Michael Sechrist feels stuck.
The 63-year-old planned to retire and build a home on his marshside lot in Belfair, a community he chose for its Tom Fazio golf courses and stunning entryway lined with oaks.
But the Indianapolis investment advisor had to put off retiring because of the recession. Simultaneously, his $140,000 lot sunk in value while he paid annual golf club fees of more than $13,000.
In January, he put the lot on the market for $1. So far no one is interested.
"I'll give it away as a gift," he said. "I just want to be done."
Behind the gates of Beaufort County's premier golf communities, a handful of property owners like Sechrist who bought lots as investments are practically giving away their property.
At least 26 lots in golf developments -- some of the Lowcountry's finest pieces of land -- are on sale for $1. About 43 more are listed for less than $10,000, according to real estate databases.
But there's a catch: The lots come with expensive transfer fees and mandatory memberships that pay for golf courses, tennis courts and fitness centers. In 2014, those fees tacked on an extra $13,362 at Belfair, $15,870 at Berkeley and $16,275 at Colleton, in addition to initiation fees that cost as much as $19,000.
Real estate agents and community officials call the dirt-cheap lots a passing trend -- fallout from the downturn, when the real estate market and the golf industry tanked simultaneously. Eventually, demand will meet supply and prices will go up, they argue.
In addition, they say the $1 lots signal that there's never been a better time to buy discounted land in a golf community.
"If you're on the selling side, it's not a good time," said Gateway Realty agent Johnny Ussery, who sells greater Bluffton golf properties. "But if you're looking to buy, you just hit the lottery."
For now, the $1 lots trend shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, more are selling today than during the recession.
The listings pop up in the same exclusive communities. Nearly 90 percent of $1 lot sales since 2010 were in Berkeley Hall, Belfair and Colleton River Plantation in greater Bluffton, according to real estate databases.
Officials in those developments say it's mostly affected people who bought lots as investments pre-recession.
But property owners link the dismal lot values to mandatory club memberships.
Some sellers say property values won't recover until the membership requirement is changed. They say they are sick of subsidizing a golf course they don't use.
"The club is addicted to the stream of revenue that funds its projects," said Sechrist. "They won't let you out of it.”