clubhouse

Spend any time in suburban Florida and you’ll see a lot of gated communities. It can seem as if the entire state lies secluded behind guard gates staffed by cheerful folks with clipboards and magic powers to allow or deny entry.

The true luxury in these communities is two-fold: privacy and amenities. Lush green space abounds and it seems that lawns and trees are always in a constant state of being trimmed and tended to. Amenities can be as simple as a community clubhouse and pool or range to a full-service country club. Even at the country club level, there are country clubs, and then there are the kind of clubs where service is delivered at an elevated level.

This brings us to The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla., a spot that has drawn everyone from Celine Dion to Michael Jordan. The area seems to have a particular lure for golfers. Jack Nicklaus designed The Bear’s Club in 1999, creating a majestic and challenging 18-hole golf course and a community over 401 acres. The community is less than two miles from the ocean and within easy striking distance of the tony shops of West Palm Beach.

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Stretford Layout: "B" units are the center bump while mirrored "A" unite are on the ends

Stretford Layout: “B” units are the center bump while mirrored “A” units are on the ends

Last week, Dave Perry-Miller high-rise expert Sharon Quist and I bombed over to Tyler to view the Stretford high-rise.  Yes, a 14-story residential high-rise … in Tyler!  Who’d a thunk?

Tyler’s been on the map for retirees for quite a while. It was named the first certified retirement city in Texas by the East Texas Council of Governments. It was ranked 16th in the US for cost of living in the 1999 edition of the “Places Rated Almanac” by David Savageau.  It’s also equidistant to Dallas and Shreveport depending on your need to give money to Neimans or the roulette wheel. (more…)

Oakhurst 1

Golf history was made in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia October 16 as Jim Justice, owner of the world-famous Greenbrier, brought together, for the first time, four Hall of Fame golf icons: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino.

The four will collaborate on a first-of-its-kind championship golf course, Oakhurst. The Greenbrier is, of course, one of the foremost destination golf resorts and vacation home residential communities in the country. It is also home to the annual PGA Tour FedExCup event, The Greenbrier Classic.

The four golfing legends joined Jim Justice in breaking mid October on the new mountain course. With its dramatic elevation changes and spectacular vistas overlooking the historic
Oakhurst Links course, the moment was the first-ever course collaboration between these four golf legends. Their combined experience will be the centerpiece of Oakhurst, the newest real estate neighborhood planned for The Greenbrier Sporting Club Subdivision.

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rancho mirage real estate

Photo: Leaskou Partners

In the winter months, the resort city of Rancho Mirage, California, becomes a popular destination in large part because it boasts one of the warmest winters in the United States. The combination of bright sunshine and snow-capped mountains in the distance create a perfect backdrop for golf, and snowbird recreation. It began to flower in the 1940s and 1950s when Hollywood stars and monied Angelenos sought a warm retreat for the winter months.  Golf, martinis, and afternoons by the pool were the order of the day (and not out of fashion yet). There are nine country clubs in the area including Thunderbird and Tamarisk, the country club designed in 1952, that today’s home is located in.

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Well, almost. Bluegreen Communities, a developer of premier, master-planned residential home communities, has launched a new program that pays real estate agents big buckeroos for referrals. Through the Realtor® Referral program, participating real estate agents who refer buyers to a Bluegreen Communities property earn a full six percent of the resulting sale.

Most of the time, the six percent commission is split between the buyer’s and seller’s agent. In this case, of course, Bluegreen is the “seller” so they are playing nice and giving it all to the agent.

Bluegreen, by the way, is the brains and brawn behind one of my favorite developments out in Gunter, Texas: the Bridges at Preston Crossing,  a 1580 acre former private horse farm (Cattle Barons was held here twice) that sports an 18 hole golf course, a clubhouse, pool, 24 acre fishing lake, greenbelts and forests.  What I particularly like about The Bridges is that there is also a GORGEOUS equestrian center, so kids can really live a healthy, clean, country life here while Dallas is less than an hour south.

To qualify, agents join the (free) program and receive email alerts on special pricing, new land releases, and other Bluegreen events. Unlike some development companies, Bluegreen allows agents to sell properties directly to retail customers without an on-site  agent. Land-buying customers tend to like this approach because they can select their own home builder and home styles.

Bluegreen is also hosting a sales sweepstakes for a 4-night resort vacation on the Realtor Referral Facebook page through May 31, 2011. To enter, all you have to do is go to Bluegreen’s Facebook page, “like” Realtor Referral, and enroll in the program.

Bluegreen Communities®, is a division of Bluegreen Corporation, which is on the New York Stock Exchange. For more than 40 years, Bluegreen has developed top-rated master-planned communities, including eight in Texas located near San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth.  Shooting for that balance of country living just out of the city, Bluegreen has sold over 55,000 homesites in 32 states and is an award-winning green developer.

Now, I’m waiting to see who the first agent will be to serve In N Out Burgers at an open house!

