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Your Guide to Finding the Perfect 55+ Community 1


If you’re considering a 55+ Community move ... You’ll save countless hours of time and stress by following the steps outlined in this guide. Each step is essential for the best outcome of finding your perfect fit in an active adult community. The time to move is never perfect. Don’t be paralyzed by the thought of the “right-sizing” process. It’s not going to get easier later. Remember, you’re right-sizing, not necessarily downsizing! The one common denominator among seniors who have moved into a 55+ community is that they wish they had made the move sooner. 2

I’ve never heard anyone say they wish they had waited, only that they wished they had chosen active adult living sooner. So don’t wait! Get ready to live like you are always on vacation in your next home in a 55+ community.


What Is a 55+ Community? The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits housing discrimination under the Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA). HOPA protects age-restricted communities from being sued by persons who do not meet the minimum age requirements. There are two classifications of exempted communities under HOPA. The first is the 62+ restricted community. To qualify, every occupant of the community must be 62 years of age or older. The second and much more popular community is the 55+. In a 55+ designated community, a minimum of 80 percent of the residents must be 55 years or older. It’s important to note that once a community meets the HOPA age requirements, it can impose stricter age requirements on the remaining residents. I’ve found it to be typical that children must be 19 or older to reside in a home with 55+ occupants. If you will be having children or others residing with you, make sure to check that community’s Covenants and Restrictions before

purchasing. One important exemption to HOPA and community age restrictions is if a senior is the legal guardian of a disabled adult who does not meet the requirements; that person is exempt. Other forms of discrimination under the Fair Housing Act are not protected by HOPA. A third type of “senior community” not protected by HOPA is called an age-targeted community. This community type is similar to 55+ communities in that they typically include lawn care in the HOA dues and the master bedroom is on the first floor, but they are not age-restricted in any way. Most age-targeted communities share amenities with the all-age communities. Both age-targeted and age-restricted communities are commonly referred to as Active Adult Communities.

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What a Time To Be Alive! People are living longer, healthier and more active lives now more than ever! And with the growth of this population segment comes an increased desire for and availability of age-targeted communities. This guide provides a roadmap to choosing this lifestyle along with important things to consider when deciding the location and type of community that best suits your needs. I hope you find it useful! People often seek a lifestyle choice and housing option for the years between being empty 4

nesters and when assistance may be needed. The right 55+ or age-targeted community may be the perfect solution for your situation. Some may make this choice for more social opportunities and less home and lawn maintenance. For others it could be to be closer to family and experience a better climate. Whatever your reasons may be, I’m here to help guide you through the options.


Is a 55+ Community Right For You? Are you seeking fewer responsibilities and ready to enjoy more time with like-minded people?

If so you’re a likely candidate. I’m told repeatedly that making new friends is the easiest and best thing about 55+ living. Some say it’s much like college life for seniors! And it doesn’t matter if you’re married, single or have a significant other in your life; all types of households are found in 55+ communities and there’s certainly a place for you. I’m also frequently asked if these communities are safe. Generally these are some of the safest neighborhoods around, particularly because neighbors tend to look

after each others’ property. This can be ideal for those who like to travel or live part-time elsewhere. Just lock the door and leave. Your yard will be maintained and your home will be the same as when you left. Who should not move to a 55+ community? A very small percentage of people who move to a 55+ community may actually need assisted living, where they can receive health care and amenities not offered in a typical 55+ community. 5


All 55+ Communities Are Not Created equal 55+ communities and age-targeted communities all have similarities in that they are geared toward seniors; they have master bedrooms on the first floor, and lawn maintenance is included in HOA dues.

