In most cases, buying someone else’s home in a golf community turns out to be a smarter financial move than buying a lot and building your dream home. The cost of materials and labor at today’s prices exceeds the inherent costs of a resale home, in most cases. However, some nice lots in excellent communities are priced so low that the total eventual costs of land and construction are equivalent and sometimes lower than a comparable fitted out existing home. If you have the spirit and patience to build your own home, hear are the lowest priced lots in some of the highest quality golf communities in the southern U.S. (See the accompanying feature on the cheapest homes in some of the these communities.)
The Cliffs at Keowee Falls Salem, SC 3+ acres with views of Blue Ridge Mountain vistas. Membership available in Tom Fazio course and other Cliffs clubs. $100,000
Ford Plantation Richmond Hill, GA ¼ acre with views of Lake Dye, adjacent to conservation land. Across from pool, fitness facility, and grill. Pete Dye golf. $95,000
Currahee Club, Toccoa, GA Heavily wooded interior lot, best for one-story home. Social membership included; upgrade to golf membership. Challenging George Fazio golf course. $69,000
Governors Club, Chapel Hill, NC ¼+ acre, corner lot, walk to pool, tennis, park. Short drive to Jack Nicklaus golf, 27 holes. $37,500
Reserve at Lake Keowee Sunset, SC 2 ¾ acres, private wooded lot, easy access to lake Nicklaus Signature course hosts Web.com tour event $22,000
Kiawah Island, Kiawah Island, SC .34 acres, beyond second security gate in Vanderhorst Plantation. Live oaks, palm trees on property. $185,000
Seabrook Island Seabrook Island, SC .14 acre level corner lot, steps from pools and lake house Club at Seabrook membership required $57,900
Balsam Mountain Preserve Sylva, NC 2 acres at elevation of 3,100 feet Private well, septic; adjacent stream $95,000
Scotch Hall Preserve Merry Hill, NC .79 acre interior lot with views of 13th hole HOA dues waived until house built; membership fee waived $119,900
DeBordieu Colony Georgetown, SC ½+ acre corner lot, easy bike ride to private beach Pete Dye 18 holes recently renovated $124,000
Glenmore, Keswick, VA Nearly 1 acre, partly wooded, at end of cul de sac John LaFoy 18 holes evokes bit of Scotland $125,000
Viniterra, New Kent, VA 1.28 acres on cul de sac with woods and marsh views Winery and Rees Jones golf course on site $240,000
Landfall, Wilmington, NC .18 acres wooded, next to corner lot 45 holes of golf by Nicklaus and Dye $110,000
The Landings, Savannah, GA Golf patio lot for 2,900 sq. ft. home Landings features six excellent golf courses $59,000
The First Step To Your Golf Home
A few customers remind me of a friend who became a serial user of online dating services after his divorce. At one point, he was dating so many women simultaneously that he confused two of them -– they had the same first name –- which caused him some red-faced embarrassment. Or maybe that was from the slap. In much the same way, some Internet users can't get enough of the homes they find at golf real estate web sites. My own site, GolfHomesListed where, as the name suggests, we post homes for sale in some of the South's finest golf communities, attracts occasional lookers who will skip from coastal to lake to mountain community looking for the perfect home. Cruising the Internet like that might be a formula for finding a date or even a life partner, but it is no way to look for a golf community. I don't purport to understand Internet dating strategies, but I do know a little bit about how to search for a golf home, which starts, in almost 100% of cases these days, on the Internet –- for better or worse. Here's a suggestion: Use your Internet browser to go here -– click for Golf Home Questionnaire –- take just five minutes to share with me a few of your requirements for a home in a golf community, and I will respond with a few initial suggestions (unless you indicate you are looking for a home in the mountains, on a lake and on the coast, in which case I will ask you to pick one).
