Real Estate News – Golf properties target buyers without clubs

BENAHAVIS, Spain Spread over two valleys in the foothills of the Sierra Bermeja on the bustling Costa del Sol is the Monte Mayor Golf & Country Club, La Perla International Living's flagship resort development in Spain.

Its centerpiece is a challenging 18-hole golf course that many experts consider one of the most beautiful in Europe. Yet the majority of people buying property - about 60 percent - have no intention of ever teeing off.

Frank Copplestone, an investment banker from London, bought a four-bedroom villa at Monte Mayor that was completed in December, and he has no plans to ever play golf.

"I view the golf course almost as a garden," he said. "I'd be very happy if no golf was ever played here at all."

Copplestone said he spent a year researching properties on the Costa del Sol before settling on a vacation home at Monte Mayor. "It's really like a well- appointed country club but with the privacy of a villa in the mountains," he said. "I have a stressful job and I want to go somewhere on the weekends to really relax and unwind."

Golf courses are the focal points for many luxury communities in places as far-flung as Dubai, Egypt, Turkey, Poland and Portugal. Increasingly developers have realized that potential buyers can be lured with manicured lawns, beautiful views and resort-style living. Golf itself can be secondary.

At Monte Mayor, for example, some residents have been attracted by the low density of the development. Spain, and particularly the Costa del Sol, often produces developments covering what seems like every inch of the property.

Only 46 percent of the 365 hectares, or 900 acres, at Monte Mayor will be built on; the remainder will be used for the golf course and a "green zone."

"We offer space, low density, nature and a diversity of facilities within the project, such as a spa, golf, tennis, horses and a nature reserve," said Lawrence Maeck, sales director for the project, which is a 15-minute drive from Marbella.

Real estate experts said buyers can expect golf properties in Spain to hold their value and, despite a general decline in returns, to increase in value at least 15 percent a year, depending on the development. "I'd say that the golf development investment is the safest in the industry," Maeck said.

Mike Hayes, deputy editorial director for Homes Overseas magazine in London, agreed. "For investors, golf course homes are a winner, as capital growth is generally solid at golf developments," he said. "Most importantly, these places are legitimate rental investments throughout the whole year."

Hayes also said that, in a competitive marketplace, a quality golf course alone just does not cut it any more - tennis and other facilities are just as alluring to many buyers.

"A lot of golf developments are calling themselves something else so that they can play up the fact that they offer something more than golf," he said. "Golf developments are calling themselves 'golf and leisure' resorts or 'golf and tennis' resorts or especially 'golf and spa' resorts because they've noticed that non- golfers are increasingly interested in the properties," he said.

Monte Mayor's course, designed by José Gancedo of Spain, has a special cachet. It was created in 1989 without the use of bulldozers, utilizing the natural contours of the terrain to maximize the challenge and avoiding the raw look of many new courses.

But there are at least 57 golf courses within a 30-minute drive of Monte Mayor. So by the time it is completed in 2008, the project will include a spa, a lake, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools, and a 250-acre nature reserve.

Development has been similar at Pezula, a luxury residential project with a championship golf course that is situated along South Africa's celebrated Garden Route.

Even though Nick Price, the title-winning golfer from Zimbabwe, has bought a home at Pezula, only about 25 percent of the buyers there are golfers.

"There are plenty of other activities here. We have a spa and gym. People can go kayaking or canoeing or horseback riding," said Gary Muller, the South Africa-based sales director. "Golfing is just one of the many amenities we have here."

Liam Bailey, head of residential research for the Knight Frank real estate agency, said that even in places like Fiji, government officials are encouraging the construction of golfing communities. "People don't want the really high-density projects any more and are really pushing the golf schemes," he said.

Bailey said they also represent a good opportunity for investors. "Good developers know that they will have to spend a lot of money on continued maintenance if they want to maintain a name for themselves and therefore a buyer's investment is generally protected, because there is always somebody looking after the environment," he said.

Article by: By Shelley Emling - www.iht.com