Should You Buy in a Golf Community or Outside It?
The pros and cons are many. Give careful consideration before making a purchase.
By Shivani Vora – The New York Times
By Shivani Vora – The New York Times
When it comes to finding a golf home, prospective buyers have two ways to go: purchasing in a community with a golf club or outside it and near a golf club, which could be in a community that offers membership to nonresidents.
“For decades, golf home buyers bought most communities, but since the 2008 recession, the trend has gone the other way,” said Jason Becker, the chief executive of Golf Life Navigators, a matchmaking site that helps people find golf memberships and homes based on their criteria.
So should you buy inside the gates or out? Here are some factors to consider before closing the sale.
In a community: Buying a home within a golf community generally requires joining its homeowner’s association (H.O.A.) which, according to Mr. Becker, costs roughly $1,000-plus per quarter in many communities.
The association usually manage your home’s lawn care and pest prevention, and maintain common areas such as the clubhouse and pool. Storm preparedness is also within the purview of an H.O.A., Mr. Becker said.
The downsides may include the high price and not having a choice of who services your community’s maintenance programs (that is mandated by the H.O.A.), but the benefit is the convenience. “You don’t have to think about when you need to have your lawn mowed or care factors because the H.O.A. manages it,” Mr. Becker said.
Outside a community: When you live in a home outside a golf community, the financial advantage is that you don’t have a fixed maintenance cost and can compare prices when choosing your care providers. This could be less expensive in the long run, and you’re not forced to fund amenities you don’t use. On the other hand, you are responsible for scheduling and paying for lawn maintenance, pool cleaning and other upkeep.
In a community: In some communities, a home purchase includes membership to the golf club; these communities are considered “bundled” ones and an ideal option for avid but budget-conscious golfers.
More often than not, however, said Michael Timmerman, the chief market intelligence officer for Club Benchmarking, a financial analysis company for member-owned clubs (including ones in communities), home buyers have to pay an additional fee to join the golf club and use facilities such as the gym and pool. “You’re looking at an initiation fee plus annual dues that add up to thousands of dollars a year and don’t have a choice in picking your club,” he said.
Outside a community: Golf enthusiasts may end up saving money by living outside of a community, according to Mr. Timmerman, because they can choose from different clubs in the area and join the most appealing and affordable one. They also usually have the option to transfer their membership — a benefit that’s sometimes not available to buyers in communities.
Inside a community: Chris Charnas, the founder of Links Capital Advisors, a real-estate broker specializing in sales of golf courses and communities, said that many H.O.A.s don’t allow residents to rent out their homes for additional income. “They don’t want strangers living within the community, so if you’re not living in your home year-round, it’s sitting there empty, and you’re still paying expenses,” he said.
If a community allows rentals, keep in mind that the homeowner and the renter often have to follow strict protocols. For example, the owner may have to fill out a lengthy application to transfer their membership to the renter. Also, renters may only be able to play golf under “guest” policies, which, for example, could state that they’re allowed on the course only during certain hours or have to pay a fee for each round.
Outside a community: In a noncommunity golf home, you have the freedom to rent out your property, whether it’s for a longer period of several months or for a few days occasionally through a third-party rental site like Airbnb. “If renting your home is part of your master plan, I would suggest finding a home outside the gates of a community,” Mr. Becker said.
In a community: Some noise is a given whether you live in or outside of a community, but living within the gates means that there is less likelihood of late-night partying. However, golf course maintenance vehicles during early morning hours, some of which can be loud, are common. If you’re considering a home on or hear a golf hole, make sure to ask those maintenance schedule questions so you don’t catch any surprise alarm clocks.
Outside a community: A big advantage to living outside the community when considering noise is not having to worry about course maintenance schedules. On the other hand, you are most likely to be near interstates or busy roads.
In a community: The safety factor of living in a gated environment is one of the biggest drivers for buying a home within a community. “Safety has become even more paramount for golf home buyers since Covid,” Mr. Timmerman said. Most gated clubs have a front gate security booth where all visitors check in and get a pass before they are allowed to enter. Gated communities also have security guards who regularly patrol the streets.
Outside a community: If you’re not living in a community, you’re relying on the overall safety of your neighborhood and local law enforcement for security. Many areas also have neighborhood patrol programs in which residents volunteer to drive through the streets to watch for any suspicious activity.
In a community: Golf Life Navigators, who help golfers find homes and courses, conducted a recent survey of 25,000 people and found that the top reason for home buyers to live in a community is the opportunities it offers to socialize. Mr. Becker said that communities host regular events for residents including barbecues and game and movie nights. “Your social life is created for you, and outside of events, there are more organic opportunities to connect,” he said. On the other hand, a possible drawback is that you don’t fit in with the club’s overall culture.
Outside a community: While home buyers outside of communities can mingle with others through their golf clubs, they tend to miss out on the sense of belonging and close-knit feel that community residents get. “You have to work harder to connect with others as a nonresident,” Mr. Becker said.
In a community: Mr. Charnas said that amenities are a top perk of community life. Examples vary by community but could include a pool, green spaces, tennis courts, multiple restaurants, a spa, a gym, hiking and biking trails and a kids’ center — all within walking distance of your home. “Communities offer a lot more diversions these days than just golf and attract plenty of nongolfers,” he said.
Outside a community: Amenities are more limited for a noncommunity home. “The neighborhood your house is in may have a playground or park at best,” Mr. Charnas said. On the other hand, if you’re a resident member at a community club, you may be able to access its amenities. A word of caution: before joining a community’s club, be sure to understand your financial commitment as a nonresident member; you could still be on the hook for any capital contributions.
In a community: Generally, to keep the look of properties consistent, golf communities have homes that are built in one or a handful of architectural styles, leaving buyers with limited options for the exterior look of their home. If your home’s architecture is more important to you than the golf club, Mr. Becker suggested finding a property to suit your tastes first and then consider the club.
Outside a community: When you don’t live in a community, you have the freedom to choose your home’s architecture. But you are also at the mercy of your neighbors and their design preferences; a neighborhood with too many varying styles has the potential to lower the market value of your home.
In a community: In the event you want to leave the club, the process isn’t always hassle-free and can be costly. You’re likely to lose your initiation fee as a nonequity member but may have to keep paying annual dues until you’ve been replaced by a new member if you have an equity position.
When selling your home, most communities have a residential real estate broker or expert who can help sell your property, but keep in mind that the financial state of a club has a big impact on property values, according to Mr. Timmerman and Mr. Becker.
Outside a community: A benefit of living outside of a golf community is avoiding any potential threats of depreciation of a golf community home. While you take a financial risk wherever you buy, the risk may be greater buying a home in a club community that could have money struggles in the future. However, whether you live in a club community or not, resigning your membership can be just as pricey.
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