SECOND HOME BLISS
Rhonda and Mike Macy currently live in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, but they’ve vacationed in the Carolinas for years. “We’ve always been intrigued with the Carolinas because of the nearby mountains, ocean and the friendliness of the people,” Mrs. Macy explained. They own a condominium at Lake Shore on Lake Wylie, and plan to use it as a second home and investment while they decide if the Charlotte/Rock Hill area is where they want to retire.
“Our daughter and her family, including one year old grandson, Aidan, live in Lake Shore, about a mile away,” she continued. The Fort Mill schools were a motivating factor for the younger generation, but, in addition to being close to family, the Macys were attracted to the golfing and walking/biking trails and also look forward to honing their lake living skills.
They’ll have ample opportunity, since Lake Shore is on a peninsula overlooking Lake Wylie, a 12,000 square foot body of water that is home to wildlife as well as all kinds of water sports.
“My husband is telling his Ohio friends that he can play golf year-round in the Carolinas,” she laughed. “He’s planning to pick up a fishing pole as well.” Their son-in-law owns a small boat, and undoubtedly, they’ll make friends with other boat owners. “Even if we aren’t on the water, we really enjoy being beside the water.”
Steve and Doris Childress migrated to the Carolinas from the other direction. At first, the couple thought that the Palm Coast of Florida was their retirement destination. They’d already purchased two condominiums there when they first heard about Bear Lake Reserve, near Cashiers, N.C.
“My wife is from Shelbyville, Tennessee, and this is new to her, but I am from West Virginia, and so I knew a bit about mountain living,” explained Mr. Childress. They have six children and 13 grandchildren spread out from the Carolinas to Texas, and with family in Tennessee, Bear Lake Reserve had the location and views they were seeking.
“I heard about the property and asked for information immediately,” he said. “My wife liked it the first time she saw it, and I’ve been so impressed with the way they are working to protect the natural environment.”
Others prefer their retreats near the ocean. Paul and Karen Sue Stemkowski have a home in Flatwoods, Kentucky, and a condominium in Sanibel, Florida. They originally planned to use the Florida address as a winter home. “It was a good investment,” laughed Dr. Stemkowski, a retired radiologist. Although the value has increased, fees have increased as well, and they put that condominium on the market and purchased one at Summer’s Bend in Charleston, S.C.
“We’d visited Charleston several times over the years, and really enjoyed it,” he said. They call themselves history buffs and like the plantations and historical buildings throughout the area. Summer’s Bend is in North Charleston, “five minutes away from grocery stores, close to good medical facilities and shopping, and beside the Ashley River.”
He is appreciative of the care taken to maintain the huge live oaks and the rural feel of the community – and the ability to drop a fishing pole in the water any time. Next, the children and grandchildren are coming to visit. He and his wife are confident that they will approve.
For Scott and Peggy Whisnand, the community of Wildflower, near Franklin, N.C., called out to them. “We have a home in Naples, Florida, but we wanted to be in the mountains and experience the changing of the seasons that you don’t enjoy that far south,” he explained.
The couple already owns a home in downtown Franklin, but purchased the homesite in Wildflower initially for investment, with the potential for building one day. “This is going to be a fabulous community,” Mr. Whisnand said, noting that the couple has visited a number of open houses in the area, looking at new communities with an eye toward the future. “This one is something special.”
He particularly likes the fact that it is only five miles from the center of Franklin. “I think we’ll be here year round,” he said.
They are not alone. Many families start out with second homes, but eventually decide to spend most of their time at the “vacation getaway.”
Take Greg and Nancy Reilly, for example. These self-proclaimed “water people” have chosen to exercise their water wings at Larkspur Landing, an intimate lakefront community on Clark Hill Lake near Lincolnton, Georgia, which will be home to only 19 families.
“My dad was in the military and we lived all over the world, but when I met and married my husband, he was from Atlanta, and we’ve lived in Gwinnett County since 1986,” she explained. “We love the water, as well as hiking and anything out of doors.”
The Reillys have a seven-year plan for their property. “I’ll be 55 in seven years and Greg will be 60. We’ll be retiring there at a perfect time for the grandchildren to visit and enjoy the water.”
Mrs. Reilly compares Lincolnton to Mayberry, with its small-town appeal, but she also appreciates the nearby towns of Augusta and Athens, with their healthcare facilities and services. Her sister and family have bought as well, and will eventually be moving from Seattle.
Clark Hill Lake is called Lake Strom Thurmond on the South Carolina side and offers endless possibilities for fishing, boating and all types of waters sports. With 1,200 miles of shoreline, simply exploring the coves and rivers will take a lifetime.
“It is so beautiful here, with the hardwood trees and the wildlife,” she said. “Each time we visit, we move our timetable forward.”
Ask any of these second home owners and they’ll tell you that there is something delightful about being in familiar surroundings, and yet apart from the daily responsibilities at a primary home. Time away is simply that, and the benefits are physical, as well as emotional. No wonder that for so many, the second home experience is one they want to make permanent. It’s a good plan.
FRACTIONAL DEEDED OWNERSHIP
Although Americans might like to claim the idea of owning only a few weeks of a vacation home, the credit really belongs to the French, who developed vacation home ownership in the Alps in the late 1960s. Now, however, the concept has become the fastest-growing segment of U.S. travel and tourism, and North America has become the global leader.
