by Larry Gavrich
Editor’s note: Larry is a frequent contributor to discussions here at Top Retirements, and we have learned much from him. We are happy to have him today as a guest to discuss what he has learned from helping individuals and couples find the best golf community for them (even if they don’t play golf!).
After 15 years of research, visits to 150 planned communities, more than 1,000 articles and hundreds of conversations with real estate professionals, golf directors, community board members and, most of all, the hundreds of clients I have worked with to identify the best community for them, I have come to a few important conclusions. I cover them, and more, in my new book, Glorious Back Nine, How to Find Your Dream Golf Home (which I could have titled, just as well, “Not for Golfers Only” since about half of those who live in golf communities never play golf).
Here are a few of the most critical lessons I’ve learned:
The first step in a golf community search is the most important
I call it the “kitchen table” discussion that every couple must have if they are considering a move. (This step is much easier if you are a single.) You don’t need to decide specifically between, say, Wilmington, NC, or Charlotte or Asheville. But you must agree on topography; that is, whether you plan to live in the mountains, near the ocean or somewhere in between (perhaps by a lake). After that, consider your health and lifestyle interests to decide whether you should live near a big city or in a pollution- and traffic-free remote area, or somewhere in between. Your search will be long and arduous if you can’t make these critical decisions up front.
But what if a couple can’t decide on location?
I specialize in golf communities and, typically, at least one spouse in a couple that contacts me for assistance plays golf. In some cases, neither spouse plays golf (more about this below). If one loves the ocean and one loves the mountains, my solution to this dilemma is simple: The one who doesn’t play golf, or is less serious about it, gets to choose the location. The golfer in the family will find great golf courses everywhere. But there are no beaches in the mountains (or vice versa) for the non-golfer. Happy Spouse, Happy House.
Why non-golfers choose a golf community
Ignore mainstream media articles about how there is something inherently natural about golf community courses being plowed over to make way for new houses. In virtually all such cases, mismanagement caused these golf courses’ downfalls, and those are relatively few and far between. The vast majority of golf community clubs are well-managed, many of them by self-interested residents, and are stabilizing influences on home values inside the gates. For non-golfers, the 150 communities I have visited in the last 15 years offer a wide range of amenities, including pools, fitness centers, walking trails and an active social calendar centered around the clubhouse. Others offer less-common amenities such as marinas and equestrian centers. Plus, who doesn’t like to live amidst the manicured and nicely landscaped green spaces in a golf community (except, perhaps, when the lawn mowers show up before 8 a.m.)?
Trust Rankings and Hype at Your Peril
Beware of magazines and online websites that pose as objective but tend to tout only those communities that pay them a marketing fee (not even the fine print discloses this in many cases). Therefore, when you read a popular retirement magazine that headlines “Top 50 Communities,” understand that virtually all of the 50 advertise in that magazine. And when you stumble upon one of the many web sites that tout Best State or Best City to Retire to, be mindful that they all use different criteria, which is why one respected media outlet recently listed five cities in its top 10 that are located in states where snowfall is substantial and temperatures below freezing many days during the winter months. Best places to retire? No thanks. Also, when you visit the web site of a golf or other planned community, avoid the tab marked “About.” As I write in my book: “[Ignore] the come-ons “World Class Golf,” “Welcome to Paradise” and “Natural Beauty…[and] the ‘customer testimonials’ in which a couple tells you how happy they were with their decision [to buy in that community].” At a community’s web site, you want just the facts – a list of amenities, services in the local area, country club and golf course details, price range on house and lots, etc.
State income tax is less important than cost of living…way less
One of the great mistakes made by couples looking for a planned community home in the Southeast is to focus on state taxes, specifically the income tax. Tennessee, Alabama and Florida do not assess a state income tax; but would you believe that the state of Georgia, which does have an income tax, ranks 17 places better than does Florida in terms of cost of living, according to WorldPopulationReview.com? (North Carolina and South Carolina are also more advantageous than is Florida in terms of cost of living.) If a state charges no income tax, it may be skimping on important expenditures. (For example, Florida ranks 40th in spending per pupil, and Tennessee and Alabama rank 41st and 37th, respectively, according to Governing.com.) In Glorious Back Nine, I post a chart showing cost of living indexes in 23 states both North and South.
Thanks Larry, this should be very helpful to the Topretirements membership. We hope you will keep coming back as one of our great regular contributors!
About the Author
Larry Gavrich is the author of the new book, Glorious Back Nine: How to Find Your Golf Community Home, a step-by-step guide to finding a golf home. The 160-page book is currently available in paperback for $9.99 at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com and will be released soon in an eBook edition. The book includes a list of 125 golf communities, most of which Larry has visited and reviewed at his blog site, GolfCommunityReviews.com. Larry also assists couples searching for a golf community home in the Southeast. He does not charge a fee for his services. He can be reached at email@example.com. (Note: If you contact Larry and indicate you have purchased his book, he will be pleased to sign and send you a label you can affix inside.)
Comments? Do you live in a community with golf, or are you thinking about one? How about if you don’t play golf, would a community like that still appeal? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.