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What Is a Master-Planned Community? Benefits and Drawbacks to Consider

USA Real Estate 1502

By Kristine Gill,

Choosing a home used to mean selecting a residence in a community or subdivision you liked. These days, there is more to a neighborhood than a series of streets and public offerings such as parks and schools. Now, master-planned communities have joined the housing options.

Master-planned communities offer a massive array of amenities, all within blocks of your home. “A master-planned community is a large development made up of multiple different building types and uses,” says Derrick Barker, CEO and co-founder of Nectar. “This development is planned and built by a development team that curates it to be functionally and aesthetically attractive. It is different from a regular housing development because an entire community’s worth of properties are planned and built at once, which allows for additional functionality and integrated design.” 

We’ll take a look at what a master-planned community includes and whether it’s right for your lifestyle. 

  • Derrick Barker is CEO and co-founder of Nectar real estate investment firm.
  • Alex Toth is head of business development at Opendoor.

Features of a Master-Planned Community

Master-planned communities consist of single-family homes or condos, all built to similar standards and aesthetics. “Sometimes, master-planned communities have similar architecture, but in general, they are usually well designed, modern, and functional,” Barker says. 

The main draw for these communities is the abundance of amenities that, in theory, allow residents to meet all their needs without straying far from home. 

“These are often built in the style of ‘live, work, play,’ where in addition to homes, the community may have mixed-use amenities such as shared pools, parks, gyms, office space, restaurants, retail shops, and even schools,” says Alex Toth, head of business development at Opendoor.

The range of amenities is vast, and each community is different. “The amenities in master-planned communities can include golf courses, parks, recreation trails, tennis courts, pools, ponds and lakes, restaurants, grocery stores, shopping centers, medical facilities, clubhouses, mini theaters, and more,” says Toth.

“One trend we’re seeing is developers incorporating lagoons and offering homes, businesses, and recreational activities on and around them,” Toth says

Some communities even cater to various niches and populations. “Other popular styles are communities for residents over 55 or sports-related communities for tennis or golf,” Toth adds. “The developer usually plans the community with varying home designs, providing a lot of great options for buyers.”

Because these communities are often built in remote or rural places, having shops, restaurants, and grocery stores within walking distance is a major perk and requires less driving. “We see a lot of families and retirees gravitate to these communities for that very reason,” Toth says. 

Another great perk? The ability to socialize and gather with other residents. “Because residents are often choosing to live in the community because of the lifestyle and neighborhood amenities, they can easily meet new people and make friendships with those who have like-minded interests,” Toth says. “Some master-planned communities may offer activities as well, such as movies in the park.”

How Master-Planned Communities Operate

Master-planned communities typically operate with a homeowners association (HOA) to ensure that members follow certain rules, also known as covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). 

“A master-planned community will likely have an HOA if you are looking to buy, which has its pros and cons, but overall, there are no major drawbacks specific to master-planned communities,” Barker says. 

Fees are levied to maintain the lifestyle the community affords its members, including the shared spaces and services. As with all HOAs, members must follow these rules and pay fees to enjoy the shared benefits. 

Can You Refuse to Join a Homeowners Association?

Deciding Whether to Move to a Master-Planned Community

If the home of your dreams is in a master-planned community, take a look at what that community will mean for your overall lifestyle before joining. 

For one, it could require that you join an HOA, meaning you’ll have to follow the CC&Rs and likely pay some annual fees or dues. 

These communities will likely offer a level of activity and a type of atmosphere that you may or may not enjoy. Toth suggests talking to current residents to get a feel for the lifestyle. “As with buying any home, choosing to purchase a property in a master-planned community is a personal decision,” he says.

It may be a helpful exercise to weigh the benefits and the drawbacks, as well as your long-term plans, before making a decision. Are you looking for a strong community? Will you use the amenities? Are you hoping to live in your home for a short while, or a long time?

Another way to assess whether a community is for you is to examine the community’s goals for growth.

“I would look at the plans if the community isn’t fully developed yet and see if you like the vision of the community being built,” Barker says. “If you do, buying in early can allow you to buy at a discounted value that will increase once the development is finished.

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