In the years that preceded the recession of 2008, ownership of a home in The Cliffs Communities, whose properties extend from the Asheville, NC, and Greenville, SC, areas to Lake Keowee, was beyond the grasp of any but the well-to-do. Prices for homes started around the $1 million mark. If you wanted to dip your toe in the water with the more modest purchase of a lot, you faced a personal tipping point within 30 days of closing: Join the club or not. If you decided on membership, you ponied up as much as $125,000. If you decided not to join, then your piece of property forever would wear the golf community equivalent of the Scarlet letter: Neither you nor anyone you sold your home to would ever be able to join the club at The Cliffs. Of course, once the new property owners determined that they had essentially ostracized themselves from the key activities in the community, they were free to buy a second property and attach membership to that piece of land. (Some people actually did that.)
Of course, the recession and a lack of customers changed that particular membership scheme, probably forever; The Cliffs, under its latest owners, today maintains a hybrid of that original plan which provides a bit more flexibility to its resident owners and at a price for full-golf membership that is $75,000 lower than the former peak price. At $50,000, it is a good deal for those who can afford it.
Prices for homes in The Cliffs Communities are moving back toward their pre-recession levels; developer lots begin at $169,000. However, anyone considering the purchase of a resale property at The Cliffs had better make sure to ask their buyer agent if a membership is attached because, in that regard, the new Cliffs owners are adhering to the old scheme.
"If a resale lot does not have an active membership," The Cliffs membership office indicates, "its owner or purchaser cannot obtain one in the future."
Instead, they will need to opt for a developer-owned property -- there are a good choice of those -- and choose from a menu of membership plans within 30 days of closing. If, for example, the buyer selects a "Wellness Membership," she can upgrade to another plan later but will only be able to downgrade the membership upon the death of a spouse or upon demonstration of "hardship."
The Cliffs' full-golf membership for $50,000 provides reciprocal privileges at all seven golf courses and full access to wellness centers, clubhouses, dining and marina facilities, as well as outdoor activity areas, including hiking and walking trails, private parks and pavilions. Monthly dues in 2013 were $892 for play at all courses without the assessment of a green fee; and $802 per month for no-fee play at the member's chosen "home" course and modest green fees when playing any other Cliffs course.
Other Cliffs memberships include a Sports Membership at $35,000 ($453 per month dues) and limited play on Cliffs golf courses; a Wellness Membership ($20,000/$319); and Social Membership ($20,000/$160).