Pros and Cons of Living in a Master Planned Community

March 17, 2014

Their very names conjure up far more than visions of mere neighborhoods. Instead they bring to mind intriguing, exclusive destinations: The Woodlands, FishHawk Ranch, Brunswick Forest, Derbyshire…

These are just a few of some of the fastest growing master planned communities in the U.S. Although the idea of a thoroughly and thoughtfully planned residential community has been around since the 1960s, the concept is something that today’s savvy home buyers are truly embracing.

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So what is the difference between an amenity-filled subdivision and a true master planned community (MPC)? For starters, MPCs usually cover thousands of acres, which is necessary for an MPC standard feature: open spaces that maximize the site’s natural beauty and provide recreational options. Many of these communities are centered on their residents’ recreational activity of choice, such as golf, tennis, alpine, equine or water sports. Others cater to lifestyle choices or stages, i.e., young families, single professionals, 55+, and so on.

Another MPC hallmark is a design model that promotes self-sufficiency. The idea is to offer residents everything they need in the way of housing, educational, commercial, office, civic, health care and recreational facilities. All of these conveniences are designed to compliment and incorporate the MPC’s vast amount of open spaces. In essence, residents have everything they need just steps, a quick bike ride or golf cart ride away.

Home sales rise in MPCs

Since 1994, the Washington, DC-based real estate analytics firm, Robert Charles Lesser & Co., LLC, has conducted a survey on the growth rate and trends among the nation’s MPCs. In their report for the 2013 findings, it was announced that, “Home sales at the nation’s top master-planned communities continued increasing in 2013 to the highest levels since 2007.”

In fact, the report discovered that sales among the country’s top choice MPCs was 6 percent higher in 2013 compared to 2012. Interviews with residents brought to light a high degree of satisfaction: “MPCs continue to thrive based on buyers’ belief that MPCs are the best places to invest and live, enabling MPCs to maintain their strong market share from 2012, despite increased competition from a larger number of builder subdivisions.”

Is life in a Master Planned Community for you?

Let’s look at few pros and cons.

  • Pro: Nearby amenities and services

Self-contained, convenient, MPCs make it easy to “be green” by enabling residents to walk or bike to the supermarket, work, school, gym, medical facilities, entertainment, dining, and recreational venues.

  • Con: Not all goods and services within easy reach

Residents who desire goods and services not provided in the MPC will have to travel outside of the neighborhood’s boundaries. They may sometimes wonder if the MPC has a monopoly on certain goods and services as well which effect quality and or pricing.

  • Pro: Security

Most MPCs offer residents a very high degree of security with gated entrances, 24-hour patrols and an active community watch setup.

  • Con: Perhaps too much security?

Some may feel that this much security alienates friends and relatives who are not living in the MPC and eliminates the possibility of spontaneity.

  • Pro: HOA regulation keeps community looking great

Maintenance and upkeep of the grounds, common areas, and amenities, such as swimming pools, trails, golf courses, and tennis courts are built in to the residents’ HOA dues. Along with that, there are usually strict guidelines for the upkeep and presentation of one’s individual residence. This helps keep the entire community looking attractive and can go a long way for curb appeal when it comes time to sell.

  • Con: Less freedom for decorating and design

For some, MPC guidelines regarding home’s exteriors, landscaping, and maintenance how-to’s and must-do’s, represent too much control and some homeowners feel they are being deprived of their right to freedom of expression.

  • Pro: Socializing

MPCs attract like-minded individuals and families and provide an instant environment for neighborhood gatherings and activities.

  • Con: Possibly less privacy

MPCs can be very densely populated, and include single-family homes, patio homes, townhouses, and condos. This factor may make some feel as though they are living in a goldfish bowl and severely impact their level of privacy.

  • Pro: The chance to be involved

After the developer relinquishes control, usually when the MPC is complete and all units sold, residents have the opportunity to serve on governing boards such as the HOA, architectural or landscaping review committees. Many relish the chance to have an active part in the decision making processes that affect the quality of life within their MPC.

  • Con: Possibility of dealing with unpleasant board members

The site,, described how resident control of an MPC can sometimes go wrong:

“While many associations consist of well meaning and dedicated people, it is an unfortunate fact that many petty and unreasonable people manage to get elected to these boards. These would-be community tyrants can cause considerable discontent within the development.”

Although living in an MPC may sound like heaven to some, others may shy away from so many predetermined aspects. Just like with any choices we make, when it comes to investing in a home, there are a multitude of questions and personal preference factors to consider. If you are curious about current listings for homes in some of the nation’s most popular MPCs, check these out:

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