Mar 29, 2022

How to Choose the Right Active Adult Community

Manny Cominsky

If you’re at or near retirement age and thinking about your next move, then congratulations! After years of hard work now comes the fun part: deciding where you’re going to spend your retirement years. Not only does this give you the opportunity to choose from a host of amazing regions across the country - from the gorgeous red rock formations of the American southwest to the white sand beaches of Florida - but also to choose an amazing new home in which to live. For many people, an increasingly popular answer to the question of where to move in retirement is to move to an active adult community (to learn more about active adult communities check out our blog post here explaining what they are and why they’re so popular).

If you’re thinking that you want to end up in an active adult community (or even if you’re a little earlier in the process and still wondering whether an active adult community makes sense for you at all), it’s good to approach the decision in an organized and thoughtful way. Spending the time to carefully consider what you want out of an active adult community will not only help to make sure that you’re confident that you want to live in an active adult community, but will also make it easier when the time comes to hone in on the specific communities that most interest you. We've found that the best way to think about active adult communities is to start at a high level and think about all the things you would need in a community, before then considering what features of a community you either only like (as opposed to truly need), and those that you really don’t care about. 

Deal-Breakers

Starting with the needs, the best place to start is with all the things that you would consider a “deal-breaker” for moving to a specific community. An important first question to ask yourself is whether you want to live in a community that has age restrictions for its residents. The most common age restriction for active adult communities is that all the residents of the home be over the age of 55 years old (although there are communities that only require that age for one resident, or which have a different age limitation such as being 50 years old). Determining the age groups that you want to live with and around will be an important first decision point for deciding if an active adult community is right for you.

Another consideration is the price range and size of the home. While active adult communities in general offer a wide range of pricing and home size options, individual communities will often have a more focused price point and home size. If you know you’ll want to downsize to a cheaper home, or go the complete opposite direction, some communities simply may not have what you’re looking for. But don’t worry, regardless of what type of home you want there’s likely to be a community providing the right size and price fit.  

Many people choose to downsize their retirement homes so they can increase their travel budgets.

Finally, location can be another make or break factor for a retirement destination. If you know that it will be important for you to either travel the world, or otherwise want it to be easy for people to travel to you, you might consider it a deal-breaker to be too far from an airport (or an international airport at that). Another important consideration is access to certain types of medical facilities - if you know that a chronic condition will require you to be close to certain types of doctors of physical therapists, you may want to make sure that you live somewhere close. Finally, consider how close you want to be to a major city, as prices are often much more competitive further out in the country, but can take you further away from all the amenities that a big city has to offer.

The next big decision point is what type of house you want to live in. Active adult communities provide nearly every type of floor plan and house type you could imagine - from free standing single family homes, to connected patio homes, to condos, to multifamily apartments. For many people, particularly those downsizing, a patio home or condo makes for the perfect home base in retirement. Others, however, like to maintain something more akin to the freestanding home they may have had for years. Whatever your preference, make sure you consider all the options! There might be a type of house you’ve never thought about that’s actually perfect for you.  

Nice to Have

After you’ve decided on all the things you need your future home to have, start thinking about whether the remaining characteristics are things that you would like to have but don’t need to have. For many people, the first thing on this list is the range of amenities provided by the community. While many communities share features like tennis courts and pools, there is certainly a wide range of amenities and finding the right mix could really improve your retirement. Finding a community with a great golf course, for example, may make all the difference if you plan on spending a lot of time on the links in your retirement. 

Related to this is the level of community activities, which can range from in-community social groups like golf leagues or interest-based clubs, to cultural offerings like concerts and other live performances. Many communities feature community centers or theaters that host a wide range of entertainment options. And some bigger communities even have downtown areas complete with restaurants and shopping. 

Next, you will want to consider the level of house maintenance that comes with living in a given active adult community. Often times maintenance of your home and garden is organized by the community’s Home Owners Association, also known as an HOA, which charges you a fee in order for providing certain services around your community. The first questions you will want to ask will mainly focus on how much the HOA fees are, if there are different types of membership, and what the benefits of membership are. As we’ve explained in another blog post, HOA fee structures are not always readily available and so it always makes sense to ask when looking at any active adult community. 

Happy Without

Finally, while it may seem like overkill, we’ve found it really helps the decision making process to actually articulate those things that you don’t really care about. While some people may have it in their head that they need to live on the beach, upon further reflection they realize that they’re truthfully not the world’s biggest beach bums and are fine living a short drive away from the beach instead. Taking the time to really consider what would make your perfect retirement home will make the entire process more efficient and rewarding.

If you want some more guidance on how to think about choosing the right active adult community, reach out to us at info@sunboundhomes.com. Our team is ready around the clock to help you make the most of your retirement.

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