Mistakes to Avoid when Buying Golf Real Estate

Around the country, golf real estate is back. Communities everywhere are building and selling to buyers ready, after carefully watching market conditions, to take the big step. However, according to the LINKS Real Estate Panel of selling, marketing, and management experts, many buyers let their eagerness to buy override some much needed caution. So we posed them a simple question:

What is the biggest mistake you see people making when buying a golf property?

To ensure the most honest and helpful answers, we guaranteed our panelists anonymity. Here’s how they responded:

Buyers often don’t invest enough time test-driving the neighborhood. The typical buyer is a corporate guy who has moved around a bunch and so he thinks he knows how to buy a home in a new region. But he, or he and his wife, fall in love with these great places, and before they fall out of love, they’ve bought. Don’t get me wrong, they do plenty of the basic homework, particularly online research, but I’m surprised that more prospective buyers don’t rent for three to six months before purchasing. This is not the paradigm that marketing and sales want you to follow, but it’s tough to get the neighborhood feel of a place by visiting for just a couple of weekends.

The biggest mistake is not thoroughly reading the CCRs [covenants, conditions, and restrictions] and Architectural Guidelines of a community before buying. And those people who do read the CCRs, you would think they’d have more questions. Then many want to push the envelope in some way when they build or else they missed or ignored clauses that get enforced.

One? Here are three!
1. Not knowing the “all-in” costs of living in a private club: food minimums, assessments, homeowner association (HOA) fees, and so on;
2. Not speaking with the Membership Department prior to joining (that is, relying on the realtor’s interpretation of the membership options);
3. The exit policy.

Every club has a different feel and culture, but prospective buyers don’t take the time to be sure they are comfortable with them before buying and joining.

Not researching the practices required to maintain the golf course. Like what times of the day the crew will be mowing, applying fertilizer, doing aerification, etc. Related to that, they need to ask about long-term course-renovation projects, both when and how much they will cost.

Waiting too long. At some point it becomes clear you’ve found the community or club you wish to belong to and then there is… a wait. Maybe that worked a few years ago, but what buyers are finding now is a shrinking inventory with more limited options.

Relying too much on real estate professionals for the facts and information about a club. Talking to management and other members is the best way to vet out the details and determine if a community will fit you for the long term.

Not asking if they host many outside golf tournaments or events. That could affect member play.

Not thinking about possible assessments.

This isn’t really a mistake, but people looking at a club or community should remember that you get out of it what you put into it.