What is a 55+Community?
A retirement community is a particular neighborhood that has been built for adults who are at least 55 years of age. The agent limit, however, is not always set in stone and can be as young as 50 and as old as 60 for a starting point. Most seniors living in retirement communities are in fact retired from their nine to five jobs. Retirement communities can be single family homes, condos or even apartment living. Sometimes these neighborhoods can be gated for additional security.
Retirement communities are an attractive option for older home buyers, and for a good reason. These communities offer a broad range of choices (the more expensive the community, the more it generally has to offer), all of which are designed to make retirement more attractive, healthier and more enjoyable than it would be if you were to buy and live in the average neighborhood. Quite often 55 and older housing offers amenities that other places might not have much like living in a hotel.
If you are considering buying a home or a condo in a retirement community, there are some things you should know before you get started. Buying what may be your last home is considerably different than buying your first, and you will need to account for some factors that are unique to later life and the communities that cater to older buyers.
Take a look at some of the best tips for buying into a 55 and over retirement community.
Retirement Communities – Buying A Home or Condo. Weigh the positives and negatives of each housing type.
One of the first steps before looking at retirement communities is to decide on what kind of housing that’s most desirable. You want to buy a property that you can be happy with, whether it is a single-family home or a condo. Single-family homes offer more privacy, but a usually harder to maintain (although many communities provide maintenance and upkeep services – for a price), while condos are generally easier, but offer less privacy. The bigger space, generally the costlier the utilities, maintenance, etc. Have a look at the pros and cons of a house vs a condominium to get an understanding of which housing choice may be the best fit for your financial and lifestyle choices.
Visit during the off-season.
It is important to visit the 55 plus communities you are considering at different times of the year. Many times, buyers fall in love with an area while visiting on vacation. But just because you liked Florida in the spring does not mean you will like it in the summer. It may be a good idea to rent temporarily in the area you are thinking about buying to see what the off-season is like, just to verify that you can be happy living there.
If you are a retiree and have not committed yet to where you want to purchase a retirement home, have a look at some of the top 55 and older communities throughout the country. If you are not staying local, it might be worth checking out one of these hot spots.
Find out what the management is like.
Competent, reliable management is a necessity if you want to live in a community where things work as they should. While some management teams may be great at what they do – and dedicated to the satisfaction of residents – others may not.
Make sure to meet the management and talk to residents to get a clear picture of what you will be dealing with. There is nothing worse than getting stuck living in an area with a horrible management company or association. Be sure you know the advantages and disadvantages of a homeowners association. You will find an excellent explanation in the reference.
Know what will be required of you.
When you enter into a retirement community, you will sign an agreement that states what you can expect from the community, and what the community will expect from you. If you have never lived in a home or condo with a community organization, like a homeowner’s association (HOA), you may be surprised to discover yourself limited in more ways than you anticipated. Rules for parking, decorating your home, lawn maintenance and more may be in place.
Some 55 and over communities have rules in place restricting who can live in the property. For example, you may find out that both a husband and wife need to be at least fifty-five years old. Some retirement communities do not allow kids to be residing in the property at all. Often people ask if they can purchase into a 55 and over community if one of the spouses is less than 55.
These are questions that should be researched before buying.
You may be wondering how it is lawful for a community to be able to discriminate based on age. There is an exception in the fair housing act called The “Housing For Older Persons Exemption.”
Make sure you are OK with the answers before you buy. Additionally here are some tips for dealing with a homeowners association which you may eventually need.
Learn about what life is like in the neighborhood.
Another important tip for buying into a 55 and over community is finding out the programs offered. Many retirement communities offer activities for residents. One of the main benefits of living in such a community is that there is always something to do, often with other residents. Some communities have a focus, like golf, while others are more varied in what is available. You should review the calendar of activities to see if there are events that you will want to participate in.
If you are not excited about what is offered, you may find another community is better suited to your lifestyle. Some people know without a doubt they want amenities like a gym, swimming pool or tennis courts. Other folks may want to look for things such as daily activities whether it is a knitting or painting class or even something as simple as Bingo or other such games. These are things to think about before buying into an over 55 retirement community.
Clarify the costs of living in the community.
Some adult living communities require you to purchase a membership to live there, which can be expensive. There will usually be costs associated with community management, upkeep for your home and landscape and possibly other expenses. The more services offered, or the more exclusive the community, the more costly it is to live there. You should choose a community that works with your budget.
Consider several different locations.
