The real estate market continues to stay red hot! We continue to get more and more questions about investment properties and just those looking to move their primary residence. So, I’m pleased to introduce our readers to our Guest Blogger, Larry Gavrich. Larry is an expert particularly in Golf Communities. He has written extensively on the subject so we should all benefit from his expertise. You can also re-visit my original article on Golf Real Estate for additional information.
After visiting and writing about hundreds of golf communities over the last 10 years and helping dozens of couples, mostly retirees or those about to retire, identify the golf community best suited to them, it has become clear to me that some questions about golf communities are worth addressing and some best left alone.
Let’s start with those questions that are pretty much a waste of time:
Will the residents in the golf community like us, and will we like them? When I am asked this question, my response is straightforward: “Are you likable?” If so, you will make friends, and probably quickly after you join the community’s golf club. Keep in mind that in the typical golf community, everyone is from somewhere else. Current residents recall their own anxieties about moving to a new place, and they will do all they can to make you comfortable. (From a selfish standpoint, they are also happy you moved there to help stabilize the real estate in the community and pad the membership rolls of the club.) Also, given human nature, folks who spent a few hundred thousand dollars on a home are not apt to admit readily to a stranger that they made a mistake.
Will we be bored if the community is at some distance from an urban area? Many golf communities, especially those with bargain real estate, can be as much as an hour or more from an urban area that offers entertainment, restaurant and other services. If you have ongoing medical service needs, the advice here is to look at communities closer to a city with a major hospital. For others, the boredom question is easily answered with a multi-day visit to a community you are targeting. Most offer “discovery packages,” low-priced stays that include lodging, maybe a few meals, a round or two of golf and access to the community’s other amenities. You will learn over the course of a few days if activities “on campus” are enough to sustain you and if the distance to the nearest city is tolerable. (Note: I am happy to assist those interested in arranging a discovery package.)
Many customers ask me about the financial stability of a community. Most communities will open their books to serious prospects; and if they don’t, my advice is to move on to another community that has nothing to hide. If a community you are targeting is owned by its residents, ask specifically about the financial “reserves” available for both the homeowner’s association and the golf club. These are the monies available in case of unexpected expenses, such as hurricane damage, a lost lawsuit (if insurance doesn’t cover it all), etc. In most communities, reserves are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. If the community is still owned by a developer, read the covenants to determine when the developer turns the community over to its residents and who will own the golf club at that time. (Note: In most states, developers are required to turn the community over to residents when property sales reach a certain point, typically around 75%.)
Of course, golfers will want to know the extent of the golf costs, both the initiation fee and ongoing monthly dues. Most initiation fees these days are of the “non-equity” variety, which means you will not get any of it back when you resign your club membership. I counsel my customers to focus more on the monthly dues than on the initiation fee. Imagine you have set a budget of $400,000 for your golf home and $10,000 for initiation fees for the club. Let’s say you fall in love with a community but the initiation fees are $25,000, and yet you identify a home you really like priced at $375,000. Since your happiness will very much be tied to your social life in and around the club, consider the higher initiation fee as part of the cost of your home, rather than two separate items. In total, you will still come in under budget.
I have visited and researched golf communities in which there are no initiation fees and no dues; golf membership is part of the homeowner association membership dues. In general, semi-private golf clubs — those with memberships but that permit outsiders to pay green fees to play — have modest initiation fees (a couple thousand dollars) and monthly dues (between $200 and $400). Fully private clubs tend to charge the highest initiation fees, and dues can approach and pass $1,000 per month, especially if multiple-courses are part of the club. But, then again, I have visited fine private golf community clubs with initiation fees under $5,000 and dues under $500.
There is a lot to consider when searching for a golf community home. If you would like assistance in sorting out country club and golf community options, please contact me at editor@homeonthecourse to arrange a no-obligation phone discussion.
Larry Gavrich is the founder and editor of Home On The Course, LLC, whose mission is to assist those looking to relocate to a home in the Southeast US near excellent golf. In the last 10 years, he has visited and reviewed nearly 200 golf communities. A licensed real estate agent, he has helped dozens of couples find golf communities that match their requirements and interests. His blog site, GolfCommunityReviews.com, features more than 1,500 articles and reviews written by Mr. Gavrich.