You do recall former NBA champ Michael Jordan.  Not only is he known as “the greatest basketball player of all times” but he is gaining a rap as the greatest home builder of all times! Jordan is completing a 28,000 square foot mansion in The Bears’ Club, Palm Beach County, Florida, near where Tiger Woods just completed his grand estate. The builder: Lavelle Builders out of Jupiter, Fla. Of course, Tiger’s estate is surrounded by water on three sides to,  perhaps, keep the paparazzi (among other things) at bay. Jordan’s mega-mansion, which is still under construction, is not even close to the water. But it now goes down as one of the largest, most expensive homes ever built in Florida that is not on the water, says real estate agent Jeff Lichtenstein of Christie’s Great Estates and Illustrated Properties. Lichtenstein knows of what he talks: he sells real estate in the Palm Beach area, which is notoriously filled with high net worth people who like to enjoy a second or third home here because here they have it all: a backyard marina for their yachts, sea, beach, and plenty of gorgeous Florida sunshine.

Oh yes, and I almost forgot: golf.

Though waning with the general population, the wealthy still love to tinker on the greens. Jeff’s father, Cary Lichenstein, was a golf rater for GolfWeek Magazine and has been playing since he could walk. In fact, he lives so close to Jordan — in Admiral’s Cove – the elder Lichenstein could lend a hammer or nail to the twenty million dollar project.

The Jordan home will have 11 bedrooms, sits on a three-parcel site right in the backyard of the uber exclusive (and hard to get into) Bear’s Club. Let me put it to you this way: it costs $350,000 just to call yourself a member of the club. The area is loaded with courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, but he personally plays at Bears Club — so basically this area is golf nirvana and the membership list is a regular Who’s Who…  stars, Fortune 400 execs, and the Nicklaus family.There are 55 residences ranging from $4 million on up to, well, probably Jordan’s home. When complete, Jordan’s mansion will be a contemporary with Spanish-style roof — this I have to see. It will have four separate structures: A main house, a guardhouse, a guesthouse and a poolhouse for the mammoth swimming pool. In other words, the largest spread in the ‘hood.

Neighbors once included chanteuse Celine Dion, who ran into a few problems with her HOA over her desire to add a commercial recording studio or music room to her property — deeds are so tough in this ‘hood that even if a home burns down, you have to re-build it to look just like the original home. I mean, can you imagine the disaster if a Mediterranean went up right next to — another Mediterranean?

Jordan paid $4.8 million for the land and is spending an estimated $7.6 million for the construction. The Lichtenstein boys estimate that the total booty will top $20 million, and they worry a bit about re-sale value:

“It would be interesting to see what the Jordan home resells for, being that its location, while great for MJ’s privacy, is not ideal for resale to the usual trophy-and-yacht buyer,”says Jeff.

Only his banker knows for sure!

1. Second home trends: Affluent Baby Boomers will retire later and downsize from their large McMansions for which utilities and taxes have become prohibitive, to smaller homes, maybe condos,  in the city and a second home — in the cheaper boonies, or in another city. Just last night a reader emailed me that his biggest dream is to own a second home condo in Quebec! Cripes, even Disney is getting into this market.

2. According to a study by E360 Global Research, 45% of current second home owners think now is a great time to buy a second home. Of those, Mexico has a strong pull for almost half — and this survey was done in August, 2010. The drug cartel crime in Mexico is isolated to certain areas, they believe.

3. Of the 54% who say now is not a good time to buy a second home, most say the next two years will be. E360 (who provided much of this information) expects big growth in the second home markets surrounding highly populated areas.

4. Most people want a second home as a vacation haven to de-stress. Most prefer a lake or ocean view, with a mountain view coming in second. North Carolina, for example, is one of the fastest-growing second home destinations.

5. What kinds of amenities are second home buyers looking for? Good question. To some extent, they want great medical facilities (resuscitate me!) and a spa. Golf and eco-green based living also does not turn them on. I’ve read that many want to re-live their college years, with classes and intellectual stimulation (and pot?) nearby. Boulder, Colorado is home to a lot of intelligent people and gaining a large second home population, for example.

6. Pricing sweet spot: $200,000 to $400,000 and pay cash, if possible. I mean, those 401Ks are doing so well, right?

7. Vacation and lifestyle are the reason 46% want to buy; another 41% want to buy for investment. Only 11% give a rat’s tooshie about retirement.

8. 49% of second home buyers want a single family home, and 60% just want a 2 bedroom, 2 bath floor plan.

9. 49% of second home purchasers will buy domestically, but a growing contingent is eying Mexico and  Central America — Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama — as a low-cost of living second home and place to retire.

10. The second home won’t be too close to the first: 30% of buyers want to be 100 to 300 miles from their primary home; 40% want to be 500 to 1000 miles from the primary home; 11% are willing to be more than 1000 miles away from the primary home.

I found the most amazing property today in Gunter, Texas. Would make an AWESOME second home. Way the hell north of Dallas, north even of Deion Sander’s home, which I think is still on the market, all 29,122 square feet of it but I think it’s been reduced from $21,000,000 already. Anyhoo, this development is called the Bridges at Preston Crossings, a 1580 acre former private horse farm (Cattle Barons was here twice and no cars got stuck in the mud, nanny nanny boo boo!) that a brilliant group of developers named Bluegreen turned into a living community. There’s an 18 hole golf course, a clubhouse, pool, 24 acre fishing lake, greenbelts and forests and yes this is all in Gunter, which is like a little Marble Falls (minus river) north of Prosper. Like we got there in less than an hour. Anyhow, here I am riding western as we trotted the property. More stories and photos to come. Listen to this: these lots range from one-third to two full acres and get this pricing — don’t fall off your horse: $70,000 to $120,000. I have an idea. let’s get a 5,000 square foot home here, a condo in downtown Dallas (Ritz, House) and call it our second home!