It’s foolish to think that someone would shell out thousands of dollars on a vehicle or new television without spending a considerable amount of time researching these particular items.
Yet, when it comes to living in a golf community, there are times when homebuyers make this grand purchase without thoroughly scouting every detail. The lure of home upgrades or sparkling amenities could easily turn into hidden costs or unfulfilled promises. Or perhaps the draw of living within the confines of a top-rated course actually shines the spotlight away from financial troubles or suspect leadership at the club.
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Like that new vehicle or latest flatscreen, living in a golf community is a major purchase that requires information. As noted astronaut and avid golfer Neil Armstrong wisely stated, “Research is creating new knowledge.”
A South Florida-based company was founded precisely because of the importance of insight and diligence when making such a purchase. Golf Membership Consultants
facilitates the process of determining suitable golf and country club membership options in Florida for golfers, spouses and significant others planning for retirement or relocating for other reasons. Its properties division finds primary and secondary residences in gated golf and non-golf communities. Plans are for the company to extend its services to additional warm-weather markets.
Created two years ago by PGA professionals and real estate experts with vast experience and market relationships, GMC guides discerning golfers, club members and home buyers to choose wisely during these very personal and important undertakings. Clients receive in-depth analysis and insights befitting their unique lifestyle and financial desires.
“Roughly 100,000 Americans moved to Florida each of the past three years,” says Jason Becker, president of GMC and a member of the PGA. “Many of these people are in their prime earning years and don’t have the time or knowledge that we do. We holistically save our clients time, money and unhappiness from hasty decisions made on limited or bad information.”
We asked three industry experts — Barry Denton, director of real estate sales at the upscale Cordillera Ranch
in Boerne, Texas; Gary Holcomb, realtor at Fore Peaks Realty and president of the Rio Verde Community Association
in Arizona; and Mark Bruce, PGA professional and licensed realtor at The Concession Real Estate Company
in Bradenton, Florida — to offer some tips on finding the right golf community for you.
: The golf may be great, but the vibe throughout the club also must be just as alluring. Much of that falls on both the staff and members.
“People partake in varied activities, so the club should have a good tenor throughout,” Denton says. “The staff has to be generally happy and engaging, while the members should be approachable and their guests enjoying themselves.”
: Everyone has an HOA; the key in a golf community is figuring out if that money is tied into the country club or golf course.
“Long-term property values tend to be stronger with the golf course or country club receiving some baseline funding via the community association,” Bruce says. “This usually provides some level of social or dining access for residents.”
: It always seems like the grass is a little greener and the birds chirp a little louder inside a golf community. While attractive, interested homebuyers have to make sure that this is not hiding a more alarming problem concerning the developer or other issues.
“It is important to understand the background and history of the developer,” Denton notes. “Learn about the success the developer has had at other communities; the fiscal responsibility (debt, or lack thereof) and the financial health of the club; the financial health and reserves or the Home/Property Owner’s Association. Are the amenities complete or still a vision? Is the developer from afar or living onsite and experiencing the community/club on a daily basis? It’s crucial to know all this before buying.”
: This is perhaps the top draw when it comes to golf communities. Having a well-known and respected course designer can be advantageous, but most people want a layout that is well-conditioned and playable. A course designed by the greatest architect will garner some attraction, but if the layout is so difficult that it’s not enjoyable for most golfers, that can be detrimental.
“Most people searching for the right golf community may initially be attracted to the reputation of the community and the notoriety of the golf course architect,” Denton says. “These are great first impressions or might set initial expectations. However, we find that our clients tend to be much more focused on, and ask far greater questions related to, the aforementioned than the golf experience itself. Once comfortable with that, the golf experience becomes the icing on the cake.”
Living on the course
: Those wishing to live on the links need to understand a few things about the house, specifically its location and possible exterior flaws.
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“Mowers generally roll out with the sunrise and begin on hole No. 1 and sometimes No. 10,” Holcomb says. “This means there will be early morning noise outside the home. Those who prefer to roll out of bed a little later than sunrise may want to look at homes on hole Nos. 6-9 or 15-18."
“Also, errant golf balls can be a problem anywhere on the golf course," he adds. "But one location that tends to get more out-of-bounds shots than any other is at the 150-yard marker, right side of the fairway. Most recreational golfers have a slice to the right. Thus, closely examine the exterior walls facing the oncoming ball flight. Is the wall riddled with ball marks? Are there heavy protective coverings on the windows? These may be indications that the house is frequently in the flight path of golf balls.”
Location and services
: Being close to loved ones and major metropolitan areas, or lost in a picturesque setting, plays a major role in determining the right community. What sometimes gets overlooked is how close the community is to medical, shopping, transportation, and the arts/activities. And what the club offers to those in the family who don’t golf.
“Other than standard golf course related services, the community should offer fitness, tennis, large pool, equestrian, restaurants, or other offerings,” Bruce says. “The club has to appeal to golfing and non-golfing residents.”
: That golf community near the heart of the city might be more convenient, especially for those commuting to work, but is it more cost-effective than another 20 miles further out in the suburbs where there are lower property taxes? According to Denton, property taxes greatly influence decision-making.
“Find a location with the lowest possible taxes in a region that also doesn’t have the ability to raise taxes significantly,” he says. “Typically in these areas the taxes are at or near the allowable limits, and/or taxing authorities are not in close enough proximity to adversely affect the location for the foreseeable future.”
: Golf course views usually mean more than watching someone’s Charles Barkley-like swing at the tee or seeing someone sling their putter into the lake after a four-putt. A lot of times, it means greenbacks.
“The open, green space provided by a golf course lot brings a premium when buying or selling a home,” Holcomb says. “Depending upon the golf course, the location of the lot with relation to the open space and the associated view, an appraiser will give a price bump for the golf course home. The range can be from $5,000 to in excess of $100,000.”
: Denton believes interested home buyers need to ask specific questions about the marketplace for the golf community.
“What does the resale activity look like? How much new construction is happening in the community? Are the percentages of resale properties a healthy proportion of what has been previously sold?,” Denton notes. “These are pertinent questions interested homebuyers need to arm themselves with.”
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: Many golf course communities present a gated and secure presence. The trick is, are those roads private roads or public? Often developers use Community Development District bonds to finance infrastructure of a project that can at times be tied into a public access platform through the local department of transportation.
“Privately funded roads and infrastructure allow a developer to retain a higher level of privacy for the community, but also puts the burden of long-term maintenance and upkeep on the community association,” Bruce notes. “Typically, a good community association will have reserves established for the future.”
: Often overlooked, but increasingly more important is water rights. In certain regions of the country, many communities have self-sufficient water systems that treat and provide water for both consumable (household consumption) and non-consumable (irrigation — non-potable) uses.
“Buyers need to know if the water rights are controlled by the developer, golf course or community association,” Bruce says.
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