Do You Want to Live in a Gated Community?

A while back, a friend invited me to participate with her in the annual garage sale event of a local gated golf community. In between greeting and selling to the garage sale shoppers, we had ample opportunity to talk and I had a nice chance to get an insider’s view of the happenings around the neighborhood.

You’ve all probably read The Millionaire Next Door by now. It’s authors claim that the millionaires aren’t really the ones who live in the exclusive, gated high end neighborhood community. They contend that folks who chose that lifestyle are spending their money, not increasing their net worth.

I can see it.

What are some of the expenses and ammenities in a gated community?

Over the course of the 2 day garage sale event, I watched as scads of nursery trucks made their way up and down the street, maintaining lawns and trees. Multiple neighbors cruised the streets on their golf carts going golfing, or visiting the sales down the street.

My friend and I chatted about the HOA dues (of about $1000 per year) covering (among other things) the cost of buying and maintaining the handsome black metal mailboxes (each exactly like the other). She shared favorite eating places, including the clubhouse restaurant – in which by the way, they are required to spend at least $250 a year. However, she was happy that it included not only food but also liquor – making it much easier to meet the $250.

I found that the amenities included not only a pro designed golf course, but also tennis courts, swimming pools, a fitness center, multiple dining options, a wine bar, a regular bar and of course a place to hold private events. There are beautiful lakes, gates at each entrance and even a covered bridge which, she says, many people use as a backdrop for wedding events. There is even a social club for the members.

The homes are appraised at a half million and up into the millions (expensive in our part of the country) with real estate taxes that correspond (think 13K or more per year compared to ours at around 2.5K).

A relative in Arizona moved to a high end residential community several years ago. When I visited, they were new to the experience, having just moved from a golf community without the extra amenities.

Each home was built in Southwest flavors, with desert type landscaping – most likely required by the local government as a conservation measure. The clubhouse was spacious and extravagant with 3 dining options, 3 swimming pools, a ladies exercise area and a men’s separate area and of course an 18 hole golf course. There was a spa, courtyards, fountains and beautiful mountain views.

I wondered, would I enjoy life in one of these communities?

I do like to swim and play tennis. It would be nice to have some walking trails and parks close at hand. We could afford it if we really wanted to do so.  To be truthful, I was a bit jealous of my friend and of my relative.

The folks living in these upper end communities no doubt have paid their dues to be able to afford the lifestyle, but I’m afraid it might not be for me.

I come from an independent and individualistic family. In a gated community, part of the deal is being willing to abide by the rules and expectations that govern the little society that lives there. Folks are paying big bucks so that they can not only maintain their home values and security but also assure themselves that the way of life they choose to live is supported and lived also by their neighbors.

I’m afraid I would want my mailbox to stand out and be different. I’m afraid I would like to mow my own lawn and clean my own home and not be looked down on by the neighbors for doing so. I might even want to put up a pink flamingo in my front yard!

I’m afraid that I would resent special assessments needed to clear snow, repair the private roads and pay for those security guarded gate entrances, lifeguards and tennis instructors.

I think I would resent having my visitor’s turned away at night or made to wait for clearance to come visit me.

I’m also afraid that I would not (as I suspect many of the gated community residents do not) consistently utilize all of the wonderful amenities of the community.

I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with living in a community of people that are a lot alike – racially, economically and socially.

I doubt I would enjoy spending my hard earned money on all of the extras. HOA Talk’s forum presented some information on the cost of private road maintenance, and Just for Buyers Reality presents the Pros and Cons of gated communities for your edification.

Finally, Boggleheads has a discussion of HOA fees and what they may or may not cover in an exclusive gated community.

Of course, if I were some famous person or part of a famous family – hounded by the public or the press, I might want to seek out some privacy and exclusivity in a gated neighborhood!

How about you? Have you lived in an exclusive neighborhood? What are the pros and cons from your viewpoint?  

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