Long past are the days when a buyer moved into a master-planned community, and the only thing to do was jump into a tepid pool. As builders look to bring in buyers, they are broadening their range of amenities to suit different lifestyles. Swimming pools are out, and fishing ponds are in. But which master-planned community suits your lifestyle?

This article has everything buyers need to know about the hottest master-planned community amenities throughout the country.

An aerial view of homes in a master-planned community in California (Which master-planned community suits your lifestyle?)

The popularity and variety of master-planned communities continue to grow (Photo credit: Unwind)

We talked to experts on the subject, such as Mollie Carmichael, a principal at Zonda Advisory, Mary Helen Sprecher, the technical writer for the American Sports Builders Association, Randy Resley, owner of Sport Court of the Rockies in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Todd M. Dettor, vice-president of Fast-Dry Courts Inc. in Pompano Beach, Florida, and David Marsden, the co-founder of Boston Tennis Court Construction, Inc. of Hanover, Massachusetts.


What is a master-planned community?

Master-planned communities, or MPCs, are sizable, individually designed residential neighborhoods. They are frequently constructed by a single developer and offer locals many recreational activities.

MPCs have continued to grow since they first became popular in the U.S. in the 1960s. These communities are designed to offer inhabitants the feeling of living in a self-sufficient town.

Amenities include parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses, and other amenities. The largest ones may even have their schools. Some also provide commercial activities like shops and restaurants.

These neighborhoods have various names, including green towns, garden cities, new towns, and neo-traditional neighborhoods. Many, but not all, target retirees.

An aerial view ofHeritage Eagle Bend Bocce Court Renovation (Which master-planned community suits your lifestyle?)

Gathering places to play low-key sports like bocce ball are popular (Photo credit: Sport Court of the Rockies, LLC, Highland Ranch, CO)

Which master-planned community suits your lifestyle?

Here are some things to remember when considering a master-planned community.

• Location is crucial. For example, some people like to live near their places of employment, while others favor being near medical facilities and educational institutions, as well as eateries and retail establishments. Since one buyer’s wants will be significantly different from those of another, they will need to carefully analyze their desires and identify a location that will satisfy them.

• Buying an existing home is an option for some homeowners, but many prefer new-construction homes. A custom build with every detail considered for purchasers will make them feel even more tied to their property. Look for master-planned neighborhoods where a lot can be purchased and have a custom home constructed.
• Working with a home builder in a master-planned community will provide the opportunity to design a unique home.

What are some of the trends in master-planned communities?

Social and art-centered activities are proving to be popular.

“The Villages in Florida are the number one master-planned community selling today,” Mollie Carmichael, a principal at Zonda Advisory, said. “The top amenities in this master plan are things you wouldn’t expect, and the biggest is music. In the three squares, they have live music every day at 3 pm, which leads to a lot of fun.”

For the musically inclined in the northeast, seek out Gallery 64 in Washington D.C. This 492-unit development is co-located with the Rubell Museum DC and features a makerspace and recording studio.

The building also houses a soundproofed audio space, sometimes called a “podcast room,” and a maker space equipped with worktables, A/V equipment, project storage, craft supplies, and a clean-up area.

Public spaces are designed with the look and feel of an art gallery, with colorful, abstract furniture and a collection of commissioned artworks.

Oh, and pickleball? It’s huge.

“A tennis court with pickleball lines and a basketball hoop is still the most requested in the private sector for us,” Todd M. Dettor, vice-president of Fast-Dry Courts Inc, said, adding there have been a lot more inquiries for standalone pickleball courts.

Single half-court basketball courts are also popular, likely mirroring the popularity of 3×3 basketball, which made its debut in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo (Team USA won the gold medal in the women’s division).

Two couples participate in doubles pickleball play on a blue court (Which master-planned community suits your lifestyle?)

The ease and good-natured spirit of pickleball have made it wildly popular (Photo credit: Bob)

Why is pickleball so popular?

“The reason for pickleball’s meteoric rise is not one simple factor but many,” Mary Helen Sprecher, the technical writer for the American Sports Builders Association, said. “For beginners, the sport is easy to learn and fun to play. It is supported by a community of enthusiasts I can only describe as pickleball evangelists – they love their sport and share it with others.”

“Show up to watch a group of people playing recreational pickleball, and before you know it, one of them will have put a paddle in your hand and will be showing you the ropes. It is also an incredibly social sport, with a lot of joking around and fun on the court and socializing on the benches near the court as people wait for a game or just watch the match in progress.”

“Pickleball is also inexpensive to take up. Rather than belonging to a club to access facilities, the way they might be with sports like racquetball and squash, pickleball players can take advantage of municipal facilities, including parks, rec, and school facilities.”

“Courts are easily accessible and often free to play. We are even seeing rec centers line their multi-purpose floors and use pop-up nets to host pickleball, so it is obvious communities are responding to the demand.”

So, what’s the latest and greatest feature to be found at pickleball courts?

“A trend is for residential pickleball courts to have no fence if the situation is appropriate,” David Marsden, the co-founder of Boston Tennis Court Construction, Inc., said. “Shrubs and grass are more than adequate to contain balls. When a pickleball hits a grass surface, it sticks like Velcro, and there isn’t the bounce and roll that a tennis ball does.”

If someone is looking to take up the sport or is already a fan, there’s likely a pickleball court at an MPC near them.

Are there MPCs suitable for single women?

Buyers may think master-planned communities are meant for seniors or families. But, women are a growing group interested in having everything at their fingertips within a master-planned community.

“Single women are the second largest consumer of homes, following families,” Carmichael said. “But single women are much more willing to commit to buying a home. One in five homebuyers over the age of 55 is a single woman, and one in six are repeat buyers. Ninety-two percent of all home purchases are led and influenced by a woman.

