It is a buyer’s market for consumers interested in buying property in a golf community, whether a hotel resort with residences or a residential-only development.
Gregory Nathan, the chief business officer for the National Golf Foundation, a golf market research provider, said that a building boom from 1986 to 2006 produced a flood of homes at top-quality golf courses, mostly in the United States but internationally, too.
“There is still plenty of supply to spare, and the competition among golf communities to woo buyers is fierce,” he said.
While interest in golf community homes waned after the 2008 recession, that is no longer the case, said Gregory Daco, the chief United States economist for Oxford Economics USA.
“The global economy is stronger, and people have more disposable income to spare, which means that they’re more apt to invest in secondary purchases like golf homes,” he said.
But before buyers decide to live in such a community, they should consider several factors. Here is advice on how to make an informed decision about buying a golf home:
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LOCATION
First and foremost, even before looking at prospective properties, consider the destinations.
“You should like the idea of living where you’re looking,” said Patrick Melton, a co-founder and managing partner of South Street Partners, a private equity real estate investment firm based in Charlotte, N.C., and Charleston, S.C. The firm owns Kiawah Island Club, a golf community near Charleston with residences and two golf courses.
If you’ve spent time in and enjoy Miami or Spain’s Costa del Sol region, both of which have an abundance of golf communities, for example, seek out homes in these areas. On the flip side, if you’re enamored of countryside golf communities but don’t particularly like being in remote settings, look for a site that’s in a suburb and close to a city.
Many consumers fall in love with a golf community and buy a home there, Mr. Melton said, only to realize afterward that they’re not thrilled with the area.
Also, consider whether being near quality medical care, an international airport, noteworthy restaurants and an arts and culture scene is a priority.
“Your home could tick all the boxes in terms of what you’re looking for, but it may be an hour’s drive to a major grocery store or hospital, which could be a hassle,” Mr. Melton said.
And don’t forget about the weather. Some destinations are too cold to play golf or spend time outdoors in winter or may have a rainy or hurricane season, while others are almost too hot in summer, said Liz Rowlinson, editor of A Place in the Sun magazine, a division of the British-based real-estate consulting brand of the same name.
“If you want to play golf year-round and want a home that’s appealing to be in year-round, you should look for a property located in a region with a stable climate, save for maybe a few months,” she said.
But location also means the exact position of your home, Ms. Rowlinson said.
“Living right next to a green or fairway sounds idyllic but early morning mowers can be noisy, sprinklers come on during the night, and fast-moving golf balls landing in your pool is tiresome,” she said.
The bottom line is that if you’re sensitive to noise, the crack of tee shot drives is far louder than the murmur of greenside putts.
Similarly, you may like views across fairways, but will you be happy with golfers staring into your home as they pass by? A strategically placed line of bushes can provide privacy.
If you’re an avid golfer, the number of other good courses nearby should figure in, too; playing at your own club week after week may get dull.
“Ideally, you’d want at least a few public courses less than an hour’s drive from you, so you have the option for some variety when you play,” Ms. Rowlinson said.
FIND AN EXPERIENCED BROKER
More often than not, buyers interested in golf communities usually don’t work with brokers who are well informed about the areas they’re looking in, said Blake Plumley, the chief executive of Capital Pursuits, a development consulting firm specializing in resort residential communities. When interviewing potential brokers, ask them how many properties they have sold in the communities. Ideally, it should be several.
Also, inquire about three positive aspects and three drawbacks of living in those communities. “Your broker should be able to easily answer this,” Mr. Plumley said.
The broker should personally know the golf club’s membership director, the general manager, the head golf pro and a few other key figures in the communities. “You want a broker who can directly introduce you to these people,” Mr. Plumley said.
LOOK FOR KEY AMENITIES
Successful golf communities offer much more than golf — so much that they most likely attract plenty of nongolfing residents, Ms. Rowlinson said.
Desirable amenities include a clubhouse with more than one social gathering space, tennis courts, an outdoor pool with a grill area, a high-quality restaurant, a casual dining option and a bar. A family-friendly club is also important. The best communities have a robust lineup of activities for children and families, such as summer camps, boating and hiking excursions, pool days, fun food-themed dinners such as taco night and more.
“The more amenities a community has, the broader its appeal is, making your home more sellable if you ever look to move,” Mr. Melton said.
UNDERSTAND FINANCIAL COMMITMENTS
Living in a golf development comes with additional costs that could include club dues, property taxes and monthly maintenance fees. These costs can vary greatly from one community to the next, and while the home you are considering might be affordable, the price of living in the community could be exorbitant.
Also, some communities assess their residents, while others don’t. That means that residents are billed for the cost of projects such as a new health club or repairing the clubhouse’s leaky roof. Financially sound communities have a healthy cash reserve to pay for such projects (the exact number varies, depending on a community’s size and the scale of its amenities), but according to Mr. Plumley, some communities have no or limited money in reserve. Your broker will be able to give you that information.
“Be careful what you sign up for, because you could unexpectedly be out a few thousand dollars at any given time,” he said.
ARE YOU WILLING TO PLAY BY THE RULES?
All golf communities have regulations that residents are expected to follow. Mr. Melton said that buyers should be sure to understand what these rules are and decide whether they’re comfortable abiding by them.
One of the more significant rules is whether all residents are required to be members of the golf club. Whether you’re a golfer or not, it may be a smarter move to live in a community where you’re not required to be a member; otherwise, when you look to resell, a potential buyer base will be more limited.
And if you are interested in becoming a member, know what you are signing up for. If you ever move and need to give up your membership, for example, you may be required to pay dues until someone can take it over, which could take a few years.
“I know of instances where members have had to pay dues for five years after they’ve moved away,” Mr. Melton said.
Also, most communities have design guidelines, and you want to make sure that the aesthetic matches yours. For example, you most likely won’t be allowed to build an art deco home in a community where all the properties are built in a contemporary style.
ASK IF THE GOLF COURSE IS PROTECTED
Is there a chance of your community’s golf course closing so that homes or other structures can be built?
Ask your real-estate agent to find out. In some cases, a golf course is protected by its owner through a conservation easement or deed restriction stating that the land can never be anything but a course. But some courses are not protected, which means that the owners have the right to close them.
“I wouldn’t buy in communities where the golf course isn’t protected because your property has the potential to lose 25 percent or more of its value,” Mr. Plumley said.
PLAN TO HANG OUT FOR A WHILE
It’s vital to spend a few days actually living at a community you are interested in, Mr. Plumley said.
“You want to make sure that you’re comfortable and like being surrounded by the people who will be your neighbors,” he said.
Most communities offer discounted stays for serious buyers, who should take up the offer and play the golf course, use the pool and dine in the restaurants.
While you’re there, be sure to interact with the staff as much as possible, Mr. Melton said.
“In good golf communities, many of the employees have been around for decades, and you should definitely like them, because they’re the ones who are going to be helping you,” he said.B:
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