With more baby boomers approaching retirement, active adult communities are springing up all over the country. Ranging in choice from apartment complexes to individual homes to townhouses and condominiums, these independent-living communities present a dizzying array of choices to consider and a jumble of pros and cons to weigh.
Based on the idea that retirement does not mean the end to a healthy and independent lifestyle, active adult communities provide activities that promote mental and physical well-being. They offer a wide roster of things to do, including bocce, softball, tennis, pickleball, swimming, reading groups, painting lessons, exercise classes, and an abundance of special interest clubs.
Active adult living also fosters a sense of community and creates a ready-made social network. Activities designed to bring residents together are common and many have a clubhouse that hosts social gatherings and group events. This feature can be especially helpful if you are single or moving to an area away from family and friends.
For many, the most attractive feature of these communities is the low maintenance they afford. Depending on the type of community you choose, your monthly homeowners association (HOA) or condo fee could include lawn care, snow removal, grounds upkeep, and garbage pick-up. Apartment dwellers also enjoy landlord-provided maintenance of the unit’s interior.
Most active adult communities have rules set by a board and can include such provisions as who can visit, where you can park your car, what color you can paint your house, or if you can have a pet. In addition, active adult communities are generally very strict about the 55+ age requirement, and do not allow young children to live on the premises, a critical consideration if you have grandchildren living with you. It is also important to keep in mind that resale potential is affected by the 55+ age restriction for residents.
HOA and condo fees are subject to change and can go up as deemed necessary by the board. Residents can also face assessments if the costs for common-area repairs exceed allocated funds.
What to look for
Active adult communities offer many opportunities for a rich and fulfilling retirement, but it is wise to look before you leap. Merrill Lynch suggests some important questions to ask:
- Location: Do you want to move closer to family? Is climate important to you? Is the community you are considering close to shopping and medical facilities? Are houses of worship close by? Are you in an area where you feel safe? What, if any, future development will take place nearby that could impact the community?
- Is the fit right? Does the community offer services and amenities that fit with your lifestyle? If you are an avid golfer, is there a golf course in the community, or nearby? If you are not a golfer, will your HOA or condo fee go towards a facility you will not use? If you value exercise, is there a fitness center?
- The community’s finances: Is there a reserve fund for addressing emergency repairs of buildings and grounds? Have there been assessments and if so, how much and how frequently? Have association fees gone up? Are the builder/development company and/or association financially stable?
- Your finances: Does your budget allow for unexpected assessments or increases in the HOA or condo fees? Have you accounted for the property taxes in the county where you are going to live?
- The builder/ developer: What is the reputation of the builder/developer? How long has the developer been in business? Have there been complaints filed against the builder/developer?
- The rules: Are pets allowed? Are you restricted to where you can walk your pet? Are large pets prohibited? Is there a limit to the number of pets you can own? Are children welcome to visit? Are there parking restrictions? Noise ordinances? Are there renting restrictions? Improvement/construction restrictions? Who enforces the rules? Who sits on the association board?
Do due diligence
The bottom line is that it is important to do your homework. Visit the community you are considering and talk to the residents. It’s your chance to get the inside scoop on life in your prospective home. Ask them what they like and dislike about living there, if services are as advertised, and if the staff is helpful and available. Get a sense of the friendliness of the residents and how open they are to making new friends. Are the grounds clean and well maintained?
Above all, make sure you read all the fine print before you sign on the dotted line. Don’t find out too late that you can only keep one of your two dogs, or that your RV cannot be parked in your driveway, or that your teenage grandson cannot live with you. If you are not clear about the contract, consider having an attorney look at it.
The growth of active adult communities is a testament to their popularity and success. A little effort on your part will go a long way in ensuring a home-sweet-home in your new surroundings.