Is buying a house on a golf course a good idea?

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Question:

My husband and I are golf lovers, and we're thinking of buying a house in a development, right next to a golf course. But our friends seem to think this is a bad idea, saying we'll have golf balls crashing through our windows every day. What's the story?

Answer:

Your friends have a point. While being able to head straight to the golf course may have health and lifestyle benefits, living near a golf course creates other issues. Here's what to look into before you buy:

  • Has the golf course actually been built yet? If you're counting on the golf course as part of your enjoyment of your new house, you'd better make doubly sure it's going to be built. Ever since the real estate bubble burst, many developers have been falling through on their commitments to build clubhouses, pools, and other amenities within a housing development. If you're just being shown plans on a piece of paper right now, either make your purchase conditional on the golf course being built or, at the very least, check the developer's reputation and finances out very carefully before you go forward.
  • How close will your access really be? If you're imagining strolling through your backyard and onto the golf course, you may need to double-check the documents describing your property restrictions. These may state that you have no right or "easement" to do so, in which case you'll have to use the front entrance like everyone else.
  • What will the view from the property be like in ten years? If you love the idea of looking out over the golf course, realize that the planners may plant trees or create landscaping that will eventually restrict your view.
  • Will any fences or boundaries protect you from stray golf balls or trespassers? In many cases, the answer is no, for aesthetic reasons. Even when signs are posted, golfers often ignore them when searching for a stray ball. And news reports contain stories of homeowners who estimate that ten golf balls per day regularly hit their house or who've gone to the emergency room after being hit in the head by a stray ball.
  • What sources of noise, lighting, and traffic will affect the property? You can expect noise from lawn mowers and utility vehicles, usually in the early morning hours. If you're living near a clubhouse, expect extra lighting, noise, and traffic.
  • How close will golf carts come to the property? If you don't want someone buzzing across your lawn, maybe a house farther away from the course would be better.
  • How will maintenance of the green affect the property? To keep a golf green looking bright and shiny green, the owners typically use a lot of water, fertilizer, and other chemicals. Some of that water may be reclaimed and retreated wastewater. If these don't sound like substances that you want permeating your own landscaping, think twice before you choose a lot right next to the course.

A responsible golf course owner will disclose some of these issues up front. However, the extent to which they're required to make such disclosures depends on your state's law. Be sure to read any disclosure documents carefully, and ask questions now. If the seller does disclose a problem and you buy the house anyway, you won't have any right to seek compensation for damages later.

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