Changing Community Development Trends
By Scott Kauffman (Part I of II in a series about the trends throughout America's resort-style communities)
Catering to the various demands, attitudes and tastes of today’s vacation home buyers has become so much more complex. Indeed, the days of simply designing a first-class vacation or second-home community in a sunny locale like Florida or marvelous mountain resort town in the Rockies are long gone.
Basically, the traditional singular-focused golf course community of old or lakefront development with a series of cottages and comfortable clubhouse amenity have evolved into a much broader “lifestyle community” that reflects the wants and desires of today’s families. To be sure, the fundamentals that drive vacation home buyers towards many purchases, year-round sunshine, majestic mountains and sparkling lake or oceanfront vistas, are as strong as ever.
There’s just a richer or more experiential element expected these days at most second-home or master-planned resort-style communities. What follows is the first part of a 2-part series that takes a nationwide look some of the ongoing trends within this changing marketplace.
Selling the ‘Lifestyle’
For decades, real estate developers described places like Reynolds Plantation as golf course communities. This traditional tagline couldn’t be further from the truth at Reynolds.
These days, Reynolds Plantation is as much about the “other things” in life – if not more – rather than just golf and multiple clubhouses. Indeed, when it comes to life at Reynolds Plantation there’s a plethora of activities and amenities that stretch far beyond the development’s spectacular six-pack of premium golf courses – featuring everything from fishing, boating, biking, hiking, shooting, dining, exercising, learning and more.
Basically, this growing community of some 3,300 property owners has virtually any activity that ends with “i-n-g” – other than golfing. In essence, Reynolds Plantation has evolved from the traditional singular-focused golf course community of old into a much broader “lifestyle community” that reflects the wants and desires of today’s families. And more and more master-planned developments throughout America are adopting the same strategy.
To be sure, one of Reynolds Plantation’s more popular pursuits is enjoying glorious Lake Oconee, a 19,000-acre oasis known for yielding an estimated 443 pounds of fish per acre – twice what is typically found in the region – and 374 miles of breathtaking shoreline. Perhaps the epicenter of where Reynolds Plantation life connects at its fullest is the Lake Club Wellness Center.
Situated along a stunning northeastern peninsula just minutes by boat from the community’s Ritz-Carlton Lodge, the Lake Club is anchored by the community’s spectacular 38,000-square-foot clubhouse. Inside this world-class facility, members can exercise in a newly expanded fitness center, swim indoors at a junior Olympic-sized pool, enjoy massages and aerobics classes in multiple rooms or having a healthy bite to eat at the club’s cafe. Outside, members can choose to stay active at the award-winning Lake Club Tennis Center run by Peter Burwash International or families can simply relax in the resort-style pool complex that features an adult-only Infinity Pool and tiki bar overlooking lovely Lake Oconee.
We Are Family
The days of dedicating real estate enclaves to merely mom and dad are over. Today’s generation of vacation home buyers are all about family as much as anything. And, in many cases, it’s across multiple generations at that.
Pronghorn Resort in Bend, Ore., a private resort-style development with two golf courses designed by Tom Fazio and Jack Nicklaus and a host of other world-class amenities, is one place focused on family.
“Buyers will purchase a home that caters to every family member and as such, Pronghorn is targeting the younger generations with fun programming and amenities on property,” said Pronghorn spokesperson Sara Swiger.
One thing Pronghorn did was introduce foot golf this summer, a new twist on the game of golf where players kick a soccer ball into an oversized cup in as few shots as possible. Also, as an alternative to golf carts, Pronghorn now offers golf bikes to get around the golf course.
Another popular Pronghorn family pursuit is The Trailhead, Pronghorn’s recreational headquarters that houses Pronghorn Adventures, an activity concierge center that allows families and members to enjoy the best Oregon has to offer year-round from hardcore adventures to easy-going wildlife explorations.
Activities include programs like “Raft and Draft,” where members will enjoy a rafting trip followed by a barbeque with beer from the best local breweries (for the adults to enjoy), overnight trips to Crater Lake and midnight canoe picnics, as well as fly‐fishing, rock climbing, mountain biking, wine tasting tours, wildflower hikes and more. All Pronghorn Adventures include five-‐star service and amenities such as professional guides, a personal chef and luxury comforts.
This family-oriented marketing approach appears to be helping as Pronghorn continues to notch annual gains in homesite sales for the vacation home buyer. Additionally, Pronghorn reports the average price-per-acre has climbed to $465,000 per acre this year from $142,465 in 2014 and $51,758 in 2013.
Jim Matoska of Red Earth Corporation, a sales and marketing company specializing in golf community and planned-community sales, marketing and management, sees the same family mindset at his many community clients include from Schaffer's Mill Golf and Lake Club in Lake Tahoe and Bear Lake Reserve in the Cashiers region of North Carolina.
“It used to be all about the golf and amenities and whoever could build the biggest clubhouse,” Matoska says. “That’s sort of taken a backset with a focus on family-friendly amenities or programming things for every family member to do and enjoy.”
High-End Design for the Masses
When Martin Horner of Chicago-based Soucie Horner, Ltd. Architectural Interiors Design got involved at Brunswick Forest in Wilmington, N.C., his brother, Dan Horner of Tribute Homes, wanted to bring high-end detailing to the mass audience. As brother Martin put it, design should no longer be reserved for the elite one-off client building the ultimate custom home. As it turns out, this aspiration for authenticity and innovative design and construction techniques is in high demand by the mass population.
“Every home can benefit from thoughtful architecture and design, regardless of its price point,” Martin Horner adds. “It doesn’t have to cost more money to ensure sight lines are pleasant, or that traffic patterns make intuitive sense, or that attention is paid to the details on side elevations, and not just the front. But it does require that architects and designers think about these sorts of things. That takes a lot of upfront planning, and a keen understanding of scale and proportion – which not everyone possesses. But a house that has been thoughtfully designed is going to feel as good as it looks, in ways you may not even really recognize. You’ll just know how comfortable you feel in it, and how it seems to work so well. That’s always important, whether you’re buying a luxury custom home or a mass-produced home.”