Desert re­sort fits buy­ers to a tee

‘So­cial club’ within up­scale Ari­zona project

Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment Properties - DAWNA FREE­MAN

NORTH SCOTTS­DALE, ARIZ.

Al­ber­tans look­ing for a sec­ond place to call home in Phoenix can check two must-haves off their wish list — weather and golf.

And with a near-par loonie and re­duced hous­ing prices, find­ing that per­fect place in the sun seems a sure thing.

But there’s one wish no one guar­an­tees and ev­ery­one wants — good neigh­bours.

The res­i­dents at Ter­ravita Golf and Coun­try Club in North Scotts­dale know it’s the peo­ple that make their com­mu­nity such a de­sir­able place to live.

Set against the un­spoiled Sono­ran Desert near his­toric Cave Creek in the north­east val­ley, the 1,380-home com­mu­nity sprawls over 333 hectares of lush desert land­scape, sur­rounded by moun­tain­ous ter­rain, gi­ant fea­ture boul­ders and that ever-blue sky.

Built in 1994, Ter­ravita was the first de­vel­op­ment in the re­gion to bring af­ford­able hous­ing to a high-end, guard-gated com­mu­nity with pri­vate golf club.

“It’s a beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion and a well-run com­mu­nity, but it’s the peo­ple that make it so spe­cial,” says Carolyn Het­rick, a coun­try club board mem­ber who bought in 1999.

She’s giv­ing a walk­ing tour of the golf and coun­try club ameni­ties with Kathy Nel­son, an­other long­stand­ing res­i­dent.

“It’s a very open and wel­com­ing com­mu­nity,” agrees Nel­son, as she points out the new float­ing floors for yoga and Pi­lates in the re­cently ren­o­vated fit­ness fa­cil­ity.

She uses two words to sum up the com­mu­nity’s cul­ture: “Camp Ter­ravita. Be­cause peo­ple are hav­ing fun do­ing things all the time.”

Home­own­ers bought out de­vel­oper Del Webb in 1998, and the golf and coun­try clubs are sep­a­rately owned and op­er­ated by mem­bers.

Fifty per cent of the 3,000 mem­bers are snow­birds, while 35 per cent are full-time re­tirees. Mem­ber­ship in the coun­try club is manda­tory with a home pur­chase, but a golf mem­ber­ship is op­tional.

“This is a very so­cial club in an up­scale com­mu­nity, and the non-pre­ten­tious ca­ma­raderie is a main draw for a lot of peo­ple,” says gen­eral man­ager Tom Forbes, who came to Ter­ravita four years ago af­ter man­ag­ing sim­i­lar fa­cil­i­ties in Ari­zona and

C MVisit our web­site un­der the head­ing, ‘Rec Prop­er­ties,’ for more sto­ries and photo gal­leries. Florida.

Forbes says the re­sort-style com­mu­nity has not been as af­fected by the eco­nomic down­turn as some Phoenix com­mu­ni­ties.

“We are in a strong fi­nan­cial po­si­tion,” he says, adding its golf course will be paid off com­pletely in Jan­uary 2014.

With some com­mu­ni­ties strug­gling with debt, smart home­buy­ers are plac­ing a com­mu­nity’s sol­vency and sus­tain­ing home val­ues high on their check­list.

Years ago, says Forbes, the first ques­tions were al­ways about the golf course and the res­tau­rant.

“To­day, they want to know about hid­den costs — if there’s an elephant in the closet. Peo­ple want good value for their money and the value re­mains more sta­ble here than a lot of other com­mu­ni­ties.”

He says Ter­ravita com­pleted $1 mil­lion US in up­grades five years ago and paid it off in three years.

The 34,000-square-foot coun­try club un­der­went $400,000 US of ren­o­va­tions four years ago and $750,000 US in up­grades to the health and fit­ness cen­tre were com­pleted last Oc­to­ber.

Out­door ameni­ties in­clude six lighted ten­nis courts and an Olympic-size lap pool with beach en­trance and a hot tub.

Green ini­tia­tives by en­er­gy­con­scious com­mu­nity mem­bers — such as a so­lar panel sys­tem to heat the 4,000-square-foot pool — are now pay­ing off.

Forbes says they haven’t in­creased dues for the last three years and are still putting cap­i­tal money aside for fu­ture ren­o­va­tions.

Karey and Mur­ray Koch of Ed­mon­ton were among Ter­ravita’s first res­i­dents in 1995, at­tracted by the golf and the area.

Her hus­band, 83, plays golf four times a week and Karey, 73, be­longs to the ladies league. “Pri­vate golf clubs can be hard to break into, but when I joined, it felt like I be­longed for­ever.”

Steve Mal­lory, di­rec­tor of golf since 2000, says the ladies club has a nine-hole and an 18-hole league and is one of the most ac­tive among the North Scotts­dale in­ter­league clubs.

Mem­ber­ship is capped at 325, with no more than 60 golfers from out­side the com­mu­nity. At present, there are 317 mem­bers, 30 of them from out­side Ter­ravita.

The award-win­ning cham­pi­onship course with moun­tain views from ev­ery hole was ranked one of the state’s top 10 pri­vate golf clubs by Best of Ari- zona Busi­ness Mag­a­zine in 2011.

Jim Gee, 69, and his wife Agnes bought in Ter­ravita in 1995, two years af­ter the golf course opened. He golfs five days a week with a group he’s been play­ing with for over a decade.

“I can’t ex­plain it. We’ve owned this home for 16 years, and it feels more like home than our condo in Ed­mon­ton. I hate to leave, and look for­ward to get­ting back,” says Gee.

Ter­ravita has 45 homes for sale within its 24 neigh­bour­hoods, rang­ing from 1,500 square feet to 3,800 square feet. Prices start at $300,000 US.

Pho­tos, Dawna Free­man for the Ed­mon­ton Jour­nal

Ter­ravita Golf and Coun­try Club is an award-win­ning golf course in the heart of the desert foothills.

A clear blue desert sky hangs over the out­door pool at the re­sort.

The lush Ari­zona desert land­scape sur­rounds the club­house.

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