Living out of a recreational vehicle is no longer synonymous with vacation travel. Community-owned luxury motor coach resorts across the country are showing flexible homebuyers how to think outside the RV.
One such resort on the southwest side of Las Vegas has elevated the lifestyle to a fine art, with amenities like a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse, a fitness center, a 24-hour guard gate and concierge services. At the Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort, buyers can buy a docking station for their tricked-out vehicle if it’s a Class A type, newer than 10 years.
Just a couple miles west of the Strip, the resort is one of approximately 22 in the country restricted to Class A motor coaches, which are typically the size of tour buses, and exclude campers or “fifth wheel” type of vehicles. It’s the only one in Nevada.
The 41-acre property has 407 homesites, 44 of which are for sale, from $128,500 to $435,000. A standard site is 35-feet-by-80-feet, or 0.06 acre. Premium lots vary in size, up to 0.09 acre. Corner and pie-shaped lots fall into this group. Their slightly larger sizes allow owners to expand their space by erecting exterior structures such as outdoor kitchens, bars, storage and laundry rooms.
The property has a homeowners association that limits how owners can alter the space. “It’s under very strict restrictions. As long as it’s within those, the county and the HOA will approve it,” said Jessica Smukal, community manager. Casitas are not allowed, nor any enclosed living spaces, which would not fall within the community’s legal definition and alter its tax rate.
Despite the restrictions, owners manage to put their own touches on the spaces. Many have installed landscape borders for privacy and shade. Some have created Tiki-style party spaces. One owner turned his lot into a safari park, with the installation of life-sized faux jungle animals.
The past two years have seen record-setting sales, reported Realtor Jim Dahl, who manages the resort’s on-site sales office. In 2018, they had 120 sales, “which was by far a record for the 18-year history of the resort. The previous record was the year before, in which we did 65 (sales).”
One double lot sold for $580,000, and a single lot sold for $600,000, both in 2018. He estimates the value of the lots has increased 22 percent in the past 12 months.
There are only two ways to buy a site: Pay in cash or through seller financing. Dahl said 60 to 70 percent are bought by cash buyers.
“You can’t do a traditional mortgage with these because they’re classified as vacant land, even though it is deeded property just like buying a house, you have an address and pay property taxes.”
Unlike regular home purchases, there is no interest deduction for this type, he added.
The age range of buyers is broad, Dahl said. “We have a lot of retirees, but we also have some younger professionals who work out of their motor coach who might be in the IT business or something like that.”
Although it’s not age-restricted, the only children he notices are visiting with their parents and not living there full time, he said.
Many owners also keep a home in another state, like Kristie and Philip Allarid, who rent out their Santa Fe, New Mexico, home when they travel to Las Vegas. Both work from their coach. He is custom homebuilder, and she is a property manager. They came here on vacation two years ago and ended up moving in.
”We didn’t even have a coach yet,” Philip Allarid said. “I said to Kristie, ‘Humor me and let’s go take a look at this place.’ So we looked at it, and she loved it and I loved it.”
So, they divested themselves of most of their possessions, “minimizing all the stuff we’d accumulated over the years.”
They refer to this as their “starter coach” because they didn’t know much about them when they bought it. He replaced the flooring, a wood-look vinyl, and upgraded the bathroom fixtures.
They flipped their first lot and purchased a second. They say it’s such an unusual community and attracts a cross section of residents, like their neighbor with a double-sized lot, who drove up in a new Lamborghini sports utility vehicle.
“The most outrageous, expensive vehicle,” Philip Allarid said.
Robin Rausch and her husband, Bill, a commercial pilot, live in a 42-foot coach. They also have a home in Park City, Utah. They rented for several years before buying a spot in 2015.
”The association is in such great shape, we decided to buy,” Robin Rausch said. They are living in their second lot, a shady corner one that gives their dogs more play space. The value of the first lot “almost doubled” by the time they sold it, she said. They bought their current lot from a bank. “A very odd situation, here. Now, it is worth two and a half times what I paid for it.”
Other owners live full time in their coach. But the HOA requires them to move it off the resort at least every 180 days, lest it appear to be a regular home when technically the sites are classified as vacant land.
When away, owners are free to rent out their spaces through the on-site rental office. They rent for between $90 to $110 per night and are available by the night, week or month.
Margie Stites was a renter in the community while waiting for her new house in Centennial Hills to be built. After experiencing all the resort had to offer, she canceled the contract on the house and bought a lot in 2016. She serves as the community’s marketing director and is active with her neighbors in planning the many social activities they share, including monthly dances, themed parties and game nights. The community hosts a homecoming party every October.
“People just show up in their golf carts. They don’t have to worry about driving.”
The events are open to renters, too, Stites said. “Once they see our hospitality and how much fun we have — I really think we’ve sold some lots from just inviting guests to our parties.”
All of the owners Real Estate Millions interviewed sang the praises of the resort. They pay a $395 monthly HOA fee, which covers use of the fitness center, showers and laundry rooms; a community kitchen, should they decide to fix Thanksgiving dinner; a nine-hole, lighted putting course, four pools, two spas, tennis and pickleball courts, and a lounge with a Strip view from its balcony. There are full-time maintenance workers, concierges and a diner serving breakfast and lunch.
But the real value of the community seems to be in the friendships forged among its residents.
“This place is like a think tank,” said Charles Brooks, a retired funeral director from Alaska.
Brooks said owners tap their collective wealth of knowledge, pulling together to solve any problem. “They’ll bend over backward to help ya.”
“Everyone is so nice,” added his wife, Elizabeth.
“The people here are incredibly friendly and genuine and very social. I always get very positive feedback. It’s not like they ever have regrets about the purchase,” said Realtor Natalie Bartels, who works for the on-site sales office. “It’s such a sense of community in here. You don’t find that in local neighborhoods in the valley, but here, I think it’s because they embrace the coaching lifestyle, that they’re very friendly.”
With all the advantages of living in a community like this, it’s no wonder so many residents have put traditional property ownership in their rearview mirror.