Friday, December 28, 2007

Choosing a Retirement Community

Many senior adults like me think about retirement long before we apply for our social security retirement income. We go on vacation with an eye on retirement communities and resorts wondering what it might be like to actually live there for good. Downsizing to a condominium, patio home or a 55 and over apartment can be a logical move for most seniors.

Before making that big commitment some factors are worth looking into:

  • Geographic location: Is the climate suitable, especially for your health? Persons with asthma, arthritis, or other medical conditions may want to make sure the climate is conducive to their health. Will you like it in the off season when it is too cold or too hot, too dry or too wet? Is it close to loved ones? Many of us may choose to be close to grandchildren and close family members or be within driving distance.
  • Real estate professionals: Once you decide on a geographic location for a retirement community, it is valuable to hire a good real estate agent and have access to legal counsel. Good real estate professionals have knowledge of the area, comparable costs of homes, and other information not readily available to the buyer. A lawyer can read through the contract and give important legal advice. A house inspector is invaluable in looking below the surface and preventing costly surprises after the purchase.
  • Evaluating a retirement community: Is it close to grocery stores, health care providers, shopping centers, and recreational activities? What is the age mix and ambiance of the community? Is it compatible with your lifestyle? How secure is the home, condominium, or apartment building and the community in general? Talking to potential neighbors can be very informative.
  • Before making the purchase: It is important to understand some planned retirement community requirements. Condominiums and planned communities are often governed by homeowner (HOA) or property owner association (POA) rules and regulations. These are legal entities, often non-profit and organized for the purpose of maintaining the retirement community standards. These are often governed by conditions, covenants and restrictions (CCR) These associations may collect dues for maintenance of community infrastructure. Remember that association dues will continue long after the mortgage is paid for. Check the association debts, reserve fund, how often dues are raised and special assessments levied. What do amenities cover? Check covenants and restrictions and make sure you can live with them. ( Examples include restrictions on fences, outside paint colors, pet areas, placement of satellite dish, yard decorations, etc.)
Chosen well, a retirement community can be very practical, fun and enhancing to one's later life.

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