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Besides location, communities can differ in a number of ways. Here are a few common differentiators — Home Size

From one bedroom to four-plus

Amenities

Can vary greatly (see next page)

Type

New construction, spec homes or resales

Community Size

Anywhere from 10 homes to several thousand

Price

From $100,000 to $800,000

Premium communities often include: pools (indoor and outdoor) tennis, pickleball, shuffleboard, bocce, horseshoes Clubhouses may have: fitness centers, kitchens, libraries, game rooms, ballrooms, card rooms, meeting rooms. Some communities have: woodworking shops, art studios, yoga studios, lake views, community gardens, restaurants, bars, and a few are gated. The most elite 55+ venues have activities directors who organize both on- and off-site activities. All of these features contribute to the price of the home.

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Considerations for Choosing a 55+ Community Location is generally the first consideration when moving anywhere, particularly to a 55+ community. Some people move for weather-related reasons and other location choices may be more specific, such as being closer to family or for certain interests like golf and fishing. 8

It’s helpful if you can identify a specific place you want to be near and then determine the longest drive time you would be willing to live from the target—say, within 30 minutes of grandchildren. Notice I said drive time, not actual distance.


While location is the first consideration, others when choosing a community include —

• How many bedrooms and baths? • Approximate square footage? • Style of home, ex: townhome, condo, detached patio home, villa, duplex, etc. • Is a one story home a must or is an upstairs bonus room ok? • Is new construction a must or is resale okay? • Any particular features required on the home? Ex: three-car garage.

• Any particular amenities required? Ex: indoor heated pool. • Pet Policy- types of and number of, can the yard be fenced? (If the yard is fenced, is backyard maintenance still included, and is there an additional charge for it?) • Does a community address a special area of interest like golf, pottery, walking trails, etc.? • What is your timeframe for buying? • What is your price range? 9


The community you choose may or may not have lots remaining on which to build. If you do build, you of course get a choice of upgrades, colors, and options. This is where the timeframe to move comes into consideration. Some communities build in as little as 90 days while others could take up to 12 months. Also, for new construction in an older community, available lots may be very limited so you must decide if the remaining ones are still desirable. If you’re looking for a new home in a new community you’ll have more 10

choice of lots, but may have to deal with construction around you for a period of time. Also consider that you’ll need to act immediately if you’re put on a list for upcoming lots to be released as they are released to everyone at the same time. Some of the best deals are for homes in new communities where the amenities have not been started or completed and may or may not have models (these are called pre-construction prices).


Another option may be builder “spec” homes or new homes built by the builder for quick move-in ready scenarios. Some of these homes are already completed, while others may be partially constructed, but you still have the opportunity to choose all or some of the upgrades and colors. Resales, or previously-owned homes, are often a good choice for those who have quick time frames within which to move to avoid the dreaded “moving twice” scenario, or your chosen community may only have resales.

Resales tend to include more in the price, such as refrigerators, ceiling fans, window treatments, fences, etc. which can total several thousands of dollars in value. Once you’ve chosen a target location, use the above list of considerations to help you and your real estate professional narrow down your list of possible communities.

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Financial Considerations As always, when purchasing a new home there are financial considerations. Many people at this stage of their lives may be on fixed incomes. Monthly obligations include real property taxes, HOA dues, homeowner’s insurance, and mortgage payments where applicable. Insurance and utilities can vary greatly even within the same state. Taxability of income also varies widely. Do you plan to pay cash or finance all or a portion of your new home? If you’re looking to finance, what type of loan are you considering? FHA, VA, USDA, Conventional, or HECM? Most people have heard of all of these except the last one, the HECM loan. HECM, an acronym for Home Equity 12

Conversion Mortgage, is a loan specifically for persons 62 or older. This type of loan is very popular with people looking to hold on to a portion of their cash savings and not incur additional monthly obligations. Unlike a typical reverse mortgage, the HECM doesn’t have large upfront fees and doesn’t have a negative equity factor. HECM is a government-backed FHA loan product. If you haven’t heard of a HECM loan, it needs further research to see if it may be right for your situation. If you’re financing, the builder often has special closing cost


