Clients have asked me: Should I downsize to an adult community? We have quite a few age-restricted communities here in Central Jersey. Basically, residents must be 55 years of age or older and in most townships, adult children must be 19 years of age or older (some municipalities restrict this further) to reside along with their parents. These communities are not right for everyone though. So the answer is: Well it depends!
For my husband and I, the answer was very clear. One year, everything went wrong. The lawn turned yellow (lack of rain), a tree toppled (heavy wind and too much rain that made the roots susceptible to heavy wind), the basement flooded for the first time in 10 years (sump pump failure when power failed). In sum, we started to feel that our house was more of a burden than a home and we wanted some of the relief that active adult living can provide. But moving to an adult community is more than just downsizing. It involves a whole new type of lifestyle that is not for everyone. So here are some questions to ask yourself when considering such a move.
1. Is my vision of a home one where the snow is removed, and the lawn mowed, by someone other than me?
One of the best aspects of adult community living is what many regular condo owners currently enjoy -- living in a development where the lawn is cut regularly, the weeds weeded, and the snow plowed. This is a great advantage but there is sometimes a significant cost as the largest share of the monthly HOA dues dollar in active adult communities is usually the snow removal and landscaping. Many communities don't do as good a job as the residents would like and often the snow is not removed until it reaches a certain level, say 2 inches. Until that time, the homeowners still have to get out the shovels or just wait it out for the snow melt
2. Why do they call these places "Active adult" communities and what if I am not so active?
Don't despair if your idea of a fun Saturday night is watching Saturday Night Live by yourself in your own living room with a TV dinner, while down the street, the Ballroom Dance extravaganza is taking place in the Community Clubhouse. Adult communities have lots of amenities, like huge clubhouses (the photo above), card rooms, fitness centers, sometimes indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, even golf courses. But you do not have to partake of any of it. I always tell my clients you can be as "active" or "inactive" as you want to be. In other words, if you are not a social butterfly, it does not necessarily mean that this kind of lifestyle is not for you. You may like using the fitness center once in a while, or the library, but don't like the crowds in the ballroom. Be as social or anti-social as you choose. It is a free society after all.
3. Do I mind living with a lot of rules and regulations?
Again, like condo living, living in an active adult community can be a challenge, especially if you are not accustomed to abiding by community rules. There are lots of rules in these communities: which colors you can paint your home, whether you can put up holiday lights and for how long, how many potted plants you can display in your front yard, whether you can build a patio in your back yard. And many of these communities have architectural committees that you must submit plans to for let's say, a deck or patio or even a storm door installation. This is when neighbors can really get on each other's nerves and when people who have lived in a single family home for the past 30 years may not acclimate so easily. So if you are a rule breaker rather than a rule maker, this lifestyle may not be for you. Remember, associations can impose fines for violations of certain rules and these fines can end up being liens against your home. So make sure you know what you are getting into before you sign the paperwork.
55+ communities are a great alternative in so many ways, but think carefully before you sell all of your lawn implements at the next garage sale. You may still need them for a while! Happy mowing!