A great place to live in Myrtle Beach area, but don’t ever try to leave

sjones@thesunnews.comMarch 1, 2013 

— Lakeside Crossing is the kind of community that’s tailor-made for residents who are at least 55 years old.

The streets are quiet and clean, the manufactured homes modest, well-kept and inviting, the yards neat and the lawns properly clipped.

There is a $5 million clubhouse and pool, a community newspaper, lots of planned events, a full-time activities director and a full-time property manager.

“It’s a great community,” says 74-year-old resident Diane McNamara.

But don’t ever try to leave.

McNamara, William and Dorothy Riley and perhaps two dozen other Lakeside residents are trying to sell their homes, but at least some have run into a wall that’s nearly impossible to get over or around.

The residents don’t own the land under their homes and escalating fees for its rent and community amenities – which transfer with ownership – have made existing homes unable to compete with new homes in the development.

The owned home/rented property arrangement is unusual in Horry County, but not unique. At least one other development, Country Lakes in Little River, is set up on the same model.

William Riley has just decided to offer a buyer a year’s worth of fees, but Diana Barth, the Rileys’ Realtor, isn’t hopeful..

“I can’t get past the fees,” she said of discussions with potential buyers.

To compound the difficulty, the Rileys and McNamara said, is that Lakeside is offering discounted fees to people who buy new homes. And that, said sellers and their Realtors, makes buyers even less likely to assume fees on existing homes that may be more than $200 more a month than the discounted fees.

McNamara said she had tried to have the community’s real estate agents market her home, but after months of inaction, she decided to list with an outside Realtor. She bought the home for $163,000 and it is listed for $145,000. But her fees are $320 a month and so far, no one’s been willing to take them on.

Ron London, sales director for Lakeside Crossing, said he’s aware of owners complaining that they can’t sell their homes because of the fees. But he said the real problem is not the fees.

“What the problem is,” he said, “is that a lot of residents who are trying to sell their homes have not accepted that their homes are worth a lot less than they were a few years ago.”

He acknowledged that the development has discounted the fees to stimulate sales of new homes, but said that won’t last forever. Additionally, he said the development contracted a new builder last year who will deliver new homes for $15,000 to $40,000 less than they were before.

He said that means that buyers can get a new home with a one-year warranty cheaper than they can buy existing homes at the prices their owners want.

“The kicker right now is I can’t compete with the new (homes),” Barth said.

She said another problem at Lakeside is that buyers of existing homes must be approved by the development, and the credit check that’s required puts off some potential purchasers.

She said the competition of another 55-plus community nearby also works against existing home sales at Lakeside Crossing. The nearby development is offering homes and land for $165,000 and fees of only $65 a month, she said.

No solution

“There is no solution,” Barth she said of Lakeside owners’ dilemma. “It’s a no-win game.”

She said she’s had plenty of people answering her ad for the Riley’s home, but said everybody backs off when they hear about the monthly fee they must assume as well.

“(McNamara’s) house is in mint condition,” said Darnell Gimenez, her Realtor. “If it had been anywhere else, it would have been gone in a hot second.”

Gimenez also said that the sales staff at Lakeside seems unfriendly to outside Realtors, but London tells a different story. He said Lakeside has tried to enlist the help of local Realtors by offering them a share of the broker’s fee just for referrals. If the Realtor sends three clients who buy within six months, the fee goes up.

Gimenez said the Lakeside homes that are for sale might have a better chance if outside For Sale signs were allowed. But they can only be displayed from within the house, and many are a small sign taped to the inside of narrow garage door windows that can be missed easily by passersby.

London said most Realtors don’t understand Lakeside’s market and that’s why they find it difficult to sell homes there. He said that the development’s average buyer shows up just looking as they’re planning for retirement and won’t buy for two to seven years.

“The only way those people will be able to sell is if they reduce the prices,” Barth said.

Indeed, the Rileys, her clients, said a neighbor of theirs finally reduced the price of her home to $45,000 before she found a buyer.

Barth acknowledged it’s tough for an existing home to compete for sales in any community where new homes are still being built.

Transplanting

The Rileys were living in a similar development in upstate New York before they moved to Myrtle Beach. They said that an agent at that development referred them to Lakeside Crossing, where he said his son was working.

Like many of the Grand Strand’s new residents, the Rileys were tired of the cold weather and decided to make the move.

But now, William Riley, 74, has emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and after two surgeries for heart problems and two back surgeries, he and Dorothy, 72, want return to New York state to be near family.

He said their home on rented land in the New York development sold in three weeks, and he’s frustrated because he believes the sales staff at Lakeside is working against him and others who want to sell existing homes.

He said he knew his house would be on rented land in Lakeside, but he didn’t get a copy of the fee agreement until after he’d signed papers to buy it.

It was his fault, William Riley said.

“I was dumb and stupid,” he said. “I didn’t ask.”

McNamara, also 74, moved to Lakeside Crossing because she didn’t want to be the oldest person on her block in Raleigh, N.C.

“When we first moved here,” she said, “(the homes) were selling like hotcakes. (Buyers) were standing in line.”

Now she would like to downsize and, maybe, return to Raleigh where one of her daughters lives.

Like the Rileys, she feels the development she’s supported is working against her. But also like them, she blames no one but herself for her predicament.

“I was stupid,” she said. “I didn’t take time to think it through.”

Renting possible

London said he’s suggested to frustrated sellers that they rent their homes. He said they would have no trouble renting for $1,200 or $1,300 a month. For a percentage of the rent, they can hire a property manager to look after the house when they’re living elsewhere.

He also said that while it’s tough for residents to sell existing homes, it’s not impossible. He said that two existing homes in Lakeside have sold in recent months even though they had monthly fees of $500 or more and were more expensive than the new homes.

Some people just don’t want the hassle of the process of getting a new home, London said.

London said the fees at Lakeside might not be such a bad deal when compared with the cost of purchasing land and paying for amenities in a traditional development.

The fee at Lakeside includes taxes on the land, lawn maintenance, trash pickup, membership to the clubhouse and pool and the full-time activities director and property manager.

“When you look at everything that’s included in the fee, it’s not such a high price,” he said.

Unless you want to sell and can’t.

And McNamara and the Rileys want to sell. They know they’re going to lose money, but that’s not as important to them as moving out.

McNamara said that even though her current asking price is $18,000 less than she paid for the house, it’s not her final offer.

“I’ll go down,” she said. “I’m not adverse to going down.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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