On CandysDirt,  I told you about Al and Erin Hill, that’s Al Three, who recently moved their family to Atlanta. They bought a $9 million dollar estate in swanky Buckhead (think Highland Park on Strait Lane in Dallas), closed on it in July. Last spring, the couple had some legal problems involving a $200,000 HELOC — home equity — loan on their Highland Park home. A Dallas grand jury made some serious charges: three counts of making a false statement to obtain property or credit and one count of securing execution of a document by deception against the 40-year-old Hunt oil heir. Erin Hill, age 38, was charged with two counts of making a false statement and one of securing execution of a document by deception. The indictments centered on $200,000 (really, a drop in the bucket) from OmniAmerican Bank taken out in 2009 when they claimed to be sole owners of their $1.9 million Highland Park home: majority interest in the Highland Park home is owned by the Albert Hill Trust, the young couple only owns about 20%. There were some charges too about false statements and “securing execution of a document by deception.”  At the time, Al Three did not have legal representation.

Here’s what my sources tell me: Al Three recently fought to change the trustee of his trust, and he likely convinced the trustee to buy the $9 million Atlanta estate on his behalf. (Taxes on that spread are a mere $50,000 a year — what is Georgia doing right about real estate taxes that Texas is doing wrong?) Sources tell me his legal fees in Dallas have eclipsed $70mm, and certain very generous Dallas friends are chipping in to cover those.

4433 Bordeaux, Dallas

This is a very sad story for the family, and I hate to even have to report it. (If I don’t, someone else will.) My heart goes out to them and I truly hope they can find peace with each other someday — life is really too short. Careful readers will recall when I told you the Hills dismissed their Dallas household staff in July, paid them in full, and handed out letters of recommendation. Some of the staff has complained that when prospective employers contacted the Hills for references, as promised, they got nada. Seems like they are really trying to cut all ties with Dallas.

Now I wonder if the next purchase is a second home down in Destin?

Ritz Carlton Residences in Vail, CO

Ritz Carlton Residences in Vail, CO

Here’s the deal. The economy is not cooperating, but we still want to enjoy life. I know so many families who want a second home to “create family memories.” Most families, like mine, are spread out all over tarnation. A second home is a great way for everyone to combine a vacation with a family visit. Our family did this for years at Drake’s Island, Maine, and we are trying to do it for our kids with a shared-ownership ranch in the Hill Country. As hard hit as the second home market is right now, buying and maintaining a home outright is still costly. According to the Wall Street Journal, sales are really soft in the Hamptons, which Wall Street usually flushes with money. And no one in their right mind thinks they’ll be flipping it for a profit.

That’s why the new buzz word in vacation home ownership is the Shared Amenities Club, or just The Private Club. (Or, hell, just The Club.) Yes, in the boom this kind of vaca home ownership was the outcast stepsister to full vacation home ownership. Well, those who did the nose-wrinkling are probably underwater on their loans. Someone stopped and asked me about this concept in the locker room the other day, of all places. The couple wants a vacation home but they know they won’t be able to use it year ’round. After all, who gets more than 4 weeks of vacation a year, if that? They don’t want to mess with maintenance or leasing to cash-flow a mortgage. And in this economic climate, they certainly don’t want to take out a home equity loan to finance a second home like so many did a few years ago.

Then I spoke to Wade Shealy, Founder and CEO of 3RD HOME. He mentioned he had just returned from a place in Napa Valley called Calistoga Ranch. How much, says I? Less than $500K, said Wade.

I was all ears and sharpening my pencil.

“Of all the places in the world that I have traveled, none have been as luxurious and service oriented as Calistoga Ranch, which is managed by Mark Harmon’s Auberge,” said Wade.

That’s Auberge as in Auberge Du Soleil, one of the world’s top resort management companies. I happened to have stayed at Auberge Du Soleil back in the nineties on a trip to San Francisco with my husband: most luxurious resort ever. EVER. He had to peel me out of there.

Calistoga Ranch is a private club of select members who join for a fraction of what it would cost to purchase a home there, in too-good-to-be true Napa, under full ownership. As a club member you get use of the club and also have the rights to exchange some of your time at Calistoga Ranch for other luxury homes around the world by their association with 3RD HOME.

Those clubs would be The Palms in Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica (which you will be hearing about more here on this blog) and The Reefs Club in Bermuda, which is selling out like gangbusters. Get this: The Reefs sold out 40 memberships in two weeks. This is luxury oceanfront vacation home living plus island fun. Owners get a 1/10th deeded interest in one of 19 two-or-three-bedroom luxuriously appointed residences.  Prices start at $179,500 USD for a two-bedroom and $229,000 USD for a three-bedroom ownership, and will be increasing on July 1st.  The Reefs Club marries all of the advantages of true Private Residence Club ownership— deeded ownership, unlimited vacations, shared maintenance costs and ownership transfer or sale. Located on a limestone bluff overlooking a secluded pink sand beach, The Club’s residences feature spacious interiors with retractable floor-to-ceiling glass doors, a private terrace with whirlpool spa, a gourmet kitchen, two master suites, unobstructed ocean views and the relaxed luxury of classic Bermudian design.  I am sooo there for less than $300,000.

If Bermuda is not your cup of British tea, try Lake Tahoe or Auberge Private Residences Esperanza in Cabo san Lucas. As a member/owner of these clubs you have the option of using your club or selecting from a host of other properties in the 3RD HOME collection that also includes the Ritz Carlton Residences in Vail, and former President Gerald Ford’s home in Beaver Creek. (I think I wrote about this home for AOL!) Or go abroad to a hillside home in Italy, or a 43,000 sq foot beach home with a staff of 10 — now that’s luxury. The homes are all a part of the 3RD HOME collection.

So I am investigating this concept because honestly, it’s the best deal I’ve heard about yet. There are simply too many properties out there to buy in one Club and have to stay put. And I would think smart developers would be creating similar concepts. It’s a vacation home buyer’s market. Why settle for one when you can have multiple?

Calistoga Ranch Residence

Calistoga Ranch Residence

The benefits of joining 3RD HOME don’t stop there. Readers of Secondshelters.com now have the opportunity to join for free, compliments of Candy Evans! Click any of the hyperlinks within the blog text, or go to http://www.secondshelters.3rdhome.com.