When you know what you want to spend your time doing in retirement, it is easier to choose a place that offers what you need at a price you can afford. If golf is your obsession, obviously a community near a country club would be ideal. But if you want to spend your time exploring museums and cultural offerings, a city-based community might be better.
Although the real estate can be pricier, the city makes getting around easy and puts you close to so many different things. The closer you can be to the things that you want, the less time wasted commuting and the less stress you will deal with. Maybe being close enough to family and friends is important? If that’s the case, then it probably would not be wise to purchase a retirement home out in the boonies somewhere.
Understand the local surroundings.
While you may have discovered what feels like the best retirement community around, don’t forget about your surroundings. Many buyers forget to research the amenities they are accustomed to having elsewhere. Here is an excellent resource that explains how to pick a neighborhood. Take a look at many of the things you should be thinking about when choosing a neighborhood such as:
- How is the crime and safety rating of the town or city?
- What is the accessibility to major highways and commuting routes?
- Are there major conveniences nearby like grocery shopping, a bank, the post office and restaurants?
- How far away is the nearest hospital?
- Is there a commuter rail nearby that will take you to major cities?
- Are there things nearby which you might not want like high tension lines, railroad tracks, etc.?
- Is there any highway noise that may end up becoming a nuance?
- How is the walkability of the area both inside and out of the retirement community?
- Are there churches or synagogues nearby that suit your religious needs?
- If you have a dog is there a park nearby?
These are all things worth finding out about when you are purchasing into an over 55 retirement community. You only have one shot at getting this right. Selling again in a couple of years is probably not on your radar. Here are even more neighborhood details to be thinking about. Knowing the neighborhood is important!
Understand the homes amenities.
While choosing the 55 and over community, you will be happy with could depend largely on your surroundings, don’t underestimate the importance of the home or condominium you choose to live in! Over 55 housing often has different features and perks than you would find in traditional housing.
For example, are the doorways in the home set up for easy access with a wheelchair? While nobody wants to think about this kind of things, it could become necessary somewhere down the line. Maybe due to health or injury concerns you need a first-floor master bedroom, so you are not going up and down stairs? Are the baths handicap accessible? These are the kinds of things to think about when purchasing 55 and over housing. Handicap accessibility may not be an issue now, but it could be sometime in the future.
Research the approval process.
Most retirement communities will want to verify that you are a good fit before you are allowed to join. The more exclusive the community, the more thoroughly it will scrutinize you. Management may ask for your financial records and references. You can talk to your real estate agent and the residents of the community to find out what kind of questions you will be asked.
You can also ask management directly. Find out what they are looking for before you apply, so you can prepare and increase your odds of acceptance.
Make sure to talk to your future neighbors.
The people currently living in the community will be your future friends – or your future enemies. You are moving to the town to start a new chapter of your life, to take advantage of your freedom and to spend time with other people in a similar stage of life. While you can’t expect to like every person living there, you should try to talk to quite a few of them to see if you think you will like being around them.
Understand your financing options.
If you are a senior purchasing a retirement home, it is certainly possible you are paying cash. If that’s not the case, it is important to understand your financial options. Some seniors may even consider getting a reverse mortgage if they are no longer working and looking for an income stream.
Reverse mortgages can be a great loan product under those circumstances. Make sure, however, that you understand reverse mortgage pros and cons. If you are over 62 years of age, it’s a financing option worth looking into. Reverse mortgages are not for everyone. Be sure you speak to someone reputable when looking for this kind of financing.
Check re-sale values.
Most seniors who are opting for 55 and older housing are probably not thinking about selling anytime soon. This, however, is a weak reason not to check on the local re-sale value of this type of housing. There have been periods of time where this kind of housing flooded the market, causing market values to drop. Make sure you speak to a top local real estate professional who can guide you on the projected re-sale value. Is purchasing an over 55 property a good idea in the location you are thinking about? Doing your homework is wise.
Assisted living vs. over 55 housing.
One last important point worth mentioning – there is a big difference between assisted living and traditional over fifty-five housing. When people hear the words “retirement community” different things can come to mind. This is a great article that explains the various types of senior housing choices. Assisted and residential care homes are not the same things as an over 55 development.
Trust your intuition.
You are going to have a lot of options for retirement communities, and you may have trouble finding a clear winner. Once you have considered all the relevant factors – cost, location, activities, current residents, management, etc. – you are going to have to decide. Trust your intuition and go with what feels right.
Just be sure to ask all these important questions when you are buying into a 55 and older community. Finding out the answers will help ensure you are happy with your decision.