“So, when it comes to women and master-plan, what’s important to them? Security is their most important amenity, particularly if they’re single. Gated communities have always worked, as have security guards.

“But really, the security robots are new and cool. They’re faster and more efficient, and they can dial out for assistance quickly. The other big thing we see in master-planned communities, regardless of whether they’re gated or not, is the recording of the license plates coming in and out. If anything happens, you know everybody who’s driven into that master plan, there’s just greater security about it.”

What types of amenities appeal to younger buyers?

What about the buyer who’s interested in going vertical?

“Climbing walls are trendy, and ninja warrior-style obstacle courses are becoming popular since more and more people are seeing them on T.V.,” Randy Resley, owner of Sport Court of the Rockies, said. “We have also seen increased requests for indoor bowling alleys and golf simulators.”

As we’ve entered the post-pandemic stage of COVID-19, many buyers are looking for ways to improve their health with access to purified air, water, and homegrown food.

“Looking after their health is critically important,” Carmichael said. “Whether you’re going into the club or buying a home, younger buyers want amenities like air purification and water purification. That’s super huge. We’ve seen communal gardens and things like that. But the whole idea of going homegrown is huge. I can’t tell you how big things like chicken coops were during COVID, but just the idea of living healthier is super popular.”

A smiling BIPOC woman holds a crate of harvested veggies while standing in a field (Which master-planned community suits your lifestyle?)

Younger buyers want places where they can grow their food in master-planned communities (Photo credit: Peopleimages.com)

“There are trendy master plans such as Harvest Green in Richmond, Texas that include working farms with adjacent restaurants and vegetable stands for the whole farm-to-table experience. It’s helping people justify why they’re moving 45 minutes to an hour from where they might work.

“The other big thing today is we have this loneliness epidemic going on – people are working at home and just need a reason to walk outside the door. From a retail perspective, as it relates to a master plan, that is an amenity, and people are looking for that place to come together. Retail is no longer about necessity or needs because I can have a service drop anything I need – I never have to go to a grocery store again. But it’s now become more of an experience to see and hang out with people.

“We’ve seen workspaces that have become extremely popular for people who want to walk outside the door, go into a community element, and pick up and do some work around some other people because they’re not going into the office.

“So, what do we do for young kids still homeschooling and things like that? Can we create spaces for that? So often, you’ll see homeschooling of four and six children and their parents getting together. Are we creating those spaces today? We are, in about one in three. So many buyers want more than one office at home today because we are seeing home education and parents working at home. The amenities like that must be important.”

“Whether adding more porches to the front of the homes in your master plan or having that retail experience – this is becoming so much bigger in many master plans.

“Pre-COVID, everybody wanted outdoor spaces off the back of their home. Then that changed during and after the pandemic to the front of their home. So, you’re seeing this huge fan throughout the resale market. Lots are adding some of these front yard experiences so that people can hang out on the porch patio and the courtyard together. It’s going back to The Villages where sort of those social spaces that we can all come together.”

Water, golf, and how they’ve evolving

An aerial view of a crystal lagoon with clear blue waters in a master-planned community (Which master-planned community suits your lifestyle?)

Crystal lagoons let anyone in a master-planned community feel like they’re living on the beach (Photo credit: JV Variety videos)

We’re used to the prototypical pool setup in many master-planned communities of the past. Typically, golf was also available as one of the more popular amenities but had faded somewhat as sports such as pickleball surged.

But today, having spaces to gather by the water with friends and family has proven to be another experience buyers seek.

“Water features are huge,” Carmichael said. “Not just because it’s great to look at, but owners want a place where they can go hang with their sweetheart or take their grandchild fishing. These fishing holes are some of the most popular amenities in the 55 Plus neighborhoods.”

“Crystal lagoons are a super big deal. There are more and more being built throughout the country in master-planned communities. Water is just a huge magnet, and it’s been this way for years, but this is a way to kick it up a notch and say, ‘Hey, everyone can live by the ocean.’ They’re typically about eight acres in size, but they can be as large as 20 or 22.”

“Golf is back. It’s been stagnant for quite some time, but we’re seeing a whole new generation to the sport. But again, golf is evolving. The younger generations like to play three holes at a time and don’t want to play the traditional way with nine holes or 18. But they enjoy the idea of getting out there.”

A putting green in the foreground with homes in the background (Which master-planned community suits your lifestyle?)

Putting greens let buyers in master-planned communities get in a few swings (Photo credit: Sport Court of the Rockies, LLC, Highland Ranch, CO)

What’s ahead for MPCs?

Self-sustainability is vital for MPC buyers. Given the instability of the environment and rising energy prices, owners want assurances that their homes will be able to function no matter the circumstance. Along with that comes the desirability for net-zero emissions to eliminate pollution.

“Especially after the freezing storms experienced in places such as Texas in the last few years, we’re seeing groups like Gen X particularly, looking at things like the Tesla battery,” Carmichael said.

“Communities seek to be net zero, and there are communities going after being much more self-sustainable. All these things are becoming more important because if you look at Gen Z and Gen Y, the social awareness that those generations have today is great. After all, not only are they learning about these ideas, but they can take part in them immediately by implementing these behaviors in their lives.”

Choosing an MPC means tons of selection

It’s easy for buyers to become overwhelmed by the wealth of amenities available in today’s master-planned communities. The key is to consider not only what’s the most appealing, but also, the amenities that will be used the most by their family.

Whether it’s pickleball, climbing walls, or an oasis that makes it feel like an ocean is at their doorstep in a landlocked state, the amenities at a master-planned community can add tons of enjoyment to a homebuyer’s lifestyle, all without leaving the neighborhood.

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