by Broderick Perkins
You may not find your dream home in a gated community because developers often don't fully expose such homes to the demographic group that has revealed a growing penchant for the properties.
Seventy-nine percent of the home sales in upscale golf course communities, for example, are sold by developers' in-house sales staff without using outside real estate agents, according to a recent survey.
That means the properties don't show up on vast multiple listing services used by the expansive resale home industry or niche websites that have sprung up to bridge the gap.
The in-house sales approach always has been a common marketing practice among new-home developers, gated communities or otherwise, but the exposure the properties don't get could be costing them sales, according to PrivateCommunities.com, a Vero Beach, FL-based website that showcases master-planned communities for retirement and second-home buyers. The website does not collect commissions for its listings.
In the resale housing market, real estate agents also argue limited exposure can leave money on the table and not bring in the best price for a property. Given the marketing strategy developers use for new homes, getting full price may not be a problem, at least until a new home becomes a resale home.
The National Association of Realtors' (NAR) network of 1 million real estate sales people with the nation's largest MLS network Realtor.com/Homestore.com funnels millions of listings from thousands of local real estate associations.
However, a PrivateCommunities.com survey found that on the average 5.9 people staff a typical golf community sales department, but 26 percent of the staff are not members of the NAR. Of those that are NAR members, only 33 percent listed all new and resale property in the community on an MLS, but most 45 percent listed only resale property on an MLS. "There is a significant amount of property listed and sold in golf communities that is not showing up on the general real estate radar screen," said Elisabeth Miller-Fox, president of PrivateCommunities.com.
Locating homes inside gated golf course communities can be difficult for consumers and particularly frustrating for the growing number of tech-savvy buyers who browse for housing. Most resale home buyers and many new-home buyers use the Internet in the home-buying process. In California, a recent survey said nearly a quarter of all resale home sales were originated on the Net, according to the California Association of Realtors.
"Golf course homes for sale behind the gates are largely invisible to the general public," said Miller-Fox. "We're finally creaking open the gates," Miller-Fox said.
Of particular note is demand from the baby boomer market including buyers looking for second and retirement homes.
NAR says 2003 was likely a record year for second-home sales when an estimated 445,000 homes were sold, compared to only 359,000 in 2001, and 264,000 in 1991. Most second-home purchases -- about 63 percent -- are homes purchased to be occupied by their owners typically as a vacation home, as well as a retirement home according to NAR, but a growing number are also purchasing them as investments.
Miller-Fox said she's aware developers invest millions in infrastructure, staffing and marketing and understands that they use their own strategies to maximize profits by handling sales through their in-house sales departments.
But the addition of Internet listings would not only help buyers find properties, they also provide a sales boost.
"As far as selling the house, the more exposure you get will make a difference. The advantage is you'll have a greater reach," said Marie Roberts, a PrivateCommunities.com co-founder and a former broker for the in-house sales departments at Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo and Windsor in Vero Beach.