“One of the biggest reasons families like golf communities is the acres and acres of vast outdoor space they can enjoy,” Mr. Damianos said. “A setting with too many buildings and not enough of a natural landscape is not what I would recommend for a family.”
Know the rules and restrictions of the homeowners’ association.
Any community home buyer — whether the purchase is in a golf development or not — is beholden to the rules and restrictions of its homeowners’ association, some of which may not be ideal for families. The association could prohibit basketball hoops on driveways, for instance, or not allow volleyball and badminton nets or swing sets on lawns. Bake sales and lemonade stands may also be off limits, in addition to solicitation. That means that children cannot knock on doors to sell products for their after-school clubs or charities.
Find out about the security and safety.
Ms. MacDonald said that safety was paramount in any family-friendly development. In addition to a security gate where visitors have their identity verified and receive a pass to enter, the community should have security guards who regularly patrol the public spaces. You can find out about security protocols at the sales office or the homeowners’ association.
Lifeguards at the pool and beach are another essential part of safety. Some high-end communities, Mr. Damianos said, have minders at playgrounds who watch young children for short periods of time, such as while their parents are finishing a meal.
Who lives in the community, and what are the employees like?
Buyers should take into account a community’s demographics. “You want to know who lives there and what kind of attitude they have toward kids and families,” Mr. Brown said. Ask a local real estate broker who is familiar with your community as well as board members of the homeowners’ association, the membership director for golf and other activity programs, and the social coordinator.
Ms. MacDonald said a development’s staff was also important to making a buying decision. Research how long they’ve been there. In communities with a close-knit culture, the employees are often longtime staffe members and have friendly relationships with residents.
She suggested staying for a night or a weekend in your prospective community (many offer short-term paid stays for interested buyers) to get a feel for who the employees and residents are.