An air of exclusivity often exists around gated communities, as well as mystery of what lies beyond their large front signs and gate guardhouses. While you're house-hunting, keeping in mind the key advantages of living in a gated community will help you determine if life behind the gates is worth it.
If feeling secure in your neighborhood matters the most to you, being surrounded by gates might be a priority. However, not all gated communities have the same features -- and crime statistics vary by region. A gate can be worthless if it's left open most of the time without security personnel at a guard shack. Look for neighborhoods that have reputable security companies with personnel working the front gate, enforcing guest sign in/out procedures, as well as resident notification of visitors. You'll want friendly but firm personnel who will usher in your guests as quickly as possible but with proper security clearance.
If you're physically active or like to entertain guests, life in a gated community might be the choice for you. Gated communities can feature golf courses or tennis courts, including coordinated sports activities such as lessons, arranged play and tournaments, as well as pools, clubhouses, exclusive use of lakes and yacht docks, and neighborhood parties.
You might be able to save a considerable amount on your energy bill if you can find a gated community that integrates natural sources of energy -- such as solar, wind or water -- into housing architectural design. There are green gated communities where the focus is on designing homes for energy efficiency, utilizing advanced building science with eco-friendly materials to promote water conservation, indoor air quality -- and just healthier living in general.
Although the perception exists that gated communities are expensive, they actually come in many price brackets and housing styles. You don't have to be super-rich to reap the benefits of a gated neighborhood. There are less-expensive, "starter" gated communities that might just fit the bill.
Anna Windermere started her writing and editing career in 1993, upon graduating from the University of Florida's esteemed journalism school with a bachelor's in journalism. Ms. Windermere, a senior-level copy editor, has appeared in mastheads of newspapers and magazines as copy chief, writer and proofreader, including "Sun-Sentinel," "Miami Herald," "City Link," "New Times," "NewBeauty," "Luxe," "Florida Alligator," "Orange & Blue," and more.