Lifestyle resort or rort?

Imagine that you've landed yourself a $1 million home overlooking a river, with onsite facilities like boat storage, an indoor swimming pool, library and cinema.

Sounds great right?

But there's a catch.

You don't own the land so you have to pay rent for the site your house is on and the facilities available to you. You are living in what is legally called a residential (land lease) community.

Homes in these communities vary greatly in type and style. Traditionally homes were caravans, often with annexes added to extend the living space.

Many of these homes have gradually been replaced by manufactured homes, which are larger and contain fully equipped kitchens, bathrooms and laundries.

Whilst $1 million is at the extreme end of the scale, homes in land lease communities are now regularly being sold for $300,000 or more.

Many of these places are not explicitly being marketed as land lease communities, but instead as being part of over 50's lifestyle villages.

In the past, long term residents, in what were once called caravan or residential parks and are now called land lease communities, tended to be people living on very low incomes and itinerant workers. However, old land lease communities are being redeveloped and new ones are being built to fit expensive tastes. Nearly all new developments are out of these traditional residents' price range.

Whilst parks were traditionally family owned businesses, they are becoming big business. Large companies increasingly own multiple luxury parks. The upsurge in developers' interest in land lease communities is in part a result of the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 that aimed to 'encourage the continued growth and viability of residential communities'.

These luxury land lease communities present a new area of insecurity for residents both old and new.

People in older parks are more likely to be targeted by developers. As they don't own the land, the land can literally be sold from underneath their homes.

Whilst those who can afford to buy into these luxury 'lifestyle villages' may not be aware that it's not the same as just buying a house. A quick look at the promotional material for these villages shows that it is often not clear that despite the high cost of homes, residents will still be paying rent on the land.

It just goes to show what slick marketing can do.