It finally happened. I was finally able to retire early and join my wife who had been enjoying the quiet life for a good year now, rubbing her every minute of the day.
It was all in good spirits, of course, but in the run-up to my own retirement, we started thinking about moving to a new area, or even a new state. There were many reasons we would consider such a move after paying for our current home and living in the area for over 40 years: to be closer to my long-time family and friends; moving to an area that is full of historic sites and museums, something we love; and just a change of scenery.
Your list of reasons to move is probably similar to mine. We looked around in the area we were thinking of moving to and discovered an option that has become extremely popular with younger retirees: the 55+ community.
There are plenty of reasons to consider a 55+ community in your retirement: great amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts, and depending on homeowners association fees, there may be little or no garden work to do. Everything is taken care of for you.
Sounds good, right? But as I’ve discovered, there are many questions that need to be answered before buying from a 55+ community, questions that you should also consider.
1. What is a 55+ community?
Before we get into the things to consider before buying from a 55+ community, it helps to know what it is.
First, pay attention to its name – 55+ community. They are no longer called “retirement communities”. As the name suggests, it is an established community of adult residents aged 55 and over. You’ll be surprised how many 55-year-olds buy from these communities.
Some of these communities strictly regulate that all residents be 55 or older while others are willing to ignore it if one spouse is 55 and the other is 54.
The number of homes and residents in a community varies, but all offer some kind of incentive to move in, such as exclusive resident amenities, tax breaks, and more.
2. What accommodation options are available?
Over 55 communities offer many different housing options. There are single-family homes on small one-quarter to half-acre lots, apartments, townhouses, and semi-detached or semi-detached homes.
Before looking at your first community, think about which option best suits your needs and preferences. Are you going to downsize and a simple apartment will suffice, or do you need the extra space that a single-family home provides?
Many homes in a 55+ community are built close together or, in the case of a townhouse or duplex, next to each other. Will you be comfortable with your neighbor’s proximity?
Think about how many pieces you need. Do you need extra space for an office or exercise room? How about when you have overnight guests? Do you want to have a yard?
When considering a community, visit their website and view floor plans and available options.
3. How much can you afford?
The biggest question you need to ask yourself is how much can you afford? Start by establishing a realistic budget.
At first glance, buying a new or newly renovated home in one of these communities seems like a good deal. You can find some really good deals on a new home, but you’ll be surprised how quickly that cost can add up when you start crunching the numbers.
During our shopping experience, we found a nice 1,400 square foot home in a reasonably priced community that we could afford. But it was to buy the house alone. There were several other costs to consider.
First, there are homeowners association fees, or HOAs, to consider. Sometimes the fees are low, sometimes they are high. When it comes to HOA fees, it’s not just the price that matters, but also what you’ll get for your money.
For example, at several places my wife and I visited, we found fairly reasonable fees ranging from $100 to $150. The area we were looking for receives a considerable amount of snow in the winter. These costs included snow removal from the roads as well as the sidewalks and driveways of the house. They also included landscaping and lawn maintenance. When you consider the golden years when doing such tasks by yourself can become impossible, it’s a very good deal.
HOA fees also include access to various amenities like tennis courts and swimming pools within the community – nice options to have. Be sure to check with the relator you are dealing with what is included in their fees and any restrictions that may apply.
Property tax is another fee you need to consider. A great site for finding tax rates across the country is the smart asset website. It’s completely free and gives a pretty accurate picture of what you can expect in any community. Just choose a state, enter some basic information like the zip code where the community is located, and the numbers appear.
Some communities and states offer tax breaks for retirees. Be sure to ask the real estate agent if the community you are interested in offers tax deductions. Often, abatements are used to help grow a community by lowering your tax rate or even delaying property taxes for a period of time. Remember that these are temporary and the full cost will eventually kick in.
And don’t forget to factor in the cost of living for the area you plan to move to. Your budget should include estimated health care, food, and energy costs as well as the mortgage and taxes you will pay on your new home.
4. Does the community fit your lifestyle?
Consider the lifestyle the community offers. Many communities offer large halls where small concerts, dances and educational classes are held.
Do a little research on community activities. Do residents organize events like hiking or biking in nearby parks? Or maybe excursions to historical sites and museums?
5. How big is the community?
Another question to ask yourself is how big of a community do you want to live in? Their size varies from extremely small – like Golden Oak Village in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania where there are only 100 homes – to the mega villages in Florida with nearly 55,000. Each has its pros and cons.
6. Are there any rules you can live with?
Naturally, more than 55 communities have rules that residents must follow. Are these rules you can live with?
Check with the liaison officer what is expected of you as a resident of the community. There may be parking rules that limit the number of cars that can be on a property, rules that dictate how you can decorate your garden or paint your house, and many more.
As mentioned earlier, some communities restrict who can live on the property. For example, some require that both occupants be over 55 years old. You can’t be 54 or younger.
Some communities may not allow children under the age of 18 to live there and some even limit visits to the community, only allowing those over the age of 18 to visit, a definite problem if you like entertaining grandchildren. children.
The main thing is to check these rules before buying!
7. Is the region suitable for you?
Equally important is whether the area around the community is suitable for you. Do you like antiques? Are there any nearby? Are you a history buff? Are there any nearby museums and historical sites that interest you? What about movie theaters and entertainment and outdoor recreational activities like hiking or fishing?
You have many years ahead of you to enjoy life. Make sure the area offers enough to keep you active and happy.
8. Talk to neighbors for a sense of community
One thing my wife and I did when we visited the communities we were interested in was park the car and walk the sidewalks. Occasionally we would meet residents of the community who were more than happy to tell us about life there.
You will be surprised how some open up to you to talk about the good and bad aspects of the community.
So talk to the neighbors and get an idea of what community life is like.