What is a 55 and Older Retirement Community?
Are you looking for a retirement community?
A retirement community is a neighborhood built for adults who are at least 55 years of age. However, the age limit 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, townhouses, 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 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.
Finding senior living that you will enjoy for years to come takes some time and effort on your part.
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, typically 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.
Knowing what to think about when buying into a retirement community will be essential.
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 residents’ satisfaction – 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 homeowners association (HOA), you may be surprised to discover yourself limited in more ways than you anticipated. Parking rules, decorating your home, lawn maintenance, and more may be in place.
Some 55 and over communities have rules in place restricting who can live on 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 on 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 discriminate based on age. There is an exception in the fair housing act called The “Housing For Older Persons Exemption.” You can read more about this on the HUD.GOV website.
Make sure you are OK with the answers before you buy. Additionally, here are some tips for dealing with a homeowners association that 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 you want to participate in.
If you are not excited about what is offered, you may find another community 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 Retirement 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. It would be best if you chose a community that works with your budget.
Consider Several Different Retirement 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 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, it would probably not be wise to purchase a retirement home out in the boonies somewhere.
Finding a Retirement Community Near Me
What if you have decided you want a retirement community nearby where you already have been living? Some people decide they want to retire near family and friends where they grew up or have been comfortable living.
That’s perfectly fine. One of the best ways of finding a retirement community nearby you might love is to do an online search.
Using retirement community near me, 55 and older communities near me, or active retirement communities near me should bring up some choices for you to explore.
Working with a local real estate agent who knows some of the reputable senior living communities will also help in your search.
Understand The Surroundings of The Retirement Community.
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 an area, 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 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 Home’s 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 thing, 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 downstairs? 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 community residents 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.
One of the smarter things you can do when buying into a retirement community is introducing yourself to potential 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, take advantage of your freedom, and spend time with other people in a similar life stage.
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 enjoy 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 Resale Values in The Retirement Community.
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 resale 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.
Questions to Ask When Buying Into a Senior Living Retirement Community
Before making your final choice to purchase in a particular retirement community make sure you ask some vital questions. Here is an excellent resource that provides some helpful questions. Make sure you get the answers you’ll be happy with long term.
Trust Your Intuition.
You will 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 will have to make a decision. Trust your intuition and go with what feels right.
Just be sure to ask all these important questions when buying into a 55 and older community. Finding out the answers will help ensure you are happy with your decision.
Frequently Asked Retirement Community Questions
1. What does retirement community mean?
Retirement communities are neighborhoods or areas designed for older adults who are able to care for themselves.
2. How do retirement communities work?
It depends on the community. Most retirement communities are for seniors who are self-sustaining and don’t need assistance. There are, however, assisted living facilities that provide some assistance with daily living activities.
3. Can anyone live in a retirement community?
No. Senior living communities are those specially made for older adults. There are age restrictions on who can live in designated retirement communities.
4. Can others who are younger than 55 live in a 55 and over community?
It depends on the bylaws of the community. Quite often a spouse can be younger than 55 and childer have to be older than 18. Check with the association to find out the rules.
5. Is a home in a retirement community a good investment?
Generally, they are. There is typically good demand for senior housing. All real estate is local, however, so it is a good idea to speak with a local real estate professional who can provide long term appreciation advice.
Final Thoughts on Buying Into a Retirement Community
Buying into a retirement community is a big step in one’s life. It makes sense to do as much due diligence as possible. Given it is such a significant life decision, you want to make sure it is the wisest choice.
Hopefully, this guide to picking a retirement community has been helpful.
Additional helpful articles surrounding housing choices
- Solid advice when buying a condo – get some sound tips for buying a condo. When you are thinking about a retirement community that happens to be a condominium complex, this article will help you make smart decisions.
- What is the purpose of a condo homeowners association – see why you would want to have a homeowners association when living in a condo.
- What to think about when buying retirement housing – see more helpful advice for picking a retirement community to live in.
- Smart questions to ask before buying a condo – when buying a condominium, make sure you ask these smart questions.
Use these additional resources to make sound decisions when considering the purchase into a 55 and older neighborhood.
About the Author: The above Real Estate information on the home tips for buying into a 55 and older community was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 34+ Years.
Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate Sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton, and Uxbridge MA.