When you eat in a fine Parisian restaurant, you typically have a choice between the prix fixe meal, in which the courses are served for a set (fixed) price, or the more expensive á la carte menu. When shopping for a home to suit your golfing lifestyle, the choices are a little like that meal in Paris.
There is one big difference, however. In shopping for a golf community home, prix fixe is generally more expensive than á la carte. Many golf community developers will sell you a patch of dirt and make you choose their preferred builder for your house. They also insist that you join the on-site golf club right away, sometimes even before you build your house. You pay for the club amenities up front and as long as you live on site (through monthly dues) even if you are only interested in golf. Not every golfer works out or plays tennis or even swims regularly.
Where developers require golf membership with the purchase of a lot, a buyer may not plan to build a home on the property for, say, six years, but nevertheless must pay club dues for those 72 months before actually using the golf course and other club facilities. Although in the current economy, most golf community developers are giving away golf club membership with the sale of the property, ongoing dues payments are still a burden.
Some adventurous couples seeking to stretch their dollars farther are opting for a more “hybrid” golfing lifestyle in which they buy “naked” property unadorned with fitness centers, clubhouses, or even a golf course. These properties are often five times less expensive than similar tracts in communities where the developer needs to recoup his investment in the amenities. I have just written at my web site, GolfCommunityReviews.com, about a western Virginia community called Cove Creek near Bluefield, WV, where five-acre tracts with mountain views begin at just $39,900. A piece of property that large and with views in a community like The Cliffs in upstate South Carolina could be priced into the seven figures.
Golf costs are much cheaper outside golf communities than inside. Some exceptional private clubs, stressed by the economy, have lowered their initiation fees dramatically, and some have waived the initiation fees altogether to encourage a continual flow of dues payments. Near the aforementioned western Virginia community, the 47-year old Fincastle Country Club is offering full family golf memberships for $1,250. Compare that with the aforementioned Cliffs Communities, which is running a special membership drive at the moment for $100,000 (down from $150,000, but it does include six golf courses).
Golf communities appeal to a wide range of prospects. All those amenities in one place, the chance to make friends quickly and easily through the club, the ability to have golf course views from your back deck –- golf communities will always attract a strong segment of the market for vacation and retirement homes.
But for those who are invigorated by choosing their property, house and golf club from a big menu of choices, going á la carte can provide a fine golfing lifestyle without the upfront costs and payment for amenities they might never use.