Should you move to a 55+ community?
Few people can say that an episode of “Wheel of Fortune” changed the course of their lives.
Susan and Mike Pappas were planning their retirement, with plans to leave Santa Cruz, California soon. Settling down to watch “Wheel of Fortune” one night, the couple saw Jimmy Buffett advertising his Latitude Margaritaville retirement communities. Susan was intrigued by how fun it all sounded and how it reminded her of their days traveling to listen to live music.
“Oh my God,” she said to her husband, “isn’t that like our lives?”
Susan and Mike raised the inspired communities of Margaritaville with friends, who flew to Hilton Head, South Carolina, and fell in love with the island vibe. Their friends bought a lot that same weekend.
They told Susan and Mike that the lots were “selling like hotcakes” and decided right away if they were interested. So in May 2021, having never visited the state of South Carolina, the Pappas called the office and reserved their spot.
“We spent an hour and a half on the phone and it changed our lives,” says Susan.
What are 55+ communities?
“Independent living”, “55+”, “residence for active seniors” – this type of housing goes by many different names, and the list of attractions for seniors like the Pappases is just as long.
These communities differ from assisted living facilities and other medical establishments. Unlike assisted living, community residents over 55 can own their homes. They can also join a community of peers at a similar stage in life and often enjoy shared amenities like swimming pools, restaurants, and even theaters, as well as clubs or activity groups. Physically demanding responsibilities such as gardening and maintenance of these amenities are transferred to homeowner associations.
It can be an exciting proposition if you are planning your next chapter and want to age in place or explore alternatives. Weighing up the pros and cons of community living for 55+ can help you determine if it might be the right fit. If so, you may have to be prepared for a long wait to get in.
Evaluate what the community offers and what you might miss
Some senior communities may have rules that conflict with your lifestyle, such as not allowing children under 18 or pets. Check if the rules work for your household.
At least 80% of the other units will be occupied by someone 55 or older, according to guidelines set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. So if age diversity is something you cherish in your neighborhood, it might seem like a big sacrifice. And that’s not the only area where diversity can seem limited — these communities can also be largely white.
Consider The Villages in Central Florida, one of the nation’s largest retirement communities with over 138,000 residents. According to 2020 census data, 98% of their residents are white, with the second largest group of Asian Americans making up just 1% of the population.
Living with neighbors of the same age can create unique opportunities for connection. But it’s important to ask yourself if you really feel at home in an age-restricted community.
Decide if HOA fees are affordable and worthwhile for you
HOA fees will vary. For example, in the Pappas community in South Carolina, they range from $250 to $317 per month. This covers lawn care and landscaping; access to amenities such as swimming pools, restaurants and fitness centers; and insurance and maintenance of common areas, among other costs.
Of course, traditional home ownership isn’t free either, even after you’ve paid off your mortgage. Count your monthly expenses and comparing them with the HOA fees in your community of choice can give you an idea of the monthly financial difference in maintenance between a new home in a 55+ community and your existing property.
Consider the Implications of Resale and Inheritance
Many communities have deed restrictions that define who can live in your home and under what circumstances. This could be complicated if you want to sell the house later, as new buyers may have to meet community age requirements. Restrictions on children or pets could make reselling even trickier if it becomes a sticking point for potential buyers.
Therefore, you will also need to review the HOA rules and consult with management when writing your will. You may be able to leave the house to someone under 55 if at least 80% of the other units are occupied by someone 55 or older, but only if community bylaws permit. If they are not, your beneficiaries could be forced to sell the house.
Arrange to finance the purchase
Some buyers are able to finance their new home in a 55+ community with proceeds from the sale of their current home or other assets. However, if you need financing from a lender, you may find that future marketing is a point of apprehension. You may need to spend more time looking for a lender who is willing to provide a loan for an age-restricted property.
Fannie Mae has specialist financing for housing for the elderly, and the government-sponsored firm maintains a database of partner lenders.
Plan ahead – demand is high
Glitzy resort destinations like Latitude Margaritaville aren’t the only senior communities seeing units sell out at a blistering pace. According to Era Living, an operator of several communities 55 and older in Washington state, a hopeful resident can face a wait of months or even years; Era Living recommends joining a waiting list.
Competition between potential buyers can be brutal.
Hailey Kate Chatlin’s grandmother owned a home in a senior community in Kaysville, Utah. As her grandmother was dying in 2021, the investigations piled up.
Chatlin recalled, “An older gentleman came in and announced in the room, ‘I know it’s a really tough time and all, but I have a brother who would like to buy this house as soon as it’s on the market. market.
Be patient and learn about the benefits for buyers on a waiting list. For example, Era Living extends certain benefits to future owners, such as on-site dining and community events. This can help you determine if this is a place where you see yourself living comfortably for the long term.
While there are a number of trade-offs with moving to a 55+ community, the benefits continue to appeal to seniors looking for an active lifestyle. According to Susan Pappas, the risk she and her husband took when they booked a lot on the fly has already paid off hugely. The place felt like home from their first visit, when their land was still just a piece of land.
“That’s really what we wanted,” says Susan. “It’s a community.”