Wednesday, May 22, 2024

5 questions for Kent Smith

As president and managing partner of Cliffs Land Partners, Kent Smith oversees all real estate held by The Cliffs companies, including existing properties for sale, creation of new products and directional decisions regarding all undeveloped holdings.

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A veteran in the luxury real estate and master-planned community industries, He previously was a consultant to clients including Wilmington’s Landfall, Pinehurst National, St. James Plantation and all seven Cliffs communities, which are located in the western Carolinas.

Prior to his current role, Kent was CEO of Global Development Resources, a publicly traded company focused primarily on real estate financing, development and asset management.

An avid outdoorsman who enjoys fly fishing and hiking, Kent is passionate about The Cliffs lifestyle offered at its  communities steeped in the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains.

1)      What do you like best about your job?

I most enjoy the creative part, getting to evaluate opportunities associated with our undeveloped properties. It’s an opportunity to see the land not only as it is, but how it can give way to families moving in and enjoying The Cliffs lifestyle. I also get to enjoy the land’s natural, undeveloped state and work to balance our development plans with preservation of key natural elements. I get to see what’s envisioned become a reality. As that vision is executed, families move in and begin to live the lifestyle they dreamed of. This has certainly been the case with the communities developed to date. When you stand on the land and envision the clubhouse and the social interaction between future neighbors and then, ultimately, get to see people playing tennis, exercising and enjoying the pool and other amenities with their families, it’s extremely rewarding.

I also enjoy getting to watch and assist others in our organization reach higher levels of success in their respective areas of responsibility.

2)      What inspires you?

I’m inspired by people who rise above their environment, surroundings or circumstances. Those of us in the real estate industry between 2008 and 2012 faced the most challenging time that I’ve seen in my 40-year career. Many people chose or were forced to identify other means of making a living in order to survive the devastation associated with the recession. Those of us that remained in the real-estate business endured compromises for ourselves and our families like we had never experienced. Remembering past experiences is much more natural than “envisioning” future events or possibilities. Human nature is often to dwell on things behind us rather than focusing on what can be ahead. I recently shared with some friends and associates that we have to be careful not to let where we’re going be determined by where we’ve been. Otherwise, will never get beyond where we are!

3)      Who should we be paying attention to?

Visionaries. A new version of planned communities is evolving as a result of technology. The amenities are becoming more multi-dimensional. While I think we will continue to have more traditional amenities such as golf, tennis and swimming, I believe we will begin to see technology change or create a new form of amenities. For example, a 3D gaming center for children and grandchildren with state-of-the-art 3D games played on a screen the size of a home movie theater. Also, state-of-the-art indoor training facilities for golf and tennis using simulators. I don’t think by any means these will replace the wonderful experience of being outdoors in nature, which is one of the most appealing features of The Cliffs Communities. Nor does it provide the physical and health benefits of the “real” experience. With technology, however, a person can now play great golf courses, from a layout standpoint, downstairs in their game room by way of “simulation technology.”

4)      What was your biggest challenge this week?

My biggest challenge is the overwhelming demand for built houses. We and others in our industry have seen significant increases in the percentage of transactions that are built homes versus construction of custom homes on developed lots. While buying a built home doesn’t provide the opportunity to have all the rooms and amenities exactly how the purchaser would like, I think many people who were forced to put their lives on hold during the economic downturn are now willing to purchase an existing home rather than further extend their timeline by waiting on building a new one. During the many years of my career in planned-community development, I’ve never seen speculative homes built by builders get absorbed at such a rapid rate.

5)      What is your favorite N.C. vacation spot?

The mountains of western North Carolina and South Carolina. Sincerely, the temperate climate makes it a great choice for year-round activities. My wife, Dotti, and I are outdoor recreational enthusiasts. The wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities from hiking on the Blue Ridge Parkway to fly-fishing in the Davidson River, combined with the entertainment and dining venues of Greenville and Asheville, keep us from feeling the need to travel any measurable distances for recreation and relaxation. We just slip to Lake Toxaway, Cashiers or Highlands for a long weekend of hiking,shopping and dining and avoid spending hours on the interstate or in the downtown traffic associated with large cities. We are very spontaneous, so this also allows us to enjoy “vacations” more often than would likely be the case otherwise. Our challenge is finding and creating the time as frequently as we would like to have it happen.

Ben Kinney
Ben Kinney
Ben Kinney is publisher of Business North Carolina magazine. You can reach him at

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