The Cheapest Homes in the Most Expensive Golf Communities
Living well is the best revenge, especially if you pay a lot less than your neighbors for your property. In many post-recession golf communities, especially the high-end ones, you can still purchase a home or home site at prices well below the original price of neighboring properties. The most extreme example of low prices in high-class golf communities is the result of mandatory golf club fees. Just before the recession, some golf community residents were so pumped by the rapid escalation in leisure residential home values that they often purchased one or two properties, in addition to the home they built. In many communities – those in Bluffton, SC, including Colleton River, Belfair and Berkeley Hall, come to mind – club membership is attached to each lot and monthly dues, as well as taxes and homeowner association fees, are obligations that mere mortals cannot avoid. To get out from under those obligations, which can amount to as much as $15,000 annually per property, many strapped speculators were willing to part with their lots for as little as $1. Virtually all those lots have been gobbled up by now, but there are still many properties listed in the low-five figures.
A Few $1 Home Sites Remain Properties without golf memberships attached also show up at giveaway prices. We found a few at Haig Point, the wonderful and blessedly isolated golf community on Daufuskie Island, SC, which is reached only by a ferry that is run, at considerable expense, by the Haig Point homeowners’ association. The 29-hole golf course – two holes have alternate tee boxes – is one of the best by Rees Jones and a rival to Harbour Town just across the Calibogue Sound, according to golf pros like Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els, who have played Haig Point. As of the beginning of September, four lots in Haig Point were listed at $1 each. One was a “cottage” lot, just .13 acres but facing the par 3 17th green; the owner was willing to negotiate on a price for golf membership (the “retail” rate is $18,000). Another is a 1/3-acre lot, with long-range golf views. The other two $1 lots do not include golf membership that can instead be purchased from the HOA for $18,000. Count on between $250 and $300 per square foot for construction costs, more expensive than on the mainland where construction materials and labor are not required to travel by boat. Still, a 2,500 square foot home for $625,001 complete, $1 land purchase included, seems like a good buy, assuming you are willing to trade certain conveniences for starry nights and no pollution. (See the attached sidebar for examples of low-priced lots in a range of golf communities.)
The Low End of Some High End Golf Communities Keeping up with the Joneses can be exhausting work; but if you score the least expensive home in a golf community that is at the high end of the scale, the task of keeping up can be a lot easier. Here are the least expensive homes we found in some of the top (read “most-expensive”) golf communities in the southeast. (Note: The listing of these homes here does not imply any representation of their quality, only their status as the lowest priced homes. Also, at these prices, the properties may have sold by the time this is published. If you would like more information, please contact us.)
The Cliffs at Keowee Falls South, Salem, SC Keowee Falls was one of the last Cliffs Communities to be developed and, as such, suffered as much as any from the recession fallout. New owners of The Cliffs have dropped the comprehensive club membership fee to $50,000, a fair price for seven excellent golf courses and all the other renowned Cliffs amenities. The open floor plan in the least expensive Keowee Falls home flows toward the expansive outdoor living spaces at the back of the home. With a master suite on the main floor, hand-hewn timbers creating a rustic feel, and all maintenance handled by the HOA, the $475,000 asking price seems reasonable.
Ford Plantation, Richmond Hill, GA No one can accuse the owners of Ford Plantation, about 20 minutes south of Savannah, of skimping on their amenities. In just a few weeks, the community will reopen its Pete Dye golf course along the banks of the Oconee River after spending – wait for it! -- $7 million on renovations. (You can buy a nice golf club these days for less than half that price.) I can’t wait to see what they’ve done because when I played it five years ago, I ranked it up there with the best of Low Country layouts. But when you are a golf community also selling a lavish lifestyle that includes a marina, a spa, a naturalist, fishing programs and million dollar homes, your centerpiece must be at the first rank. We aren’t sure what it looks like inside, but a 3,120 square foot Victorian home at Ford Plantation, with 3 bedrooms and 2 ½ baths, is listed at $419,900. Okay, the master bedroom is on the second floor, but an elevator will ease the burden. Henry Ford, who sold bargain cars and owned the eponymous plantation, would be proud.
