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Bundled Golf: What are the Benefits and Potential Tradeoffs?

Posted by Robert Casella on Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 at 2:59pm.

So, what is a bundled golf course community? And by extension, what are the benefits and tradeoffs when living in a community that offers a bundled golf course membership? Let's see if we can shed some light on this subject.

A bundled golf course community has homes and condos where the membership is bundled with the property. So, when you buy a property in one of these communities, the golf membership comes with it. When you sell a property in one of these communities, the golf membership goes with it. For many prospective golf course community purchasers, this concept is attractive. For most private golf course communities, the membership must be sold separate and apart from the home. In such cases, the sale of the property may precede the sale of the membership for a significant period of time.  

Some popular examples of bundled golf course communities in the greater Lakewood Ranch/Sarasota/Bradenton area include River Strand and Esplanade Golf & Country Club. These communities have thrived because they strive to provide an attractive blend of luxury and affordability. In both cases, these communities offer a variety of amenities in addition to just golf--they have (or will have, in the case of Esplanade) full service amenity centers, with fitness, community pools, and tennis. In fact, Esplanade at Lakewood Ranch germinated from the seeds of success born at River Strand. While River Strand offers a more "everything's included" approach to selling properties, the Esplanade offers a more semi-customizable experience, but at a higher price point. While both cater to different price points for prospective purchasers, the underlying principle for the community remains the same--the golf and country club comes with the property, and goes with the property when it is sold.

So, what are some of the benefits of living in a bundled golf course community? Well, let's take a home for sale in River Strand and consider the value proposition. In the Enclave at River Strand, homes are nicely appointed and generally range in size from 1600 to 2100 square feet. The total fee structure comes to about $391.00 a month for 2015. For that amount, you receive the golf and country club membership (no greens fees, just a cart fee) and access to all amenities, including the 39,000 square foot clubhouse, pools, tennis, and fitness. You also receive residential irrigation for the lawn, maintenance of the yard and landscape, and cable (100 channels). On the face, that is a pretty tremendous value proposition. Yes, you still have taxes, CDD, and utilities--but, for the most part, with the exception of some non-CDD communities, these are expenses you will bear under any circumstances. Another key benefit: because everyone pays for a golf membership, the fees over time can be more reasonable. Now, that does not mean that you are completely insulated from assessments in the future, but it can provide for a more financially liquid environment relative to both public and private golf course communities.

What are some of the tradeoffs of living in a bundled golf course community? Perhaps the biggest tradeoff is experienced by golfers who desire certain tee times on a consistent basis. In this sense, if a golfer wants to golf at 9:00 AM every day during the height of season, a bundled golf course community is probably not for you. From a practical standpoint, there are usually more members in a bundled golf course community than a private equity club. Of course, the counter-point is that a private equity club usually comes with heftier upfront and ongoing costs. Obviously, balance is important--and the best golf course communities, whether private, public, or bundled--strive for a healthy equilibrium.

One important but highly understated benefit of living in a bundled golf course community are the bonds that are inevitably created and shared over time among the homeowners. While I have sold in a multitude of golf course communities over time, I have found that homeowners in these communities appear to embrace the most important component of an enjoyable lifestyle--having lots of fun. I mean, that's the point, right?

Robert Casella, CLHMS - Licensed Realtor
Certified Luxury Home Specialist

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