Remember when you thought shopping for a home meant looking until you found the home and community that fulfilled your wish list? Well by the time you earn the right to shop for a retirement home you are probably a little more realistic. You'll shop until you fall in love with a home that balances your wish list with your pocketbook, in the location where you want to live.
What are some of the concerns and issues likely to be on the list of the 55+ buyer?
WHERE should you buy a home? In the city where you already live? In a place more suburban or rural? In the desert? Can you afford a coastal community? Do you want to be close to children? How close is close? What LIFESTYLE are you seeking? Do you want to stay near your present neighborhood? Want to be free of home maintenance chores? Are you seeking to make new friends? Do you want more opportunities to enjoy hobbies or volunteer commitments? Is a one story house necessary? What rooms can be on a second floor? What rooms do you need to live the life you seek? You want more SAFETY AND SECURITY. What do you mean by SAFETY AND SECURITY? Will a gate-guarded entry provide more security than an electronic gate? Will a neighborhood patrol provide security? Is a city with a lower crime rate going to be enough? Will a condo in a building with a locked front door and electronic gates at the garage provide the security you seek? What is "maintenance-free living? What MAINTENANCE chores do you hope to give up? Is gardening a hobby? Do you want to leave the mowing to others? Do you want to enjoy a pool that someone else maintains? Is it important to only heat and clean rooms that fulfill your lifestyle? How should you use your HOME EQUITY? Do you need to PUT PRESENT EQUITY TO WORK? How much will you sell your home for? Should your new home cost less? Do you need to invest some of the equity How much? Where can you find a new home in that price range?
The items listed here are only possible items on your list. The order in which they are mentioned may not resemble your ranking. As you shop you'll re-organize based on issues important for you. You'll crystalize what retirement is, or will be, for you.
When you find a home whose price and location are right, will you take two bedrooms instead of three? Will you give up a separate dining room for a great room? Can you be happy with a smaller garage if the community clubhouse has craft rooms? Will you fall in love with a two story house?
When a house is "right" will it also be "right" for your spouse?
Lists developed by a couple become subject to compromise. Are your wishes in the same order on your spouse's list, as on yours?
Is an inside laundry room equally important?
A golf course community?
Do you both love the heat of the desert?
The more you understand about what is important to you and your spouse the easier it will be to make the right decision.
The sooner you make your home buying decision the sooner you can start to enjoy it.
January 1997# # # #
A senior community? With a Community Association? Aren't they expensive? Don't they control what you can do with your own property?
These questions express the concerns of those who have never enjoyed the benefits of an association. People who have lived with one before, often specifically shop for housing that offers Association benefits again.
If you are considering a first move into a community with an association you need to know the benefits that justify the expense, control and degree of uniformity. Understanding will bring the realization that the benefit side of the equation often more than balances the expense side. Read on and you may find an association is right for you.
First realize that whatever control the Association exerts, it does so equally upon your neighbors. The ugly green rickety fence across the street, cannot exist. If the neighbor doesn''t remove it, the Association will. Neighbors with homes at the entrance to your cul-de-sac could not let the weeds take over the front yard. As an owner, you are a voting member of the Association and have a democratic say in what is permitted and what controls are imposed.
Legislative law requires Associations to put away reserves for future maintenance like eventual re-roofing, or termite treatment. That means that some of the monthly fees are forced savings for future expenses. That sure beats arguing with your spouse about whether the money in the bank can pay for a vacation or a new roof. The money in your bank account can pay for the vacation, because the Association holds the money for the roof.
Association dues may cover:
Exterior maintenance of buildings Maintenance of open space: lawns, slopes, walks and plantings Maintenance of amenities Pool Spa Tennis Courts Clubhouse Fire insurance on buildings Utilities such as Cable Water Trash pickup Recycling Security gate or patrol Newsletter of community happenings
What are the costs of the above where you presently live? What would it cost you to add these lifestyle freedoms and amenities to your present life if you don't now have them?
Security services Pool and spa maintenance Tennis club membership Golf club membership Social club membership Gardener
If you are considering moving because you are looking for a lifestyle change, add up the cost of all the benefits. You may just find the change to an association enriched community to be a bargain.
