No Monkey Business Here
We’ve all heard the tale of three wise monkeys; Mizaru who covers his eyes and sees no evil; Kikazaru who covers his ears and hears no evil and Iwazaru covers his mouth and speaks no evil. Last week, we spent 7 days visiting 19 real estate developments in Charleston, Beaufort and Bluffton South Carolina. Our purpose is to provide the most up to date information we can find, to help buyers who are searching for where to retire in the Southeast. At Real Estate Scorecard, there is no monkey business here. We discuss the oddities we see and issues buyers may not notice, all in an effort to help buyers discover value in the best master planned communities.
The first oxymoron we discovered in coastal South Carolina was at a gated community touted as a ‘wildlife habitat’. This South Carolina coastal community clearly brags about its national designation in media and at the community itself. As we drove through the gated community, we enjoyed watching Mr & Mrs Smith bicycling down the street as we passed an early morning foursome playing on the golf course. When we started to explore the neighborhoods deeper, we noticed an oddity - thin wire electric fences with orange warning signs around the perimeter of some single family homes. We hadn't seen a T-Rex so assumed the homeowners put these electric fences up to block out the deer from tearing up their flower beds. But why on earth would a POA allow these eye sores and the blatant contradiction to their branding? It made us think about how living in a wildlife sanctuary might not be so special after all.
Another South Carolina coastal community made us question the message they are sending to buyers. When we walked into their sales center, a big site map attracted my attention because of the hundreds of little red pins poked into the lots. We questioned the receptionist asking her if the red pins represented all the homes built at this community. Her answer “the pins represent lots being sold at some time or another”. What? We're confused. Does this date back to the 1776 when America was discovered? It would have been far more helpful to buyers to have different colors representing homes for sale, built homes and homes under construction. Instead, what kind of message was this South Carolina coastal community trying to portray to buyers? It made no sense! Our conclusion, be sure to ask lots of questions and don’t assume anything.
Here’s another example. In the sales center of another gated community, there is an attractive sign identifying all the master planned communities this real estate developer has been involved with bragging about how brilliant they are. When we looked at the list, the communities read like a List of Who’s Who. We questioned further and asked if the real estate developer of this particular gated community had an equity interest or partnership in this List of Who’s Who. The answer was “no”. The developer had been involved in some capacity, whether it was through marketing, sales, planning or things like that. At that point, our thoughts went to my resume and realized we could have added hundreds of real estate developments that we have been a part of since birth. This sign in the sales center walks a gray line of creditability with us.
To top it all off, one of our buyer’s recently called us after they had received the purchase contract and disclosure documents for a lot they purchased in coastal North Carolina. They were quite annoyed. Why? In the disclosure documents, they were asked to acknowledge a major roadway on the drawing board by Department of Transportation that may run right through part of this North Carolina coastal community at sometime in the future. The couple was annoyed that this was the first time they heard about and we felt the same way. After research and talking about the likelihood of the situation, the roadway became less of an issue. What remains is the lack of trust for not sharing information like this before a buyer submits a good faith deposit. Wouldn’t you agree, as a sales person is driving a buyer around in their car, bragging about all the bells and whistles during a property tour, the sales person should also disclose everything they know. Claiming ignorance for a significant oversight like this is unacceptable. We don’t blame our client for being upset and we believe it is a poor way to start a relationship. This real estate developer will need to work hard to regain this buyer’s confidence.
If we sound negative, it is not our intention. Real estate developers must raise the bar, to help buyers and avoid hoodwinking them. We chose not disclose the names of these developments because this is a lesson about what buyers should look for, not a real estate developer bashing. By sharing all of this with you, we will continue to do our best to educate you and make you aware of inconsistencies we see.
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