Alternatives to the Family Cabin

Twenty-four-hour concierge service, groceries delivered on arrival and access to world-class golf are just some of the perks of buying into a residence club, fractional resort real estate or equity resort ownership—all different names for the same thing: sharing ownership on a deeded piece, of a portion of a property. As reported by the luxury purchasing advice website, fractional real estate developers have set their sights on the aging affluent (high-liquid-assets) boomer with the desire for a luxurious second home but perhaps without time or inclination to use it every weekend.  The developers just need to figure out how to brand the concept. “Most potential second home buyers don’t even know this option exists,” says Halogen Guides cofounder and chief analyst Jamie Cheng, but “we believe more and more people will consider purchasing a fractional residence when considering a second home.”

Is it comparable to a real estate investment? Not really: “You should only purchase your fractional or destination club membership for personal use,” says Cheng, “without any expectation of rental returns, appreciation or other financial benefits. An exception is the very few destination clubs that are sold as investments and registered or exempt from registration under federal and state securities laws.”

Why not just stay in a nice hotel? “ Bottom line: these properties and memberships deliver the service you want at the place you want,” he says. “While staying at a hotel is nice, their staff usually doesn’t buy your groceries, get your opera tickets… This concept is all about minimizing the hassle and offering service.” Here are perspectives from four Marin families who’ve created their own alternative second home experiences.




PGA West

“We are at the stage in life where we have more leisure time to travel and pursue our personal interests and passions. Being avid golfers, we knew we wanted to find a place where we could enjoy golf year-round and were considering purchasing a second home. The Residence Club at PGA West made sense to us from the moment we walked into the model. After looking at homes in the area, we really couldn’t justify the high real estate prices and costs associated with home ownership for a home we would only use a couple months a year. We also didn’t want the responsibility of maintenance and the other burdens of property ownership.

We feel that owning at Residence Club gives us complete flexibility with our vacation time while removing all of the responsibilities associated with vacation home ownership. We also have access to many other amenities and activities at La Quinta Resort and PGA West, which makes owning a home at Residence Club a complete lifestyle experience.

Given the accommodating and gracious staff, many added amenities and services, and a significant reduction of the financial burden through shared ownership, we can’t think of a better way to truly be both at home and on vacation at the same time.”

            —Marty and Debra O’Donohue, Mill Valley

Location: About eight hours’ drive from Marin, two hours from Los Angeles, and 20 minutes from the Palm Springs airport, the Residence Club at PGA West is at the entry to the famed golf community of PGA West, nestled at the base of Southern California’s Santa Rosa Mountains.
Basics: Ownership includes privileges at PGA West and La Quinta Resort & Club as well as preferential tee times and pricing on five nearby championship courses. The central clubhouse includes lap pool, fitness center and gracious meeting spaces overlooking one of the three private putting greens.
Details: Thirty-two three-bedroom (dual master suites and a casita suite) 1/9 shares. Each owner begins the year with four scheduled weeks and uses as much additional time as available and desired. $299,000 including $1,070 in annual maintenance fees. 888.650.9200,



Squaw Creek

“We love the exclusiveness of the resort. It’s elegant but not pretentious and it’s refined without being snobby. The views are spectacular from our lovely three-bedroom condo and it’s well- appointed, with beautiful furniture and great beds. We love the convenience of ski-in/ski-out and we love the pool. I look forward to not cooking and enjoying delicious meals at Six Peaks or through room service. And after a day of hiking, it’s heavenly to get a massage or a pedicure at the spa. When we’re not using the condo, it’s in the rental pool and we’ve been pleased with the program. We’re very happy with our second home!”
            —Denise and Ed Miller, Kentfield

Location: Resort at Squaw Creek is at the base of Squaw Valley USA, five miles from the shores of Lake Tahoe, with an on-property chairlift serving Squaw Valley’s 4,000 acres of terrain.
Basics: Resort at Squaw Creek has an Audubon certified championship golf course, the finest year-round pool complex of any U.S. mountain destination, tennis, mountain biking, guided hikes, a fly-fishing center (with stocked ponds), an ice rink, complete Nordic center, on-property dog sledding, ski-in/out access to Squaw Valley USA, a full-service spa, Mountain Buddies children’s program, an arcade, and on-premises family movies during holiday and peak times.
Details: The resort offers full ownership only with 238 suites, varying from studios to three-bedrooms and penthouses. $299,000 to $3,000,000. Average annual maintenance fee is $21,000, which includes taxes and maintenance.





Calistoga Ranch

“My wife and I were looking for the perfect vacation spot with the maximum number of amenities and something that would be usable throughout the year. Calistoga Ranch turned out to be the ideal location. It offers complete privacy, spacious living quarters with daily housekeeping, delicious cuisine, exercise facilities, beautiful walking paths and wine lockers, conference rooms if needed, and many activities for those interested.

The atmosphere is laid-back (dressy attire is always optional); management and staff are very attentive and courteous. The Napa scenery is incomparable and there are all those wineries and top-flight restaurants just miles away. Need we say more?”        
            —Richard Rubin and Marcia Smolens, Strawberry

Location: Just off Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, the resort is located on a 157-acre site tucked into a private canyon with its own lake.
Basics: Owners are automatically members of the Vintner Member Program, featuring both widely recognized and smaller award- winning artisan winemakers. In addition to private tastings and dinners at Calistoga Ranch throughout the year, vintners host new-release celebrations, harvest festivals, and wine blending and pairing classes. Other amenities include the Bathhouse spa and the Lakehouse Restaurant, on property.
Details: Twenty-seven two- or three-bedroom owner lodges (46 total resort lodges), 1/10 shares at $475,000, including $12,600 annual fee. 800.411.1003,




Misión La Serena

“We’ve had time shares in Mexico before, but Misión La Serena had everything we wanted already. They furnish it beautifully and there’s a great little soaking pool. There is maid service three times a week and the management will pick you up from the airport or arrange for a car. For people considering a second home in a foreign country, we do advise considering the cost of travel, time it takes to get there, language barriers and exchange fees. For us, we love the culture, the music and the weather, and you just can’t get those here.”
            —Iga and Charles Shaffer, Mill valley

Location: A gated private residence club set in the 2,000-acre Puerto Los Cabos master-planned community near San Jose del Cabo. Twenty minutes from the airport.
Basics: Besides beachfront property with sweeping views of the Sea of Cortez, the resort includes a 400-slip marina, two golf courses, a spa, and sports club with fitness center. Homes have authentic Mexican decor, private infinity plunge pools, rooftop terraces and wireless Internet.
Details: Seventy-five two- and three-bedroom residences on eight acres, 1/8 share (six weeks); prices range from $375,00 to 435,000, including $12,000/$15,000 annual fees. 866.341.1190,


Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.