When buying golf homes, the wealthy often turn to Sotheby’s International Realty. The firm has nearly 7,000 property listings at any given time in more than 30 countries and territories.
“Golf homes have consistently been one of our top-selling categories,” said Philip A. White Jr., the company’s president and an avid golfer. (Sotheby’s International Realty had $112 billion in global sales in 2018, but it doesn’t have a breakdown for golf homes specifically.)
While demand for homes in golf communities has weakened somewhat in the past decade, he said, the market is bouncing back, and new destinations are gaining popularity.
Below are edited excerpts from a recent interview with Mr. White.
What’s the state of the market for golf homes today?
On the whole, the outlook looks good. There was a period for a few years, especially in the United States, where the supply of golf homes was greater than the demand because so many golf courses were built. But around the world, the governing bodies of golf have been working hard to make the game more affordable, and that has attracted a new set of players and increased the demand for golf homes. It also helps that many of these properties have become more affordable.
Another factor for the bounce back is how golf communities are changing. They used to be just about golf and for those who played. But now they have amenities that have nothing to do with golf, which enhances their overall lifestyle appeal and is also what buyers want today.
Describe the amenities.
Obviously, any desirable golf community needs to have a top-quality course, but there also need to be recreational activities that appeal to residents who want more than golf, or don’t play at all. These include a spa, multiple restaurants, a pool and a gym.
We’re also seeing amenities that go beyond the basics. Some communities have casinos, concierges similar to ones you would find at a five-star hotel, horseback riding, go-kart tracks, hiking trails and cycling paths.
Desert Mountain, a golf community in Scottsdale, Ariz., has hiking, horseback riding in its private wilderness area and even glamping, where you can sleep in luxury tents, and chefs cook custom-made meals.
Also, more and more communities have options for residents with children, including kid’s clubs and summer camps.
Do the amenities for children mean that golf communities are attracting a younger demographic?
Retirees have and continue to be the biggest golf home buyers, but there are definitely younger families with children moving in. They’re drawn to them because they offer entertainment for the whole family and are well maintained. The safety of these communities is also a big plus.
Are the golf properties your company sells used mostly as primary residences or vacation homes?
They’re a mix of both, and some destinations see both kinds of buyers. Dubai is an example. Summer temperatures there are over 100 degrees, and you have vacation-home buyers who are only there during the winter. At the same time, Dubai’s residents like the idea of living in a golf home because it offers a green landscape in a desert environment. In Florida, the golf homes we sell tend to be used as primary homes.
What are the most popular destinations for golf homes today, and why?
From our experience, I can say that Miami and Palm Beach have always been hot markets. Spain and Portugal continue to be attractive, especially to buyers from the United Kingdom who like that both countries have lots of sunshine.
All of these places are accessible with strong infrastructure, such as hospitals and shopping malls, and the quality of life is high.
The island of Mallorca also attracts a lot of international buyers because it has gorgeous beaches, and English is readily spoken.
What are the emerging destinations?
The gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and Oman, are among the biggest ones. These destinations are being developed as those countries are looking to shift their appeal to tourism and away from oil-only revenues.
Greece is another emerging location. Costa Navarino, in the Peloponnese, is a resort that’s generating a lot of buzz in the golf world because it has two 18-hole courses, a great golf academy and a gorgeous beach. It also has a hotel component, and residents can take advantage of all of its amenities. But what’s interesting is that it’s a sustainable community. It has an extensive recycling program and uses wastewater for irrigation.
There’s natural greenery everywhere, and the golf courses have a type of grass that requires less water than other courses. More golf resorts are becoming eco-conscious, which is something that buyers value more than in the past.
Which destinations offer the best value?
Properties in the Gulf countries offer excellent value. In Dubai, for example, there is no income tax if you live there, and the homes are extremely affordable, well-constructed and maintained and have the most opportunity for capital appreciation. It’s also a clean and safe city.
South Africa is another value destination. You can buy a huge property there with multiple bedrooms near a high-caliber golf course for less than a million dollars.
In the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands each provide a great value, compared with other islands. In the Dominican Republic, Casa de Campo is one of our best sellers.