritage, an age-restricted community in Williamsburg, VA, has

Age-restricted communities lose their "exclusive" status when the number of those 55 and over dips below 80% of all residents.

lowered its minimum age for residency to 45; it previously advertised that it was only for those 55 and over.  The agent at the Colonial Heritage booth, sponsored by the developer Lennar, said that the new push is appealing mostly to out of state residents who have visited the popular Williamsburg area previously.  Colonial Heritage has to be careful, though, about being too successful with this new demographic.  Age-restricted communities lose their "exclusive" status, by law, when the number of those 55 and over dips below 80% of all residents, a reality the Lennar agent acknowledged.

Grape expectations?

    River Landing, a community adjacent to I-40 in North Carolina, will open its new 59,000 square foot clubhouse in April.  The community, which was developed by a local family, features 36 holes by Clyde Johnston, a respected southern golf course architect.  Golf membership is $28,000, with dues of around $400 per month, reasonable for 36 holes of quality golf (and a big clubhouse).  Although River Landing is a little remote, at 30 minutes to Wilmington and 75 minutes to Raleigh, services are developing nearby, including a Super Walmart opening next summer.  More than 1,100 of the community's 1,500 lots have been sold, and 300 homes are in.  Lots in River Landing start around $80,000 and reach $500,000 for those on the river.  Most homes are in the $300,000 to $1 million range.  Next month, construction begins on a new neighborhood called The Vineyards; the developers have planted 18 acres of grapes within the neighborhood. 

High-end competition on Lake Keowee

    I visited The Reserve at Lake Keowee four years ago and I was eager to
From the Great Lawn homes, you can walk to the lake, the first tee, clubhouse and clay tennis courts.

find out how things were progressing.  Slowly, is my impression after a discussion with the community's representatives.  The Reserve is just down the road from a few of the Cliffs Communities properties on Lake Keowee, and the two developers appeal to a similar demographic -- the well to do who are able to purchase $1 million and up homes.  That is a lot of competition at the high end in what is still a remote area of South Carolina, although The Reserve will appeal more to families than the ultra-sophisticated Cliffs.  The Reserve has sold just 700 lots to date of its total 1,400; 100 homes are built with another 75 under construction.  I recall from my visit four years ago a string of townhouses that run along the edge of a "great lawn" that sweeps down from the beautiful clubhouse to the edge of the lake.  Everything is within an easy walk of the huge townhouses, which are each well over 3,000 square feet -- the clubhouse and first tee of the Jack Nicklaus golf course, large outdoor pool, clay tennis courts, and the marina.  Prices for the four remaining homes begin at $1.4 million.  Golf club membership is $60,000, with dues of $420 per month.

Cliffs notes

    Speaking of The Cliffs Communities, representatives at their booth said sales were off about 20% last year, but that plans keep chugging along to add to their impressive golf course portfolio.  A new course designed by Gary Player, who has moved his company's offices to The Cliffs, should be ready for play next spring, and earth is being moved for the new Tiger Woods course, his first in the U.S., at High Mountain, near Asheville.  Full-family golf membership The Cliffs has reached the $150,000 mark, but that entitles the member access to any of the six courses in place now and the Player and Woods courses later.  Driving distance between the farthest Cliffs courses is a little over an hour, but some are within just 20 minutes or so of each other.  And they are all beautifully conditioned, as one should expect for those kinds of prices.  Any new property owner has the choice to purchase the refundable membership at the time they purchase their property.  If they decline, they will not be able to buy the full golf membership later (unless, of course, they buy an additional developer property).  If they sell their home and the purchaser opts for membership, The Cliffs will refund the initiation fee almost right away.  If the buyer does not opt for membership, the seller might have to wait six months for the refund, according to the agent at the Cliffs booth.

Impressive track record for developer at Wild Wing

    For those looking for a significantly more modestly priced golf
The developers retained 27 of the original 72 holes at Wild Wing.

community experience, Myrtle Beach's Wild Wing could fill the bill.  Wild Wing includes 27 holes of excellent golf on a property that once was home to 72 holes.  Plantation Sales LLC, which has been in business since 1964, purchased the entire property a few years ago.  They retained the old Avocet course, the best of the four layouts, as well as nine holes of the old Hummingbird course.  The developers are offering free membership with the purchase of a home (the courses are open to the public).  At $175 per month in dues, three or four rounds a month are the breakeven point (membership also brings discounts on food and pro shop merchandise).  Lots at Wild Wing start in the $90,000 range and run to $230,000 for a view of both water and golf.  Plantation Sales has been affiliated with a number of top-notch and successful properties over the years, including the Governor's Club, a private community with 27 holes of Jack Nicklaus golf in Chapel Hill, NC, as well as the lauded Pawleys Island golf courses of Caledonia and True Blue.
Golf communities in the southern U.S. are eager to move their remaining inventories of property.  You could be surprised at some of the deals they are willing to make.  If you would like more information, or would like to arrange a visit to any other communities in the southern U.S., click on the Contact Us tab at the top of the page, and I will get back to you swiftly.

 The Reserve at Lake Keowee course is vintage Jack Nicklaus.

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