Some owners pay a premium for developments with large lots and secluded home sites.
Ty and Kady Hendrix live in a gated development that doesn't have a golf course or a clubhouse—or a lot of neighbors. A half-mile of woodland separates the couple from their nearest fellow homeowners in the Reserve, an 1,100-acre community with only 57 home sites, just a few miles from North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest.
"It's almost like you're camping," said Mr. Hendrix, 55, a financial adviser who spent over $1.09 million to build a 4,000-square-foot, board-and-batten home on 15½ acres there in 2003. He can hike old logging trails and grow ginseng in his woods, yet still be at his office in downtown Brevard in seven minutes.
For some homeowners, the ideal gated community isn't one with loads of country-club amenities. It is one where the prime amenity is the land itself, with large lots, privacy and great views that don't include the neighbors. In regions that lack zoning laws, proponents of such communities say that they can help insulate affluent homeowners, and their property values, from hodgepodge rural development.
Ty Hendrix fishes in front of his house. He and his wife live in the Reserve, a community a few miles from North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest.Photo: Mike Belleme for The Wall Street Journal
Ty and Kady Hendrix's home. Although a half-mile separates the couple from their nearest neighbors, Mr. Hendrix said he can be in his office in Brevard in seven minutes.Photo: Mike Belleme for The Wall Street Journal
"There are lots of people who are looking for a golf-course development without the golf course," said Randall Adrendt, a conservation planner who works with developers and municipalities. "You can lure them with open space, woodlands, meadows and home sites that back up to wetlands so they can hear the peepers."
A sense of privacy is key: A survey of home shoppers released last week by Taylor Morrison, a national home builder, found that the most important exterior feature of a home is its distance from neighboring houses.
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"You really choose when you interact," said Mr. Hendrix, who quite likes his far-flung neighbors and hosted most of them at a post-eclipse potluck dinner at his Adirondack-style home on Monday. "In smaller neighborhoods, you end up interacting over where people park their cars."
There are 29 owners in the Reserve, many of whom own multiple parcels that range in size from 10 acres to 44.6 acres. Annual fees—$1,200 to $2,400—support the maintenance of over 5 miles of private roads, the security gates and cameras. To preserve the woodsy cachet, an architectural review board enforces guidelines on everything from window styles to building materials—bark shingles, cedar and stone are preferred.