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After a recent revisit to Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick, SC, I am even more convinced that the community offers some of the most reasonably priced real estate and lowest dues and fees compared with the universe of golf communities in the Southeast. And it is about to grow explosively.
Hole #5 on the Monticello Course at Savannah Lakes Village
Special Offer to Our Readers
If you like what you’ve read about Savannah Lakes in the accompanying feature and in the information and FAQs below, consider taking advantage of the community’s special Discovery Package, which is priced commensurate with its low real estate prices and HOA fees. Two-night packages are priced at $250 and include a stay in a two-bedroom townhome on site; a round of golf, with cart, on each of SLV’s two championship courses; unlimited use of the Recreation Center’s swimming pools, fitness center, tennis and pickleball courts and even attendance at fitness center or swimming classes, if you would like; and a tour of the community and its new and resale homes with SLV’s most experienced real estate agent, Michael Sherard, who sold the first property ever in the community 30 years ago.
And, if you sign up for your visit through me, Savannah Lakes will include an extra night’s stay and an extra round of golf. Just send me a note of interest — click here — and we can get the ball rolling on a visit
Savannah Lakes by the Numbers
100…percent of amenities owned by residents
1,200…miles of shoreline on Lake Thurmond
71,000…acres covered by Lake Thurmond
60,000…acres of protected adjacent forest
4,954…total number of home sites
23,000…square feet at recreation, swim & fitness center (expansion soon)
36…holes of well-conditioned and challenging golf
2…clubhouses with restaurants
6…lighted tennis & pickleball courts
2…pools, one outdoor and one indoor (heated)
30…minutes from Greenwood, SC, a full-service college town
45…minutes to Augusta, GA, home of the Masters
FAQs (frequently asked questions)
Q. How much does it cost to belong to and play golf at Savannah Lakes’ golf clubs?
A. Monthly HOA dues of just $125 qualify all residents for club membership. Those who play infrequently pay $41 per round, cart included. Frequent players can pay $3,389 annually, cart included, to play as much golf as they want. The break-even point is 83 rounds per year, or less than two per week.
Q. How often are the two on-site restaurants open?
A. Most of the time both are open, but at least one is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with full bar service at each
Q. Does Savannah Lakes provide walking trails?
A The community maintains 30 miles of walking, biking and cart trails.
Q. What types of social activities are available at Savannah Lakes?
A. If you can imagine an activity, it is probably available. No fewer than 30 clubs and organizations are active in the community, everything from Bible Study groups to Quilt Clubs to a Wine Club to a Duplicate Bridge Club to sports groups for tennis, golf and even table tennis. Another 30 civic clubs and organizations are available for membership and volunteering in the surrounding area.
Q. Ok, I’m convinced. How do I arrange to visit Savannah Lakes?
A. Contact me and I will arrange for your Discovery Package and a tour of the community with Michael Sherard, who knows Savannah Lakes real estate and its amenities as well as anyone; he has sold property and helped buyers there for the last 30 years. When you contact me to arrange your visit, Savannah Lakes will throw in an extra night’s stay and extra round of golf (see above).
If you are considering a search for a permanent or vacation home in a golf-oriented area, please contact me for a free, no-obligation consultation at email@example.com
Savannah Lakes Village Inexpensive, Not Cheap
What hasn’t killed Savannah Lakes Village has made it stronger. The 2008 recession affected the community and its 2,400 residents as severely as it did other large and sprawling golf communities in the Southeast. But as some other communities still struggle with the hangover effects of the recession, Savannah Lakes is on the precipice of a strong real estate rebound — despite that 50 percent of SLV’s unimproved home sites are currently in arrears for tax and homeowner fees.
“We are at the absolute bottom point for us,” in terms of delinquencies, Kirk Smith, chief operating officer for Savannah Lakes Village, told me recently. With a couple thousand properties taken over by McCormick County for non-payment of taxes, SLV was unable to collect homeowner association fees on them. At less than $125 per month per property, SLV’s HOA fees are among the most reasonable in all the more than 175 golf communities I have reviewed. In the aggregate, however, the loss of that much revenue that typically pays to fund the community’s many amenities, including its two excellent golf courses, was a tough pill to swallow.
A Great Start…
Opened in 1989, the remotely located Savannah Lakes was an immediate sales success story. Cooper Communities, the original developers, had plenty of prior experience building golf communities, including Hot Springs in Arkansas and Tellico Village in Tennessee. The company put that experience to good use at Savannah Lakes, marketing the community’s properties aggressively during the 1990s, especially to potential buyers in the Midwest. Emphasizing low prices — most lots were originally priced below $10,000 — and the fact that property owners had no time limit to build, Cooper was able to sell almost all 4,954 lots in little over a decade.
In the early 2000s, Cooper moved on to other projects and assigned all of the community’s amenities to the homeowners association. Cooper also sold to a private firm its sales office and a lodge it had built to host discovery tours. In ensuing years, a few real estate developers moved in to attempt to buy and sell individual lots. The most recent such entity, The Trupp organization, a family-run business from the coastal Carolinas, saw an opportunity to make a quick buck by flipping all lots they could purchase from owners who either had decided not to build or were content to make a couple thousand dollars profit after 10 years. Almost all of these were “interior” lots, given that the prized water and golf view properties were largely built-on by residents.
…then the Recession
When the 2008 recession hit and sales totally dried up, the Trupps were left with 1,300 unsold home sites in its portfolio that were pretty much worthless because of the economy; yet each still required payment of property taxes to the county and homeowner association fees to Savannah Lakes. Many of the speculators who had purchased lots from Trupp just walked away, a story that was repeated in golf communities throughout the Southeast in the wake of the recession.
