It took me quite awhile to get yesterday's Journal entry done with all the pictures.
By the time I had finished, Linda was ready to make a grocery run and stop by the bead store. And Don had called saying he and Steve were playing golf around 10:30.
So Linda took the Jeep shopping, and I took the truck to the golf course. Turquoise Hills is 1.2 miles from our site.
The three of us didn't play very well, and Don said I wasn't allowed to talk about it in the Journal. :)
So I'll just post pictures of the course instead.
This is the second hole, one of four par fours.
There are some hills on the course, but I don't know about calling them "turquoise". :)
From those hills are views of mountains in all directions.
This is a shot of the triple green - one huge green that has three holes.
On the back nine, since our own scores were nothing to brag about, we played a three-man scramble. We are playing in a charity scramble on December 20, so we thought we'd practice as a team.
Here's one last picture before we completed the round.
It doesn't take very long to play a round on this little course. So we finished about the right time to have lunch in the clubhouse.
We hung around in the bar until about 4:00 and then headed home. No worries, I just had a bottomless lemonade. :)
I knew Linda was at her 1:00 to 4:00 beading session, and I figured she would still be at the clubhouse for social hour at 4:00. I was right. :)
Social hour consists of whoever wants to show up. You bring your own drinks and snacks, community snacks if you like. The snacks get passed up and down the table like a buffet that comes to you. :)
About 4:30, a designated party gets up and makes announcements about the park and upcoming events. It's also the time new people in the park are introduced. You give your name, where you are from, your SKP membership number, what lot you are on, how long you will be in the park, and anything else you want to say.
After social hour, Linda had planned to make tacos for dinner. But several folks were going back over to Turquoise Hills, so we tagged along.
You see, Turquoise Hills has weekday specials that are hard to pass up. Monday night is 25-cent wing night. Tuesday is $6 rib night. Wednesday is $2 hamburger night. And Thursday is $1 taco night. And though I don't drink beer, they have $1 beer as well.
On wing night, they offer wings in about eight different styles. We had 10 teriyaki wings (nice meaty ones), and I had another lemonade while Linda had a big strawberry margarita. Total cost: $7.68. :)
Tomorrow night we're hoping to hook up with Don & Deb to check out the ribs.
After dinner, we returned to the park and went straight to the clubhouse for the 6:30 card game they call "Shoot".
If you are familiar with the game Euchre, it's sort of Euchre on steroids. Rather than the usual four person game, this one can be played with six or eight people and two decks are used. There are some additional rules and options that were confusing at first, but we picked it up fairly quickly.
We both liked it. There is a little more strategy than straight Euchre.
We had two tables of six. Every other person is on the same team. After each game the losers switch tables, so you get to play with everyone.
They told us they usually play until "RV Midnight" - yep, 9:00. :)
And that was pretty much our day. Now for a more detailed discussion of SKP Co-Ops.
Some folks are curious about more of the inner workings of an SKP Co-Op. They are all independently owned and operated and they each run things differently, but I think there are enough general similarities for a discussion here.
The Co-Ops do have an underlying legal entity which is usually a non-profit corporation. The "shareholders" or "owners" are the members of the Co-Op. There are no outside financial interests or investors.
Each Co-Op has a Board of Directors, several formal committees, and several informal committees or teams to handle all the operating aspects of the park. There are By-Laws that set forth the rules, the enforcement of those rules, and the penalites for rules violations including the process for terminating membership for "cause". It's the self-management of the Co-Op and rules enforcement that keeps each lot looking nice.
Also, one of the main provisions in the By-Laws requires each member to take an active role in the operation of the park. Of course that is tough to enforce, but most members take that responsibility seriously. Almost everything is done voluntarily (without pay) by the members. Here at SKP Saguaro they have only two full-time, paid employees and a workamper for a park with well over 300 lots.
As I've mentioned before, you do not purchase a lot, you purchase a "membership" in the Co-Op which gives you the right to use a specified lot for your lifetime. The members are referred to as "leaseholders", but I'm not sure if there is actually a legal "lease" of property or not. I'll verify that and update.
It's somewhat confusing because each member may pay a completely different amount to become a member.
I'll use SKP Saguaro as an example. Here, every lot has a base "membership fee" of $8,052 currently (each Co-Op has a different base). However, to become a member, you have to purchase a membership that becomes available and those memberships exceed the $8,052. By how much depends on the improvements on the lot that becomes available and the assessments paid over time.
In addition to the upfront membership purchase, there are annual maintenance and operations (M & O) "dues" used for the operation and upkeep of the park (usually including utilities, but that may vary by Co-Op). The dues or fees are the same for everyone. They are not considered part of the member's investment. Each park's dues/fees are different and subject to increase with rising costs, but in the two Co-Ops we've visited, they have been less than $1,000 per year.