Currahee Club, Toccoa, GA Currahee was victimized by bad timing. It opened just a few years before the recession, and it has taken some hard work, deft marketing and new ownership to turn things around. At the core of the community is a George Fazio golf course that may not be to everyone’s taste –- it is difficult, even from the forward tees, given the protection and elevation afforded most greens –- but Golfweek magazine raters loved it and so too will golfers tired of wimpy layouts. The styles of the homes at Currahee blend perfectly with its Appalachian mountain location and none are better suited to the land than a group of cottages that also represent the best buys per square foot in the community. For example, a 3 bedroom, 2 ½ bath design by the renowned southern architecture firm of Keith Summerour features a master suite on the main floor, a gourmet kitchen with solid wood island, and a great room with vaulted ceilings; the list price is $499,000. The mountain town of Toccoa, GA, lies within 10 minutes and, for special occasions, Atlanta is easily drivable.
Governors Club, Chapel Hill, NC Combine 27 holes of Jack Nicklaus Signature golf with a location close to the college towns of Durham (Duke University) and Chapel Hill (University of North Carolina), a well-organized and mature community of dedicated residents, a wide range of single-family homes and a landscape that features dramatic rock outcroppings and elevation changes, and you have one of the best golf communities in the south. Throw in a four bedroom, 2 ½ bath cedar sided home at just under 3,000 square feet with hardwood floors throughout, an open living plan, wood-burning fireplace and “all season room” open to the elements in summer and enclosed behind windows in winter, and the listing price of $375,000 seems just as cozy as the house.
Reserve at Lake Keowee, Sunset, SC Located beside one of the cleanest lakes in the South, the developers of The Reserve have done an outstanding job of melding the design of their homes with the landscape, including the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. Using mostly indigenous materials, the designers and builders of homes at The Reserve have not disturbed much. Potential golf community homeowners looking for a large home will not be disturbed by one current listing in The Reserve for a five-bedroom, five-bath estate home with a billiard room that includes a wet bar on the lower floor, and a pair of adjacent guest rooms. Other features include heart-of-pine flooring, two fireplaces, decks and a patio with fire pit, as well as killer mountain views. The listing price of $599,900 is not a misprint.
Kiawah Island, Kiawah Island, SC There was a time not too long ago that Kiawah Island and its neighbor Seabrook Island were too long a drive (40 minutes) from Charleston to make these beach areas anything more than a top-notch vacation or second-home destination. But nearly 10 years ago, the developers realized that an investment in shopping would drive more homebuyers their way, and with the opening of Freshfields Village in 2005, Kiawah became more than just a place to stay for a glorious week or summer. With multiple excellent golf courses on the islands, including the top-rated Ocean Course, and a full range of housing styles (condos to estate homes), Kiawah has become a lure for year-round residents as well as the seasonal crowd. In a community of many $1 million+ single-family homes, one current three-bedroom, two-bath home in the woods stands out at a list price of $485,000. The home is located close to the entrance to Kiawah, giving its residents a good 10-minute jump over others for a trip to Charleston (or the Village). The second-floor master bedroom opens onto a deck for comforting views of the surrounding forest.
Balsam Mountain Preserve, Sylvan, NC After a few rapid-succession ownership changes just before and during the recession, Balsam Mountain Preserve has found its footing atop one of the most scenic mountains in western North Carolina. Near the artsy-craftsy town of Waynesville, and only about a half hour from the ever-popular Asheville, Balsam Mountain is close to services and entertainment. But when you are on the mountain, you feel as if you are a world apart. And when you are on the Arnold Palmer Design golf course, you will feel as if you are on top of the world, given that the architects in the Palmer firm were granted the best piece of land in the community to fashion a dramatic layout with some of the best views east of the Mississippi River. Homes in Balsam are mostly valued above the $1 million mark, but one “mountain rustic” home at the end of a long, private drive and originally owned by a founder of Balsam Mountain Preserve is currently listed at $825,000. The home features north and west mountain views, three bedrooms and baths, and all the other features of a property you would think is in the $1 million class.
Mountain Air, Burnsville, NC
You can feel high and mighty atop this off the beaten path golf community, especially if you arrive by private plane. We don't know of another mountaintop airstrip that bisects a golf course, but at Mountain Air, you brake for airplanes between holes on the dramatic Scott Poole layout. Even at 4,000 feet, you may not gasp for air off the deck of a one bedroom, one bath arts and crafts villa with 830 square feet of open plan space, but you might just exhale a bit at the price -– just $74,900 from an owner with a sense of urgency (looking to close by the end of the year).