The popularity of living in gated or private communities has been rising in recent years. It used to be that gated communities were thought of as only for the rich. But today they are becoming more and more popular with middle and upper-middle class families.
Why live in a gated community?
Security is usually given as the biggest reason for choosing to live in a gated community. Other reasons people can include protecting property values and lifestyle. Many gated communities are designed with amenities built around a particular lifestyle with golf courses, tennis, swimming pools or equestrian facilities.
In the mountains of North Carolina, gated communities are usually located on some of the most desirable land in the area. Often set on ridge tops with beautiful mountain views, these gated communities were created through careful developer planning.
Typically, they are governed by HOA (Homeowner's Association) or POA (Property Owners Association) rules, which create an environment where home values hold up extremely well.
An example of a gated community in our area is Arrowhead Subdivision, which is located about 4.5 miles from Main Street, Blowing Rock. On a scale of casual subdivision to highly restrictive gated communities Arrowhead falls in the middle of the class: reasonable restrictions about styles of homes while not being overly rule-obsessed.
Homeowner or property associations
Aside from gates or walls, the second most defining characteristic of gated or private communities is the Homeowner’s Association (HOA) or Property Owners Association (POA). The POA is made up of all the owners of the development. The POA is responsible for collection of the association fees and making and enforcing the “rules” of the community. It is often also responsible for maintaining the public aspects of the community, such as streets, security, trails, water features and recreation facilities.
The rules set by the POA can vary a great deal, depending on the individual development. Typically the POA will have rules pertaining to upkeep and appearance of homes within the development, specifying the acceptable range of house design styles and the minimum acceptable sizes of the homes, the colors of paint on outside walls, types of exterior finishes, types of fencing, guidelines for landscaping, rules for storage of boats or recreational vehicles, rules for pets.
Key financial questions to ask a POA
- Ask for the most recent financial statement when you are considering buying into a specific subdivision
- Look at the line items for the yearly budget and see what the POA has in reserve
- Ask if the POA has the power to collect dues which are unpaid
Some gated communities or restricted subdivisions are more relaxed than others. Some have a few basic rules, collect fees used primarily for snow removal and road maintenance and have no architectural review for new construction or for exterior remodeling. Other gated communities have extensive, specific rules.
If you are seeking a home which you want to rent out as a vacation rental make sure you check the restrictions for that neighborhood.
What if someone breaks the community rules?
If a property owner violates the restrictive covenants, it is up to the other property owners to take legal action to bring the violator into compliance. Before you buy in a community, have your attorney check the restrictive covenants of any subdivision, gated or not, to review the restrictions in that community and to determine how compliance will be enforced.
Are gated communities for me and my family?
Gated communities aren't for everyone. On a practical level, certain types of gates do not operate well in high winds and in blustery winter snow -- weather we often see in the North Carolina mountains.
Other families prefer to live in traditional neighborhoods for many reasons. They may not wish to join an HOA or POA, or they have other amenities on their wish list that are not specific to a wider hobby or location. Some buyers simply like to live closer to town, where gated communities are less prevalent due to space restrictions and zoning requirements.
But with strong protection of property values, increased security, less traffic, and specific lifestyle, gated communities appeal to more people each year.