Selecting An Active Adult Community
Active adult communities vary across a number of criteria. You decide what is important to you and determine if a community fits your needs.
This is a check list of the major factors to evaluate when selecting a community.
Geographic – Where do you want to live and why?
If it’s the grandkids, then the issue is settled and you just need to locate communities in reasonable proximity and start evaluating them.
If you are looking for sunshine and warm weather, you are going to have more to choose from than you can easily deal with – Florida and Arizona combined have hundreds of 55+ communities.
If you want to stay close to “home” you may have a problem depending on where “home” is. For example, the Upper Plains and Midwest have fewer active adult retirement communities than many other areas.
After Florida and Arizona, the leading states for 55+ communities are
California, Nevada, Virginia, Maryland, Utah, and Connecticut. Many
Southern and Northeast states are developing rapidly.
In general, the closer to a major metro area the more expensive. For example, Northern Virginia and Maryland near D.C. and Connecticut near New York City are more expensive than most other areas.
Price Range – How much do you want to pay?
The price ranges you will find vary from the mid $100’s to the $600’s and higher. (Excluding mobile and manufactured home communities; found mostly in Florida and Arizona.)
Active adult community homes tend to track with the local market for comparable square footage, but are more expensive for highly “amenitized” communities.
Home Styles – What style of home fits your needs?
The most common home styles you will find are single family and attached (by a variety of names: villas, patio homes, cottages, etc.) “Traditional” architecture is most prevalent.
There are also all-condo or townhouse communities. Some larger active adult communities will have all styles. Larger communities with multiple builders will have a larger variety of floor plans. Almost all will have “main level living” options.
Community Size – Cozy or big?
There are 55+ communities from less than 50 units to well over 2000. In Florida and Arizona, there are “Mega Communities” that are literally small towns.
Most active adult communities fall in the range of 250 units to 2000 units. The choice is very much like deciding if you want to live in a small town or a large town. It’s a matter of personal preference. Bigger means more people, more to do, more distances… just more of everything.
Amenities – Simple or “country club”?
Amenities tend to correlate with size, although once communities get into the 350+ range they all tend to have the “basics,” a clubhouse, swimming, tennis, fitness center, organized activities, gated, etc.
At the extremes, there are small communities with no amenities to
differentiate them from any neighborhood; no clubhouse, no gate, no nothing.
At the other extreme there are large “country club” communities with
everything; lavish clubhouse(s), 24 hour security, golf course, tennis, indoor/outdoor swimming, full-time activity directors, etc., etc., etc.
Security – Safe or really safe?
Active adult communities tend to be low crime. They are usually on private streets and most are gated. And, candidly, most crime is committed by young males and there are not many young males living in active adult communities.
You do need to be aware of the nature of nearby neighborhoods and access to the community.
Many large, upscale communities have 24/7 manned gatehouses with
Shopping, Medical & Transportation – Walk or drive or ride?
There are communities within walking distance of shopping and a few
minutes drive to major medical facilities. There are also communities that are a significant drive to anything and no access to public transportation. Some offer daily “shuttles” to key destinations.
HOA Issues – A lot of questions.
All HOPA* compliant active adult communities are managed by an HOA (Home Owner’s Association).
The first issue is who controls it. In unfinished communities, the developer and/or builders usually control the HOA until a certain per cent “build-out.”
Turnover to homeowner management can then raise important issues that may need to be resolved. Specifically, who pays for what and when. You have a right to review HOA documents and financial statements and ask questions.
Be sure to determine HOA policies on pets, fences, gardening and other matters that may be of specific interest to you.
What is included in HOA fees varies considerably. Some HOA’s include cable TV and internet service. That is not necessarily a good thing. If the service is substandard, you are stuck paying for it whether you use it or not.
Some HOA’s provide lawn care. That is usually a good thing. Left on their own, some of your neighbors might not be as diligent about lawn care as you would like and unsightly lawns hurt the community image and can lower home values.
An HOA’s enforcement of covenants can be lax. A drive around the
community with a sharp eye for laxity is a good idea.
* Department of Housing and Urban Development – Housing for Older Persons Act (Requires PDF reader)