Seventy-nine million people will be aged 65 or older by 2035, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. While an aging population has put a strain on some resources, including health care, other industries are thriving under increased demand. Communities geared toward active adults and retirees are one such industry, with top builders betting big on the projects.
These communities have a lot of appeal — many are rich in amenities and social events, and most have homes designed for accessibility, which is critical for safety. If you’re thinking of moving into a 55+ community, here’s what you need to know.
Is a 55+ community right for you?
- You’ll have plenty to do. Also known as active adult or active retirement communities, 55+ communities offer a wide range of activities and amenities, providing you with opportunities to socialize in an often kid-free environment. From gardening to golf to on-site dining, you can easily find a community that caters to your needs and interests.
- You can find your people. Some communities also cater to a specific niche so you can live near like-minded people. For example, Fountaingrove Lodge is a 55+ community for LGBT seniors in Santa Rosa, Calif. For Jimmy Buffett fans, there’s the Latitude Margaritaville community in Daytona Beach, Fla.
- You don’t have to worry about upkeep. Perhaps one of the most attractive elements is simplified home upkeep. Most communities take care of exterior maintenance, so you can leave the snowblower and lawn mower behind.
- You may have access to health resources. Some 55+ communities also have assisted living and nursing home facilities on-site. For residents interested in aging in place, those resources mean you can continue living in familiar surroundings for the rest of your life.
- There’s less age diversity. If you’re someone who appreciates the vigor of more youthful generations, 55+ communities may not be right for you. The same is true if you live, or value living, in a multigenerational household. However, some communities are adapting, like Rancho Mission Viejo in southern California, which offers 55+ communities within a larger neighborhood development.
- You’ll be in close proximity to others. Some people just like their own space, and you may not have as much of it in a planned community. Also, if a community has nursing care on-site, keep in mind that nursing homes have also been disproportionately affected by the current pandemic. The close quarters and shared spaces in 55+ communities could be a breeding ground for disease, which is an important factor to consider.
- There may be high fees. While all those maintenance resources may keep you from doing manual labor, you will have to pay HOA fees to cover them. Depending on the number of amenities your community offers, those fees can get steep, fast.
How to pick the right community for you
If you do decide to move forward with living in an active adult community, it could take time to find the right one. Housing inventory is at an all-time low, and the number of people ages 55 and over is rapidly increasing. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Start with financing. Talk to at least two to three lenders to find out what you can afford. Applying for and being approved for a mortgage can be a challenge if you’re already retired, but there are specific options available for those on a fixed income. If you don’t already have a financial advisor, consider meeting with one to help you decide how much home is feasible to buy and the impact living in a 55+ community may have on your finances.
- Decide what’s important to you: What are your must-haves in a 55+ community? Do you need to be close to grocery stores or a golf course? Do you need the flexibility to have grandchildren stay for two or three weeks at a time? Do you need low HOA fees? Make a list of your must-haves and your nice-to-haves, along with any deal breakers.
- Work with a knowledgeable real estate agent: Look for a real estate agent who specializes in or frequently has transactions in 55+ communities or has a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation. Realtors are required to abide by a code of ethics, and those with the SRES designation have had additional training on working with those ages 55 and older. They may also be able to help you secure financing, even if you no longer have steady income coming in.
- Visit multiple communities: While you may fall in love with the first one, it’s best to visit at least two or three so you can compare amenities and housing options.
- Talk to residents: The community’s homeowners are the ones who can tell you what it’s really like to live there. Ask them about their experience and whether they recommend living there.
- Read the rules: Ask for a copy of the HOA bylaws and covenants. Some have strict rules around home additions or changes, outside displays and more. Even if the rules aren’t being rigorously enforced, if they’re on the books, they could be.
Take your time and don’t hesitate to ask questions. There’s a 55+ community out there for everyone, and with diligence, you can find the right one for you.