Even with home sales and interest being maintained at a brisk pace, an active club and a strong balance sheet, the Sarasota, Fla. property wants to do more to “raise the level of awareness of the community,” according to General Manager David Somers.
When Heritage Oaks Golf & Country Club in Sarasota, Fla. was developed in 1996, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported, the location—three miles east of Interstate 75—was considered the boonies. But the builder, U.S. Homes (now a subdivision of Lennar Corporation), did a lot of advertising and had no difficulty selling out the 850 homes it constructed over the course of the next eight years. And the combination of natural beauty, quiet country living and well-organized athletic and social activities made Heritage Oaks popular with its residents.
Now that the rest of the world is catching up with the area—new communities are cropping up everywhere east of the Interstate—it might be thought that Heritage Oaks would be a trendy real estate market. But that is not the case, the Herald-Tribune reported.
“It’s such a gem, but a lot of people are not aware of it,” Anja Deichmann, an agent with Michael Saunders and Company, told the Herald-Tribune. “Even realtors see it being advertised in the papers, but don’t know it firsthand.”
Deichmann has sold in Heritage Oaks since 2009 and, as its most successful realtor, currently has 16 listings and six pending sales there, the Herald-Tribune reported. She holds a number of open houses every week to promote the club. “It’s a fantastic community, wonderfully maintained,” she said.
Still, David Somers, the club’s General Manager, told the Herald-Tribune that “We need to raise the level of awareness of the community. To that end, our board now has a marketing committee.”
Covering 500 acres, Heritage Oaks is divided into 21 subdivisions, the Herald-Tribune reported. To the north of the central clubhouse are single- family residences, paired villas and free-standing patio homes. To the south are club homes—six-unit villas—and a two-story building with condos on the first and second floor.
An 18-hole championship golf course, 25 scenic lakes and three large nature preserves have earned the club a “Certified Audubon Society Sanctuary” designation, the Herald-Tribune reported. Deer walk on the fairways in the morning. There are beavers, bobcat, a few alligators and a wide variety of birds. Sandhill cranes, unafraid of humans, stalk proudly across the roads and meadows.
Heritage Oaks is a bundled community; all homeowners are also members of the private club, the Herald-Tribune reported. They pay a one-time, capital contribution of $4,000 when they purchase their home, and annual master association dues, capital reserve contributions, and other fees close to $8,000.
As a result, the Heritage Oaks has no debt and boasts a reserve of $17 million, allowing it to make improvements without having to up the reserve fees, the Herald-Tribune reported. The golf course, completely redesigned by links architect Ron Garl in 2009, underwent a $2.3 million renovation in 2017. At the same time, the private interior roads received a $1 million upgrade. The golf pro shop has been expanded to double its size, as has the popular fitness center. The four tennis courts were just redone and new lighting installed.
Glenn and Lillian Ridgeway, realtors with Coldwell Banker, are 20-year residents. “We came when Heritage Oaks was developed, built our home on the second hole of the golf course and moved in the following year,” Glenn explained.
Team Ridgeway has 16 listings and one pending sale in the community, the Herald-Tribune reported.. “We like it here and stay because of the people,” said Glenn. “It’s like an extended family.”
Deichmann agreed, “It’s a very welcoming place where it’s easy to make friends.”
Nearly half of the residents are homesteaded, spending a minimum of six months at Heritage Oaks, the Herald-Tribune reported. The rest are snowbirds from the Midwest, Europe and Canada. Over the summer months, the population drops off drastically.
During the season, there is plenty to do for everyone, including the residents who are not links enthusiasts. “About 35 percent of the residents don’t play golf,” said Somers. “Some people just want to live here.”
Member residents can take advantage of five heated swimming pools in the community, the Herald-Tribune reported. Golf and tennis pros and a full-time fitness director provide clinics and classes, organize tournaments and league play, and host outside events. The PGA’s Web.com Tour recently held one of its qualifying rounds at the golf course.
A full, active social calendar offers lifelong enrichment programs and organized on- and off-site events, including meet-and-greet cocktail parties, whiskey tastings, Karaoke night, bridge, book and bunco clubs, charity events and more.
“From a staff perspective, we say, ‘If we haven’t worn you out by the end of March, we haven’t done our job,’ ” Somers said with a smile.
With the expansion of a local road, numerous amenities are now within easy driving distance, the Herald-Tribune reported, and even going to downtown Sarasota or Siesta Key’s beaches takes less than 30 minutes.
Last year, the Herald-Tribune reported, there were 56 home sales in Heritage Oaks, and 19 since January 2019. “That represents 5 to 8 percent—a healthy turnover for a club,” said Somers.
Currently, there are 44 homes on the market, representing all home-buying options, ranging in price from $139,900 to $500,000.
It’s a great community,” said Glenn Ridgeway. “I was happy when I saw it, happy when I moved in, and I have been happy here ever since.”