A portion of the lot rentals to traveling Escapee members also goes into the general operating fund. And certain committees or groups also do fundraising for specific projects.
There are also "assessments" shared equally by all members. The assessments would ordinarily be for capital improvements (new buildings, new infrastructure, etc.) to the park. Such assessments would be approved by the Board. Assessment payments are considered part of the member's investment and increase the "lot value".
In addition, improvements directly to the lot increase the lot value. The improvements must be done in accordance with the By-Laws of the Co-Op and may even require Co-Op Board or Committee approval and perhaps even city permits. Some improvement costs may not be added to the lot value so it's wise to make sure what is and is not a value-added improvement. One must provide receipts to prove the improvement costs.
So, for established Co-Ops, most of which have long waiting lists to get in, the cost of membership is whatever it costs to get a lot that happens to become available. And that cost will be the base, plus assessments over time, plus the documented improvements. It could vary by several thousand dollars. I think the range here is probably from about $9,000 for a lot with no improvements to around $40,000 for ones with the really fancy casitas.
The person giving up their membership/lot will recoup their original purchase price plus their assessment payments plus the cost of any documented improvement costs. They don't get the benefit of appreciation, and the money they get back will be worth less due to inflation, so it certainly isn't a financial investment for monetary growth. But getting back dollar for dollar isn't so bad these days. :)
All Co-Op members tell you to buy the first "lot" that becomes available to you. Subsequently available lots are first offered to current members before they are offered to new members, so the best chance to get the lot you want is after you are already a member. Most of the people we have talked to have moved lots two or three times to get the location or lot amenities they want.
There is no question that SKP Co-Op living is a heck of a deal financially. The financial benefits are due to a well established program and the heavy involvement of the members. Members have numerous skills, they keep operating salaries low, and they don't have to hire as much outside help for projects.
An involved community makes for an excellent place to live and provides lots of activities. But they only work with active volunteerism. If everyone just got in for the low-cost living and did nothing, the costs would rise quickly and the quality of life would fade. So it's important that members have a desire to be part of an active, enthusiastic community and offer their skills for the benefit of everyone.
As for things like holidays, yes, family, grandkids, etc. are welcome. Actually, they are welcome pretty much any time as long as the member is present at the park. Again each Co-Op may have different rules.
On turkey day, at least here, the community kitchen has a number of roasting pans that are checked out by members so numerous turkeys can be cooked in their RVs. It's all very well coordinated by whatever committee is in charge.
So that's my summary of SKP Co-Ops. We have folks here at SKP Saguaro that are willing to provide their email addresses for more specific questions. I'm sure there are details they can provide as members that I can't.
My opinion is an SKP Co-Op is an ideal retirement option. Due to the need for members to be involved (especially in peak seasons), it's probably best for those that don't travel as often anymore or for those that enjoy staying in the same place at least on a seasonal basis.
Of course, it's also simply a cheap way to live. It seems like a pretty good back-up plan if we would have to stop traveling for a period of time (or even for good) due to financial issues. We could get local jobs, but not have to have careers since we could park and enjoy all the amenities and activites for somewhere between $500 and $1,500 a year. Imagine having a place to live for life that costs $10,000 - $20,000 up front plus about $100 a month. :)
When we stayed at our first Co-Op, SKP Resort in Florida, we felt it was a no-brainer to put up a $25 application fee to get on the waiting list. They since have required a $500 good faith deposit to get on or remain on the list. We weren't enamored with that park, so we declined and were removed from that list.
But check out the About Us page for Florida SKP Resort which has downloadable PDF documents such as By-Laws, Rules, and the Waiting List that you can review to get an idea of the oversight of a Co-Op. Remember, that's just an example of one Co-Op. :)
Each individual will like different aspects of the SKP Co-Ops. We like Saguaro and will likely get on the list here and put up the $500 refundable deposit. It will take a few years for us to get a lot. In the meantime, we can check out other Co-Ops to see if we like those better or we can decide if something else is better for us. Lots of things can change.
At all the other Co-Ops, your name has to rise to the top of the waiting list to get an available lot. Here at Saguaro, they do it differently. With their Saturday call-in program (see How To Become A Leaseholder), you just have to be the lowest number on the waiting list that calls in looking for a lot. I think it was number 62 that just picked up the most recent lot available.
That system works for a couple of reasons. Those that are ready for a lot don't have to wait to get all the way to the top. Those that are at the top of the list but aren't yet ready to buy a membership don't have to commit until they are ready.
Okay. Now I'm really done with that discussion. I'm sure there are better, cheaper, more financially sound options out there. But from what we've seen, the costs and quality of life in an SKP Co-Op sure seem hard to beat. :)