Real Estate Expert Marian Schaffer of Southeast Discovery Shares 9 Tips for Buying a Home in a Gated Community

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Schaffer says these 9 tips will help buyers determine if a gated community is the right choice for their retirement, relocation, or second home purchase.

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Many of the clients we’ve worked with in the last 10 years want to buy a home in a gated community because of the many attractive advantages they offer. These tips will help potential buyers make an informed decision.

Marian Schaffer, Principal and Founder of Southeast Discovery, a real estate consulting firm specializing in guiding Baby Boomers with their real estate needs in the niche markets of retirement relocation and second homes in the Southeast region, recently shared 9 tips for buying a home in a gated community.

“Many of the clients we’ve worked with in the last 10 years want to buy a home in a gated community because of the many attractive advantages they offer, including 24/7 security, architectural guidelines which protect their real estate investment, the ease of meeting others, and lifestyle benefits such as access to private golf courses, fitness classes, social events, and the overall sense of community,” said Schaffer.

According to Schaffer, these nine tips will help home buyers make an informed decision about purchasing property in a gated community:

#1) Consider who is responsible for maintenance and repair of roads within the community. “In many cases, if not most, gated communities’ roads and their upkeep, maintenance and repair is the responsibility of the development, not the municipality. Buyers should check with the master-planned community they’re considering to verify this and to confirm the reserves on hand for road repair when needed,” said Schaffer.

#2) Check with the developer on the legal documentation of how the community is set up. “It’s good idea to find out how the development is governed,” said Schaffer. “You need to know if the developer will reign over the community for an extended period of time, which would include appointing people to the board, or if the board will be comprised of members who are chosen by the residents and property owners of the community. This is important information to find out, as the latter is always optimal.”

#3) Find out what’s in the reserve fund and make sure the community is financially strong. “The community reserve fund is so important, because this is where funds for road repair, storm damage clean-up, improving or repairing community amenities, adding new street signs and entranceway landscaping and signage, and other community improvements come from,” said Schaffer.

#4) Find out if the developer has previous experience. “Potential buyers should find out if the developer has developed previous master-planned communities and if so, were these communities completed? Are the residents and property owners of pervious development projects happy with how their development evolved? A developer with previous development experience is a safer bet than a developer who is developing their first project,” said Schaffer.

#5) Look at the community’s common areas. “When buyers visit a gated community, they’ll want to check out not only the property they’re considering purchasing, but the community’s common areas as well. If roads, landscaping, the community entranceway, or any of the amenities are in a state of disrepair, these are problems that should be acknowledged – and explained,” said Schaffer.

#6) Review the homeowner association dues. “Look at the fees you’ll be asked to pay, and track year-to-year assessments to see how often the annual fee increases,” said Schaffer. “Two other factors to pay attention to are one; have there have been special assessments, and what they were for, and two; buyers should find out if a resident/property owner board is setting the annual dues figure, or if it’s an outside entity determining yearly dues.”

#7) Review the community’s rules and bylaws. “Not all buyers in a gated community plan to live in their home year-round, and want the option to rent out their property for a period of time each year, or even year-round in some cases. For this reason, it’s especially important to familiarize yourself with the community’s rental policies and restrictions before you purchase in the community,” said Schaffer. “Questions to ask include, do they allow short-term rentals, long-term rentals, or both? What constitutes long-term – 6 or 12 months? Buyers should keep in mind that some communities have certain sections where rentals are permitted and other areas of the community where they are not.”

#8) Talk to current residents. “Buyers should talk to current residents and property owners in the gated community to find out how the community is managed and run,” said Schaffer. Other questions to ask residents include, ‘How do you like living here? Has it been easy to meet people? Has the developer held up to promises as marketed?’”

#9) Familiarize yourself with the architectural standards and guidelines. “Reputable master-planned communities have an entire booklet devoted to this topic that covers what the exterior materials and architectural design of the home need to be to pass through the architectural review board for acceptance,” said Schaffer. “This is important for a couple of reasons: one, so you’re clear on the size and look of the home you’ll need to build, and two, so you can get a good idea of what it will cost to build a home in the community.”

If you’re considering relocating to the Southeast but don't know how or where to start your search, we can help. We've been working with clients to find the right area and community to call home in the Southeast for over a decade. Feel free to complete our complimentary online questionnaire here to get feedback on the best areas and specific communities that may be just right for you.

About Southeast Discovery
Since 2004, Southeast Discovery has been a trusted resource for candid information and insight on communities, developments, and general real estate in the Southeast. Through its highly-ranked web portal, newsletter and blog and its one-on-one work with clients, Southeast Discovery helps buyers actively looking for a retirement or second home in the Southeast navigate the process of identifying the right area and community for their needs. To learn more, visit

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