In August of last year, news broke about a proposed redevelopment of the Echo Farms golf course. Residents of the surrounding neighborhoods claim the very idea of the project has already decreased the value of their homes, but the numbers paint a more complex picture.
Matrix Development Group submitted their site plans for The Woodlands development to the city of Wilmington last fall. Ever since then, Echo Farms residents have been filing into city council meetings to protest the changes and call for the preservation of the golf course.
Matrix’s plan calls for 171 single family homes, 125 townhomes and 240 apartments. Save Echo Farms spokesperson John Hirchak says this would eliminate green space, add traffic to already busy roads, and overcrowd local schools. Hirchak says that while Matrix will make millions of dollars with this development, they’re doing it on the backs of the current homeowners:
"People have made a concerted effort to make the back of their home the selling feature. So, normally, people will frontload their property, right? They’ll do the bulk of their landscaping and their design work for the front; that’s what they’re trying to highlight. In Echo Farms, it’s different. Because the neighborhood and communities were built around the golf course, all of the extensions, the decking, the landscaping, the beautification was done on the back of the property. So when you take away the golf course, you take away the value of the property."
Some residents have claimed home values are already falling. But according to statistics from Cape Fear Realtors, home values have remained static from 2015 to 2016. That isn’t to say that there aren’t noticeable changes elsewhere. While total units sold increased by 19% in the local real estate market, it dropped by 6% in the Echo Farms subdivision. That’s a difference of 25%.
And further, for homes in the average price point, the days on the market increased from 88 to 121. That’s over 30 extra days, a 37% increase. To put that in perspective, days on the market dropped by about 14% overall for the Cape Fear region.
Patrick LaJeunesse is the director of marketing and communications for Cape Fear Realtors:
"My speculation is, I haven’t seen much of the price drop on the properties in there from year to year, it’s just the days on the market. They’re lingering, you know, a little bit longer on the market, where the trends are down. I think that’s the major thing that I’ve seen because the prices seem to be in line with what we’ve seen in the previous years."
But LaJeunesse also says that individual properties on the golf course are likely getting impacted more than the ones off the golf course.
Sherri Ingle represents the developer for Muirfield Townes, a community of townhomes at Echo Farms. She says that when rumors first started circulating about the redevelopment, it did impact sales. But once Matrix submitted a plan that they could show to prospective buyers, she says sales returned to normal:
"It makes it a little bit easier to understand when you’ve got something you can look at versus just visualizing because I think folks would visualize the worst instead of what they’re actually proposing. The good news, from what we’ve heard, is that Matrix plans to work with the owners surrounding the property so that it’s going to be attractive. You know, they want to work with the community."
The Echo Farms Residents Association is currently suing Echo Farms LLC, claiming the redevelopment of the golf and country club would violate the warranty deed’s restrictive covenants.