November 1996# # # #
If you are shopping for a new home in an age restricted community you have probably come to some conclusions:
You're ready for a lifestyle change The old house doesn*#39';t fit The house is too big with the children gone The house is so big that the children aren't gone
While you work through why, and where you should move, retirement community developers are working on design and amenity details to make your new home more focused on a retirement lifestyle tailored to long term fulfillment.
In your shopping expect to find:
Designs that feature hobby or multi-media rooms convertible to guest rooms where children's rooms might have been.
Floor plan flexibility for intimate evenings as well as evenings of entertaining friends.
Extra garage space that lends itself to a workshop or golf cart parking.
Raised garage door headers that allow for van or RV parking.
Bathrooms with levered faucets with mixers on the sinks.
Temperature controlled mixers in the shower and tub.
Sink counters raised to reduce bending.
Perhaps there are shower seats.
At least one tub in every home.
Whether grab bars are evident around showers and commodes, walls reinforced to accommodate their installation.
Door knobs replaced with lever handles for easier opening.
Electrical outlets higher than 18" off the floor.
Light switches lower than standard and luminous.
Pre-programmable thermostats that control heating and cooling day and night.
The front door peep hole is at a comfortable height.
Patio doors and screens have handles and locks that are easy to open and close.
Standard flooring choices that include low pile carpet styles, and hard surface non skid flooring.
Counter options that may include contrast borders to allow for delineation of the edges.
Internal doorways and halls are wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair.
In the kitchen, cabinets that include pull-out lower shelves and lazy susans.
Upper shelves that may be adjustable.
Overhead lighting that is luminous and diffused.
Additional undercounter lighting to brighten work areas.
Stove controls are at the front; ovens are placed next to usable counter space.
When visiting a community designed for retirement expect the sales counsellor to tour you through the homes, and point out the unique features. These many everyday living benefits may be just enough to tilt the scales in favor of a move, now.
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Any consideration of seniors housing needs to include more than just the fact of age restriction. Legislation permitting age restricted communities specifies that 55+ or 62+ justification lies with "significant amenities and services" which cater to the senior lifestyle and needs. To comply, we see a long list of considerations that builders incorporate into seniors' homes. That is, we see them if we know what to look for.
What do builders do to make a senior house different from other homes?
What fixtures and appliances are selected to make the activities of everyday living easier?
What structural differences are incorporated into each home that may not be evident to the uninitiated?
Senior living usually means a Community Association. How do Association fees compare to costs of comparable maintenance, repair and service at your present home?
What is the real value of the enriched lifestyle?
What activities, clubs, involvements are available as part of the Association?
As part of the greater area where the community is located?
How does close-in senior housing compare with what is offered in outlying areas?
How do you compare living in an age restricted community with one with all ages?
What are the reasons retirees and pre-retirees look to move in the first place?
When you consider moving to a new home, you want to know you'll be able to enjoy it for many years. The aging process can take many paths. Builders incorporate conveniences for unknown eventualities and accommodate unknown possibilities. It's funny, but many of the fixture and appliance choices, also benefit children. Maybe some of what we will write about here, will become the norm for all housing some day.
(Although subsequent legislation has removed the requirement for "significant amenities", to compete new communities still incorporate these features.)
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The ending of a year and starting of a new one, brings a look back to what the past has brought, and motivation toward what we resolve to do in the future. For the growing retirement home market it means taking a fresh look at the newly retired or those soon to retire. Are the people touring model homes in age restricted communities the same people who visited in the 80's and early 90's?
Some of the shoppers are the same. They are in their late 60's early 70's and looking to relocate to enjoy new opportunities in retirement. Their buying and spending patterns were established in their formative years, during the depression and World War II.
An upturn in the economy has brought out a new profile of buyer as well. This new retiree is younger than the typical 65+ retiree of the past. They are members of the "Eisenhower" Generation.
Characteristic financial and lifestyle patterns are set in our formative years. Today's 55 year old is different from previous retirees because his formative years were when "Ike" was president.
Those in school during the Eisenhower years, as a generation, are better educated, more individualistic, healthier and have long looked forward to retirement as an opportunity. An opportunity for greater freedom. The children's teeth are paid for, college bills are done, and they can spend their money and time how they choose.
