Resort residential communities back with new look

Today’s favorable pricing, interest rates and declining supply are making resort communities attractive to affluent buyers of second or vacation homes. Owners of resort communities are responding to this new market and growing interest by reinventing the resort residential community.

This major comeback following the Great Recession has been accompanied by a transformation of resort amenities programs aimed at delivering unique, fun experiences for the entire family. Gone are the days of merely promoting challenging golf courses for male golfers and spas for their wives.

Developers today are seeking to attract a broader demographic – ranging from younger families to older baby boomers. The attraction is to offer generational family getaways that feature engaging activities, amenities for children and club memberships with broader family privileges. Toward that end, clubs and resorts are offering things like food and wine programs with visiting chefs and vintner-sponsored events. Amenities packages are emphasizing fitness facilities with the latest in cardiovascular equipment, audio-visual equipment and attractive views, as well as health and wellness programs, including classes, walking trails and other health-oriented activities.  Access to concierges, activities directors and preferred vendor programs are also being heavily promoted. 

This does not mean that developers no longer consider golf an important draw. They’re just addressing that market differently because they’re cautious about building new golf courses and lenders are reluctant to finance them. The growing trend these days is to arrange for golf access at neighboring courses.  In deciding whether to build a new course, resort developers are more likely to review the course’s viability with a focus on ensuring that there are enough users to sustain the course instead of taking a “we’ll build it and they’ll golf ” approach. When a new resort course is built, it is more likely designed to create a fun family experience for all golfers rather than a difficult course for the avid golfer. 

Other key trends in the comeback of resort residential communities include:

  • Developers are building completed product instead of selling vacant lots, which allows the purchasers to avoid the hassles of designing and building homes. 
  • Developers are building smaller, more functional homes and paying more attention to the impacts of taxes, assessments, club dues, and community fees on the total cost in order to ensure the homes are affordable.
  • Smaller boutique hotels are becoming more common as part of the resort community.
  • In order to attract residential unit owners to participate in the resort rental program, resort operators are offering special benefits like club memberships and preferred pricing. This gives developers additional residential units to supplement the traditional hotel rooms and suites. 

These developments confirm that resort residential communities are coming back, not only thanks to the improved economy, but also because of the creativity of developers and operators. It’s all about designing more innovative residential product, rental programs and amenities packages that attract purchasers in today’s evolving market. Affluent purchasers have new interest in resort residential communities, and resort developers are rising to the challenge with residential product and services that appeal to a market that has changed significantly.


Contributed by Dennis Hillier and Glenn Gerena, real estate shareholders in the Boca Raton, Florida, office of the law firm Greenberg Traurig.