Much like active adult retirement communities, gated communities are populated by people who collectively embrace a certain lifestyle and who seek many of the same benefits these developments have to offer.
However, there are some significant differences between the two. For example, many gated communities are not age restrictive. You don’t have to be 55+ to buy or rent a property in them. Also, most gated communities do not offer the wide breadth of planned recreational activities that are an integral part of active adult communities. Nevertheless, most gated communities offer recreation centers, gyms and swimming pools. Some may even offer a few structured recreational and educational activities such as guest speakers, cooking classes and the like. Read More...
While the majority of residents at active adult retirement communities move into gated communities to take advantage of the wide variety of recreational activities, people who move to gated communities do it for other reasons, first among them is the safety and security that they provide.
The first gated community in the U.S. was established in the 1880’s just outside New York City, at Tuxedo Park. It was built by wealthy individuals who wanted a secure place to live, vacation and socialize, all within an easy commute to the city.
Tuxedo Park’s fame came not because it was the first gated community but because it was the first place the tuxedo appeared. The tuxedo became a required attire at the Park Autumn Ball and the many dinner parties that were frequent occurrences at this exclusive compound.
At first, the homes at Tuxedo Park were relatively modest cottages, at least by the standards of their Gilded Aged occupants. To keep the riff-raff out, the compound was surrounded by a high game fence. Over the years the “Who’s Who” of American industry and commerce, including J.P. Morgan, the Colgate family, and Willard Waldorf Astor, to name just a few, claimed Tuxedo Park as their home.
Today, most gated communities are not the exclusive preserve of the rich and famous. They have become so popular that as far back as 1997, the Brookings Institute estimated there were over 20,000 gated communities, containing 3 million homes in the U.S. No doubt that number is far larger today.
Nor is the popularity of gated communities confined to the U.S. Across the world, particularly in in Third World countries where the gap between rich and poor is wide, and where crime rates are high, these guarded communities are very popular. For example, in South Africa, where crime rates are off the charts, the vast majority of new, middle-class housing developments are in gated communities.
Just outside Cape Town, South Africa, in the famed Stellenbosch wine country, some of the most innovative and architecturally beautiful, gated communities can be found, including Nooitgedacht Village. It is designed to look like an authentic, old European town with cobbled stone walkways and old-world homes, all within a motion detected electrified fence patrolled 24/7 by guards.
While gated communities can be found in all over the globe, Arizona has a large number of them which includes some of the best and most highly rated in all the U.S.
As in South Africa, the number one reason people in America choose to live in a gated community is because homes located inside a gated community provide residents with enhanced security. Virtually all gated communities are surrounded by a wall or fence, often manned by security personnel.
These communities are also selling peace of mind, particularly for seniors who often fear that they are a vulnerable population when it comes to crime. People who have second homes find gated communities a perfect place to live. These Snowbirds don’t have to worry that their vacation home will be burglarized while they are away in Chicago.
While safety and security remains the most important attribute of gated communities, they also have other appealing qualities.
Many gated communities embrace certain lifestyle characteristics that are appealing to specific demographic groups, many of whom seek like-minded lifestyles.
For example, some gated communities have adopted “themes”, while others promote their “walkability”, embracing the “5-minute rule” that puts schools, shops, and recreational activities with a 5-minute walk or bike ride. Others gated communities highlight their eco-friendly facilities, while others feature farmer’s markets and extensive bike paths and hiking trails.
Many gated communities, while not age restrictive, are “age targeted”. Unlike adult age restricted communities, age targeted developments accept all ages but are generally catered to the retiree lifestyle. In addition, these communities tend to be less strict and are therefore more inviting of grandkids who may stay a little longer than a typical visit. Many retirees prefer age targeted communities because they want their grandkids to be able to stay longer, or they enjoy the upbeat livelihood younger neighbors bring to the community.
While there are many benefits to living in a gated community, there are some things you should consider before you make this lifestyle change.
For example, all gated communities have rules. Some communities even have quite a bit of rules. While most of these rules are not overly bothersome, for some people it takes a while to get used to them.
Another thing to consider are Homeowner Association, or HOA, fees. These are monthly charges for maintaining common spaces, swimming pools, rec rooms and tennis courts. These HOA fees can sometimes be quite high, and you must pay them even if you don’t use the amenities.
In addition, research shows that, on average, a home in a gated community costs about $30,000 more than a similar home outside the gates. However, most people think the added security and extra amenities are well worth the added cost.
Finally, some folks find that gated communities can be an inconvenience to both residents and visitors. Sometimes the security gate gets busy and backed up. Other times the security personnel have a hard time contacting residents when visitors arrive, leaving your friends stuck outside.
Most people find the downsides to living in a gated community well worth the upside of living in a secure place.
Gated communities exist in all sizes and prices-points in the Phoenix/Scottsdale Arizona area. On the high end, there’s Silverleaf, which is located in the McDonald Mountain Canyons, outside of Phoenix. This gated community routinely sees homes selling for millions of dollars. Recently, one home sold for $21 million and another for a whopping $26 million. Besides getting a large, beautiful home, Silverleaf has amazing amenities including a golf course, spa, fitness center and membership to an exclusive private club.
There are affordable gated communities like Fountain of the Sun where manufactured homes cost under $150,000 and where nice, two bedroom homes cost less than $175,000.
Another gated community is Whisper Rock. This beautiful development consists of 800 acres and 200 private estates. There are miles of biking and hiking trails as well tennis courts, and even a private park.
Finally, all gated communities are alike in that they provide enhanced security. But they differ in the levels of recreational amenities they provide and the various lifestyles they appeal to.
Another thing they all have in common is that you won’t be required to wear a Tuxedo to dinner every night.
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Last updated - February 15, 2023
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