Raised by parents influenced by the depression, they knew saving was important. They have saved. Some 79% are homeowners. That has enabled them to accumulate home equity and build an investment nest egg which they are prepared to use for retirement enjoyment. They are prepared to use only a portion of their present home's equity to buy a retirement home, and invest the balance to generate additional income.
Many of them are considering retirement at earlier than the 62 or 65 years set by Social Security. They know they can't have it all, and will make compromises to come as close as they can to their ideal.
They want a retirement home relatively close to family or friends. If they decide to be further from them, relying on senior travel discounts and email to stay in touch, they still want enough bedrooms and dining/living spaces large enough to entertain them all. They want living areas that accommodate their active, vibrant lifestyles. They want space to pursue hobbies and avocations. They want a place in their home or garage to spread out and "do their own thing". To combine diverse interests with their need for comraderie, many look to a community with a clubhouse where they can enjoy their interests alongside their peers. Balanced against County Club fees, a Community Association offers a lot for the cost.
Those who experienced the negative side of downsizing in their 50's, have developed home business niches they will continue to pursue. They are the first generation where two employees will retire. More of them have been dual income families than ever before.
The main living area on one level is still the preferred design, but this younger "Eisenhower" senior is more willing to accept second floor lofts if it means they can have a retreat and "personal" space. To gain additional room, seniors are accepting bonus space on an upper level because they are younger and healthier than former retirement home buyers who were in their late 60's or early 70's when they retired.
The "Ike" generation's sense of self is also characterized in their choice of communities. They want to live where it "feels right" to them. In fact, they are even willing to buy less in a home design if the "culture" of the neighborhood feels comfortable. They might even buy an attached home if it means they can be in the "right neighborhood". The "feel" of "lifestyle" is paramount.
In-fill attached products can be popular if it means retirees can downsize on maintenance, have greater freedom to travel and be close to the neighborhood they have enjoyed for many years. They choose a "package" that supports a lifestyle within a budget.
Their agenda is to have investments - stocks, mutual funds, bonds, CDs - that help provide them retirement at a carefree level.
New retirement housing on the market takes this new younger shopper in the housing marketplace into account. Even though he is a small segment of the total retirement population, he brings with him hints of the boomer market to come. With luck, he will also reap the benefits from those gearing up to meet the retirement needs of the earliest baby boomers. If you are part of the "Eisenhower" silent generation, visit a retirement community and make yourself and your wishes known.
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Consider the fact that the majority of home buyers in Retirement Communities are retired, or will be retired imminently. Then consider that we see model homes in these new home communities featuring "an office". A desk, computer, printer, modem, cd drive, the works. There are built-in bookcases, reference material, boxes of software. Do the people who plan the decor think people are retiring to work so hard they have to bring work home?
The designers who decorate and furnish model homes to appeal to retirees have done research and gathered demographic information about buyers' lifestyles. They know, that retirement doesn't mean retirement from - job, work, active endeavors, learning. It means retirement to - new exciting work (paid or volunteer) that makes one feel good. Healthy retirement means learning and expanding of life's experiences. Retirement means taking advantage of what makes you feel good and fulfilled.
Builders are offering homes to retirees with Great Rooms large enough to be multi-functional and accommodate an office set-up.
Interior designers are outfitting secondary bedrooms with an office layout. A desk or work space, a computer station located close to a phone outlet for modem connection. A secondary use may be for guests, but its more frequent use will be as an office.
Senior focus groups conducted by National Survey Systems (Irvine, CA) confirmed that there is a growing number of those 50 and over, looking to purchase homes in retirement communities who either own, or plan to own computers. In 1996 75% of Southern California focus group participants planned to have a computer in their retirement home. In 1997 the response was 100%, "yes". Those who did not already have a computer, had access to a computer at their present work. Retirement would no longer give them that access, and they saw the power of computing as an asset to life as a "retiree".
In fact, seniors use that computer in their Great Room, or secondary bedroom/office to conduct business from home, track investments, play games, and stay in touch with family and distant friends via email. A growing number use it to surf the web for a myriad of information. A David McCracken article in Connect-Time of the Orange County Register (CA) confirms that 30% of those 55-75 own computers, and the number is rising fast. As retirees age, they find online access is an increasing boom to staying vital, active and in-touch. A computer-equipped home office can make -library- research easier. It can facilitate access to the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times - papers retirees may have read faithfully when employed. It may even provide access to an old home town newspaper and a way to keep up on folksy stuff that is part of one's past.