incentives for using their lender. They may also require that you be prequalified with their chosen lender, even if you ultimately choose to finance with a different lender. The bottom line is to know what method of financing you will be using, if any, and to be prequalified for the loan you will need to purchase your home. Please note that this amount will often be influenced by the amount of other obligations for a home in your chosen community, not just price. Many communities have HOA capital contributions, some as high as $5,000. Down payments vary from builder to builder, from as little as $3,500 - $50,000 until closing, up to 10 percent of base price plus 25

percent of upgrades and option choices. You should know your financial capacities before you fall in love with a community and a home that may not be feasible. If you’re buying a resale you’ll need to be prequalified for a mortgage not only so you know how much house you can or want to afford, but a prequalification letter is usually required when an offer is presented to the seller. Note that your particular financing of choice may have a lower down payment obligation than a builder’s requirement. Example: VA financing is 100 percent the cost of the home, and the builder may require 10 percent down. If you don’t have the down payment the builder probably won’t sell you the home with this type of financing. 13


Finding the Right 55+ Community Once you’ve done your homework and addressed some of the items listed in this guide, the next step is to find a Realtor® with 55+ community expertise in the area you wish to live. A 55+ expert will know all of the options in your chosen area (I’m in the Charlotte/Lake Norman area of North Carolina, where there are over 50 of these communities). Then, based on the information you provide your Realtor® will send you recommendations and information for the communities that best fit your criteria. This will allow you to narrow down the communities you want to visit to a manageable number. As a seasoned 55+ expert, I would be honored to guide you through the process. 14

When making your plans to visit an area, I recommend keeping the number of communities you visit to only two or three per day. This will give you the needed time to comfortably visit and take in the community amenities and models (or resales). Larger communities with a multitude of amenities and new construction models may take up to two to four hours to visit. When you add in drive time to another community, as well as a snack or lunch, it makes for a very full day. It’s also difficult to remember what’s in each community when you see several in one day. Be sure and take notes,


pictures, and videos even if it is just what you do and do not like about a community or area, including models.

for YOU and has your best interests at heart and will tell you both the pros and cons (if any) of any given community.

It’s one thing to see a community or a floor plan online and determine you’ve found the perfect place. However, I’ve often found people change their minds about communities and floor plans once they see them. The experience of your Realtor® professional is invaluable to finding what you want. You may want the “Daisy” model, but dislike the community or area it’s in. Your 55+ specialist will know what other communities are also building that model or similar ones in other areas.

There is a common misconception that you don’t need a Realtor® for new construction. This is patently incorrect! New construction prices can be negotiated and builders do not charge you more if you have a Realtor®. Your 55+ expert has good communication with the sales agents in 55+ communities in their area and can often get “hot off the press” (or even upcoming) information for the release of new lots, incentives, and upcoming price increases. Don’t underestimate the value of your 55+ Community Real Estate Agent in saving you time and money.

Something else to remember is that the sales agent in a particular community will only give you the pluses of their community. Your Realtor®/55+ specialist is working

NOTE: While your Realtor®/55+ expert works for you and negotiates on your behalf, they are paid by the builder/seller! 15


About the Author Karen Spell is a licensed Real Estate Broker in North Carolina and a 55+ community specialist. She sells and lists all types of real estate. Her educational background and experience as a former Real Estate Attorney, a designated Seniors’ Real Estate Specialist (SRES), and a “55 Places� referral partner has proven 16

invaluable in aiding her clients in finding and negotiating the purchase or sale of their home. Karen especially enjoys assisting seniors looking to move to or sell their home in a 55+ community.


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Karen Spell BROKER, J.D., SRES® 321.279.1384 kspell@helenadamsrealty.com purplepineapplere-nc.com © Copyright 2019 20

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Your Guide to Finding the Perfect 55+ Community  

Interested in learning more about, Active Adult Living, Right or down sizing, 55+ Communities? Read this handy guide to save you countless...

Your Guide to Finding the Perfect 55+ Community  

Interested in learning more about, Active Adult Living, Right or down sizing, 55+ Communities? Read this handy guide to save you countless...

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