A Gated Community for a Home on Wheels
June 28, 2018
The New York Times
Margie and John Stites were picking out tile, carpet and hardware finishes for a new 3,000-square-foot home here three years ago when Ms. Stites came to a startling realization.
“We’d already put a $17,000 deposit down, but I didn’t want to have another house again,” said Ms. Stites, a 56-year-old freelance writer. “I cried for three days, it was so hard. But I realized I didn’t want to leave where we were. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. For us, it was perfect.”
When the couple and their three dogs rolled a 41-foot Monaco Knight motor home into the Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort, it was supposed to be a temporary stay while their dream house was completed. But the resort became their permanent place when the couple found something unexpected: an enclave with all the amenities of high-end gated suburban communities, without the upkeep and bother of a traditional piece of property.
The resort has a terra-cotta-roofed clubhouse, five pools, two hot tubs, a fitness center, tennis courts, twice-weekly water aerobics classes and a nine-hole putting course — all at the center of a maze of 407 lots where owners and renters park R.V.s that can cost more than $2 million.
Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort is one of just 23 R.V. parks that exclusively admit Class A motor homes, according to the National Association of R.V. Parks and Campgrounds. Class A R.V.s are the most luxurious breed, tricked out with full kitchens, bedrooms, TVs, leather sofas and swiveling recliners.
Much to the surprise of many friends and members of their family, the Stiteses canceled the house and instead bought a 35-by-80-foot lot for $95,000, or about $34 per square foot, in early 2016. They added an outdoor barbecue and bar, an expansive roofed living space and a large storage cabinet that also houses a washer and dryer. Such improvements can increase the resale value; one oversize corner site sold recently for $349,950.
“I can’t tell you how many people have come to town to visit us and we bring them on property and they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, I would never leave,’” Ms. Stites said. “They say to us, ‘I had no idea you were living like this.’”
Class A-exclusive resorts are mainly clustered in sunny locales, including eight in Florida, four in California and two in North Carolina. Usually, they’re found in wide-open spaces. This one, occupying 41 acres about two miles from the Las Vegas Strip, is much closer to the bright city lights.
The city’s heavy, constant tourist flow makes it ideal for owners who want to rent out their pads when they travel, said Eugene McCord, the president of the homeowners’ association board at the resort. Entertainers often send their tour buses and drivers to idle here while the headliners live it up in Strip suites, he said, and the demand for pads is expected to skyrocket in 2020, when the National Football League’s Raiders begin playing in a stadium now under construction four miles away.
Sales of Class A motor coaches, and in the whole R.V. industry, have boomed this decade, owing largely to both the rising number of retirees in the United States and the increasingly relaxed view employers have of telecommuting. Vast improvements in mobile technology have made it possible for younger adults to pursue careers and a vagabond existence at the same time.
Nearly 540,000 R.V.s are expected to be sold this year, a 7 percent increase from 2017, according to data provided by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. While much of that increase is being driven by sales of less-expensive Class C motor homes — which are typically about 10 feet shorter and can’t be widened when parked to provide more living space — deliveries of Class A coaches are projected to rise 3.2 percent, to more than 24,000 this year.
Exclusivity has its perks. Refuges like the Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort offer owners a superior experience to go along with their fancier vehicles. The rules are strict: Renters’ coaches are carefully inspected before they are allowed through the gates.
“Essentially what those resorts are typically trying to do is create a look and feel,” said Kevin Broom, the director of media relations for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. “It’s supposed to create a more luxurious style and luxurious place.”
Mr. McCord, who sells systems software for a Houston-based firm, and his husband, Don Baca, an executive with AT&T, sold their 4,400-square-foot home in Reno, Nev., with its four-car garage in 2012 to live in the motor coach full time.
“You quit shopping for furniture,” Mr. McCord said. “You buy food in reasonable amounts. And everyone has an interesting background because something triggers their ability to want to be adventurous, live this life, be nomadic, be social.”
David and Kathy Dewez, formerly of Glens Falls, N.Y., bought their lot here early last year, shortly after selling their insurance brokerage firm. To persuade his wife, Mr. Dewez, 65, upgraded from a 36-footer to a 44-foot Dutch Star, a customized vehicle with two bathrooms, full-size closets, a double sink, and a washer and dryer. It cost $485,000, they said.
“We had a large private yard that backed up to woods, and I miss that, but I do not miss the big house, all the bedrooms, the stairs and the maintenance,” said Mrs. Dewez, 63, who along with her husband was spending the summer driving to see the couple’s children in California, New York and Ohio. “This can be cleaned in 30 minutes. And when we found this community, it made the whole full-time thing much more palatable.”
Many owners here also have traditional homes, or travel and rent their pads for much of the year. Donald G. Jones, who built his fortune in radio and cable networks in the Midwest, sold his homes in Wisconsin and his condo in Scottsdale, Ariz., to spend much of the year visiting his eight children and 12 grandchildren around the country.
“We have a high-rise condo in central Mexico, but we have no home in the U.S.,” Mr. Jones said, on a leather couch in a 45-foot Newell motor home he owns with his wife, Nieves, who was born in Mexico. “I love to say that. I’m free of the burden. And I’ll tell you something else we don’t have — and it’s just wonderful — you don’t have a mailbox.”
But what the residents here do have is a haven, offering the same kinds of luxuries and standards they would hope to find in an upscale community while letting them maintain the freedom of movement they hold dear.
Ms. Stites said that created an exclusive environment for residents when they returned home, driving their homes.
“The only way I would be able to do what I do is because of this kind of community,” she said.