But, all part-time ownership plans are not created equal, and Fractional Deeded Ownership is nothing like your father's one-week timeshare condo at the beach. One major difference is in the number of weeks purchased. "Buying a Timeshare or Vacation Ownership is really buying the right to a vacation," says Chris Tivey, President of Elementz, which has been contracted to oversee and produce marketing and collateral materials by The Cottages, at National Golf Club in Pinehurst. "Fractional Ownership, or a Private Residence Club, is an alternative to second home ownership," he says, "whereas timeshare is an alternative to paid vacations."
Quite often, the first step toward retirement resort living is vacationing at the same location for a number of years.
According to Mr. Tivey, the Private Residence Club, or Fractional Home Ownership concept is a stepping stone, allowing the owner to spend a minimum of four weeks in the same location, before deciding if the area is their ultimate retirement destination for year-round living.
Chuck and Pennie Hartbauer say their home at Brigantine Quarters in Hilton Head gives them all the benefits of full-time ownership but with no amount of work involved in maintenance. They've owned ten weeks for two years, and the Pittsburgh couple decided this idea was right for them.
"We chose this community because it's very close to the beach, and the facilities are excellent," says Mr. Hartbauer. "We originally thought about buying a condo, but stopped and asked ourselves why, when we couldn't use it all the time. Now, we have as many weeks as we need, and we switch around with the other owners." The Hartbauer family considers it their home away from home, and suggests that not having to do maintenance is a real plus.
It takes them 11 hours to get there. Mr. Hartbauer retired two years ago, and although they are not planning full-time Hilton Head living, they spend as much time as possible, enjoying the climate and the community. They bring family with them, and sometimes friends are invited, but when they can't use it, they rent it out through the rental company.
For Linda and Jim Adkins, their fractional home ownership plan at Ocean Palms in Port Royal, gave them ten weeks of ownership with two weeks at a time.
Ms. Adkins is a realtor by profession and she says, "I've sold them and now I own one and they're great. We've owned this one for a year, and so far I haven't found any negatives."
The Adkins family lives in Northern Virginia for most of the year, but makes that nine-hour drive as often as possible. They purchased a two-bedroom because their family can only join them for a week or two each year, so when that happens, they take advantage of a very good discount for owners to rent another villa.
They, too, say no maintenance in a lovely upscale property is one of their strong motivators. They like the fact that the property is redone every five years, and the décor is stylish and comfortable. Jim Adkins retired this past year, and they have talked three other couples into buying this way.
Kevin and Alesia Mahony take their three children, leave New Orleans, and head for Mountain Club as often as possible.
The Private Residence Club is located in Cashiers, North Carolina, and offers services that are the hallmark of an elegant resort. "It's like staying in a fine hotel, but with more privacy and more amenities," Kevin Mahony explains. "They reserve tee times, offer shuttle service, and give us the highest quality concierge service while we are here." With busy careers and children aged two, eight and twelve, the family can usually visit for no more than four weeks each year, but when they do, the resort has advantages that they appreciate.
"People still think I bought a timeshare," he laughs. "They don't understand that this is much more than that." One selling point for Kevin Mahony was the affiliation with DCP Properties, which allows them to trade time in and travel to different locations. They will be visiting Huatulco, Mexico in April, and perhaps a penthouse in London in the future.
"Before I bought, I did the research and talked with other owners," he says. "This is a concept that works." He paused for a moment and added, "Because we live in New Orleans, we are definitely food snobs, but I've got to say, the food in Cashiers is excellent." Because of the size of the homes, children and adults can take a break from one another, and having two decks and two dens have already proven their value.
These couples and others like them are joining growing numbers of people who want luxurious living, but only when they can use it.
They don't want the headaches of repairs, but do want to return to the same location as often as possible. They have decided where they like to spend leisure days, and that's why the investment is worth it for them. However, they can't really justify the full expense of a home they can only use for 4-13 weeks each year.
Of course, many people prefer to own their own second homes, filled with memorabilia and personal items. For them, being the only owner of a second home is the way to go. However, the decision to invest in real estate is influenced by time constraints, the cost of travel, property maintenance, and sometimes, unwillingness to place personal property in a rental pool. Some families want the personal services and amenities offered at an upscale resort community, plus the financial advantages of deeded ownership. For them, they get what they want through club residences, at much less cost.
A SHORT GLOSSARY OF OVERLAPPING TERMS
This term is often used to refer to Fractional Ownership which offers the owner membership in exclusive resort clubs during the time of residence at the resort. Some say that club ownership is similar to membership in a prestigious country club - while you are in residence there.
Multiple-week deeded ownership at the same resort - usually at least five weeks and sometimes as much as 26 weeks are owned. These resorts are typically high-end, well furnished, and located at popular resort destinations.
Both Residence Clubs and Fractional Ownership typically include lavish amenities and services during time spent at the resort.
An assigned period of time. Based on an interval calendar, wherein 52 weeks of the year are numbered sequentially: week 1 through week 52 or week 53 (when there are 53 Fridays in a year, for example). The owner purchases a set week or two which remains the same, year after year.
(also called Vacation Ownership or Interval Ownership) A term used to describe the right and joint ownership of a resort property (e.g., a condominium) shared with others. Each "owner" owns a certain period of time and occupies a unit of accommodation on a regular basis for a number of years. Timeshare is sometimes referred to as "Vacation Exchange," "Holiday Ownership," "Multi Ownership" or "Group Ownership."
Timeshare interval: Period of use typically one week.