Multiple defaults followed at Savannah Lakes, which is why Chief Operations Officer Kirk Smith told me the community has hit bottom, in terms of the number of defaults — but not in financial terms.
“We changed our operational structure and practices in early 2014,” says Smith, “which helped the community improve from break-even cash flow in 2013 to averaging $875,000 in cash flow over the last five years.”
…then the Turnaround
With the pressure on cash flow released, the community’s officials felt confident enough to reinvest $3.2 million in the two golf courses, the recreation center’s four-lane bowling alley and the other dozens of amenities that are prized by residents. Over the last five years, the community’s reserve has grown to more than $1.9 million today; long term debt has also been paid down over that time.
One of the contributors to net income was a decision, made with support from most golfing members, to open up the golf courses’ tee sheets to the public for afternoon play. At a typical green fee of $50 per round, Savannah Lakes’ Monticello and Tara courses are seen as a great value by local and itinerant golfers. Weekday morning tee times are reserved exclusively for members. In 2018, the golf courses generated revenues of more than $1.2 million.
Another reason Kirk Smith and residents I have spoken with are so positive about the community’s future is that Savannah Lakes finally has a true development company trying to put homes on all those foreclosed lots in the McCormick County portfolio. Under the banner of Savannah Lakes Village Real Estate and Development, the developer is working with local builders to offer reasonably priced lot and home packages. Buyers get their choice of one of the 2,200 properties that, Kirk Smith says, “have been assembled and [are being] reintroduced to the Savannah Lakes Village community.” The SLV Real Estate and Development Company pays the tax and homeowner fees while the home is being built, and then the new homeowners take over paying both. It is a win/win/win for McCormick County, SLV Real Estate and the community's financial well being.
…then New Homes
At a presentation to community residents attended by state and local officials in February, Smith and his colleagues relayed a new emphasis on selling rooftops, not lots. Over the next decade, SLV is expected to add nearly 2,500 new homes, with a resulting $6 million in added tax revenue (assuming an average new home sale price of around $275,000). With an estimated average annual household income among SLV residents of just under $100,000, anticipated growth will inject something on the order of $400 million in spendable income for the local economy. For an historically poor county like McCormick, that will change the economic dynamic of the local town of McCormick and surrounding towns and, ultimately, result in a strong increase in services for all citizens of the area, including residents of Savannah Lakes
The on-site real estate company is making sure that new homes are attractive in both their designs and pricing. Home package prices begin in the $200s for a three-bedroom, two-bath house. Sales have been steady over the first few months beginning late last year, according to Michael Sherard, the top-selling real estate agent in Savannah Lakes who left a local real estate agency to join the new group at their offices inside the gates of the community. The injection of new revenues for the community’s HOA makes it easier to refresh the community’s amenities — already there are plans to expand the on-site fitness center.
There is much else to like about Savannah Lakes, especially low prices for real estate and the community’s low-fee approach to amenities. SLV sells more homes at less than $100 per square foot than most other communities I have visited and reviewed over the last dozen years. I noted one (of many) homes at SLV currently for sale that is 2,902 square feet, three bedrooms and two baths, three-car garage on a nicely treed lot and priced at $275,000. Want something bigger, and with a view of the adjacent Lake Thurmond? A home on Bridgeview Place offers four bedrooms and 3 baths, plus a 1,500 square foot basement, in a package of 3,822 square feet total for just $375,000. A deeded boat slip is included in the purchase.
Many buyers prefer a new home, and there are plenty of new homes available at Savannah Lakes, with more than 400 home plans to choose on any of the hundreds of lots that local builders have access to. The Gardenia Model, for example, spans more than 2,000 square feet with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and a two-car garage; it is priced at $271,900. (Let me know if you would like more information on these new homes.)
…but Always Reasonable Pricing
No matter what type of home you purchase at Savannah Lakes, you are guaranteed property taxes way lower than what you have been used to elsewhere. Count on annual taxes of $2,060 for a home with an assessed value of $300,000 ($1,730 if you qualify for a homestead credit, which many older homeowners do); and $3,375, or $3,045, for a home valued at $500,000.
If there is one selling point that Savannah Lakes can take to the bank, aside from its incredibly reasonably priced real estate and property taxes, it is its flexible and inexpensive amenities plan. Let’s start with golf, with membership included in the $125 per month HOA fee. The community features two excellent layouts, the Monticello and Tara courses. For those who play golf occasionally, the green fee is a modest $41, with cart. But for those who plan to play a few times each week, the annual dues are just $3,389, cart included. If you were to play, say, four times a week, the per-round charge works out to around $17 per round, quite a savings over the already reasonable pay-as-you-go plan.
Monthly dues also provide access to the SLV Recreation Center, community and neighborhood docks on the lake, the golf clubhouses and their restaurants, and more than 30 social clubs (including everything from a pinochle club to mah jhong to a table tennis group to the Rod & Gun Club). There are extra charges for some activities, such as bowling and indoor pool use, but they are modest.
Let me know if you would like more information about Savannah Lakes and all it offers in the way of real estate and amenities. If you would like to visit the community, I have arranged for readers of Home On The Course to receive a complimentary third night and extra round of golf tacked on to Savannah Lakes' reasonably priced discovery package. Contact me if you would like to make arrangements for a future visit.
Larry Gavrich Founder & Editor Home On The Course, LLC