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Martis Camp Putting Park

Family Ties at Martis Camp

What does the second-home buyer want in a community? The answer is relative. By James A. Frank.

Not long ago, second-home and golf communities were built for a particular audience: the older couple, thinking about retirement and looking for a private club with fun, sun, and others like themselves.

Today, the “other home” buyer is both younger and larger. Younger because a new, active crowd is looking for a vacation home earlier in life than its forebears did. Larger because these same people aren’t simply shopping for two, but for the entire clan.

“Prior to 9/11, it was business as usual: People retired and moved away wherever they were going,” says Dan Collins, president of IMI, which marketed and sold Martis Camp above Lake Tahoe, California, and Kukui’ula on Kauai. “But today, projects that have become very successful have done so by catering and building their amenities and operations around multi-generational living.”

“Family amenities have increasingly become a necessity rather than a nice amenity,” says Jeff Heilbrun, general manager of Snake River Sporting Club in Jackson, Wyo., “especially as family-oriented boomers reach retirement age.”

Club staffs now include a naturalist and outdoor adventure coordinator. The latest capital improvements are playgrounds, soccer fields, and hiking/biking trails. Cottages and smaller homes had a brief flicker of interest, but bigger homes on bigger lots are back in demand, the better to accommodate and amuse more people across a wider age spectrum.

“Buyers are looking for authentic experiences and places to create memories with friends and family,” reports Steve Adelson, a partner in Discovery Land Company, a pioneer in family-centric communities like Gozzer Ranch in Idaho and Baker’s Bay in The Bahamas. “Our courses are some of the best in the world, but it’s the enjoyment people get when they play that makes them special.”

Active baby boomers also want their space. It can be a treat to have the pro explain the right way to fly-cast, tack into the wind, or hit a chip shot, but sometimes what matters is enjoying time alone or with just your loved ones.

Younger members also want independence from the rigid rules clubs were once famous for. “At Mountain Air’s inception in 1990 we envisioned an ‘anti-club’ club,” explains Randy Banks, president/CEO of Mountain Air Development Corp., which built the golf community in western North Carolina. “We believed the up-and-coming baby boom generation would desire and embrace a resort-oriented approach, but in a private community setting. Now with more than 400 scheduled programs and events on our annual activity calendar, our goal is to deliver year-round memorable experiences to all members of the family.”

More activities more often are vital since more families are visiting, and living on site, year round. The Kiawah Island Club expanded “Go Kiawah” from a robust summer kids’ program into a four-season frolic for both kids and adults, says Bill Houghton, head of marketing at Kiawah Island Real Estate. “But the club also just expanded its business services with the goal of allowing a vacationing executive to stay here just a bit longer.” That’s something else about the younger buyer: He—and she—are probably still working.

Some communities attract families by offering memberships that grant expanded privileges and access to a range of relatives. Other clubs lure members’ grown-up children into staying, and starting their own family traditions, with reduced initiation fees.

The multi-generational club experience is likely to enjoy a long run as long as young couples keep working and having families (and having those families later, a trend in higher income brackets). They’ll gladly spend money on making the most of their personal time, which for many means spending it with the ones they love.

For IMI’s Collins, that attitude was summed up by one of his members. “He said, ‘We own a place in Aspen and one at Martis Camp. I go to Aspen to be seen. I go to Martis Camp to see my family.’”

By James A. Frank – As first appeared in Links Magazine.