A private polo field? A place where pet ostriches and llamas roam? To most, they sound like the trappings of a king. But to members of the most exclusive gated communities, deluxe perks like these are becoming standard. “Buyers are not only buying a home, they’re buying a lifestyle,” said Dana Olmes, an agent with Ewing and Associates Sotheby’s International Realty in California.
These days, the well-heeled and the well-known are flocking to gated communities. Justin Bieber has reportedly bought into one, pictured here, and so has Jennifer Lopez. And while most of the posh hamlets listed here come with extravagant prices, some were singled out for their highly sought-after locations, amenities or limited number of estates. But all the properties here are exclusive in some way, and offer what Jeffery Biebuyck, an estate agent with Ewing and Associates, calls the three P’s: privacy, protection and prestige.
Most communities today are located in the Sunbelt region in the South and West, where there is more land for development, according to Setha M. Low, author of “Behind the Gates: Life, Security and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America” and a professor at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. But gated communities have also grown in urban areas and among income groups other than the super-wealthy. And their overall growth shows no sign of slowing down. According to the American Housing Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people living in gated communities rose to almost 11 million households in 2009, up from slightly more than 7 million in 2001, though the numbers may actually be significantly higher, Low said.