The wealth of medical knowledge online can be equal to accessing the best and biggest medical school library in the country. Ease of access cuts down on the time to do the research and provides the luxury of digesting it at your own pace, or digesting as much or as little as you want.
When you visit new home communities note if the lifestyle portrayed in the home layout and the interior furnishings is reflective of what you envision your retirement will be. The home should look like it has been designed for you, and the decorating and furnishing done with you - or your future neighbors in mind.
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During one's life several home moves may have been driven by space and floorplans. The need for more space, another bedroom, a bigger family room. However, empty nesters and retirees rarely site those as the main motivation for initiating a move. Sure, we've all heard the stories about the family who bought a bigger retirement home so their divorced children could move back in and bring the grandchildren -. Or the couple who sold their big home so they wouldn't have room for the children to come back.
More commonly empty nesters and retirees, start their search for a retirement home with different mtivation. They want a new lifestyle, a better climate, a place to enjoy living the rest of their life. They start their search by looking at communities that offer those opportunities.
Senior communities in Southern California offer a variety of great climates from which to choose. The high desert, the low desert, inland valley communities, and ones closer to the coast. They are packed, in varying degrees, with amenities that offer an enriched lifestyle. Golf, tennis, swimming pools, sports clubs, craft rooms, auditoriums. So how do you make a decision?
After all the years of home buying the retirement home decision may once again come down to the floorplan.
When shopping for a retirement home keep in mind the lifestyle you wish to live. To entertain friends and family you will need a dining room, a big living room, or a great room.
If you prefer to party with family and friends outside of your home a smaller home, or at least smaller rooms, may be fine. Yoou will look for a community in which the clubhouse can provide the room to entertain. Does the neighborhood, town, or region have a selection of restaurants or clubs to support an entertaining lifestyle?
Do you plan to pursue hobbies that take space? Is there room in the garage for a workbench, or a woodworking lab in the clubhouse and a ready made group of people to work with? Is there a sink in the garage or utility room to make working in the garden easier?
Is the floorplan flexible enough for two people to be cozy, yet won't feel cramped with house guests for a week?
Will an upstairs loft work over the long haul? It may be fine if the main living areas are all on one floor.
Just like no one community is right for all retirees, no one floor plan is best. Project the lifestyle you have led into your vision of the future and your retirement. Plan for what you want to do for the next several years. Buy the home with the floorplan that best suits that vision. Especially if it is in the community that says "lifestyle" for you.
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If you've accumulated enough years and dollars to think of retiring, you are indeed lucky. Lucky, not just because you don't have to go to work, or don't have to fight rush hour traffic. Not lucky just because you no longer lie awake nights waiting for junior's key in the lock. You are lucky not because of what you don't have to do, but because of what you can choose to do. You can retire and spend time doing whatever you want. Your retirement plans should be rich with choices worth exploring. Not just withwhere you want to live. Rich with visions of hobbies to pursue. Old dreams to make come true. Experiences to have for the first time. Learning to do something you always wanted to learn. To have the time to do things your way - or your spouse's way - at your own pace.
The active communities advertised, attest to the active lifestyle of their residents. They know that those who choose to come and live in their community come with plans. Plans to make the most of this opportunity. The community's job is to provide the environment and encourage choices.
Although today's adult communities come with options available from the builder, such as a media room with surround sound some of the pleasures of retirment include the time to do-it-yourself". Many see retirement as an opportunity to leisurely research which components will meet their needs - or their vision - what surround sound means to them. Builders find new home buyers look forward to individually purchasing the components, receivers, speakers, stereo television, and installing them themselves. Ah, the luxury of retirement. Time to tinker, and sit back and reap the rewards from a feeling of personal accomplishment.
But lifestyle ideas can come from the builder's design showroom.
Buyers are interested in the concept of lively retirement. The job of the builder is to create the atmosphere that fosters the environment. Exterior and interior design can plant the seeds that grow into the decision to relocate.
Communities provide many opportunities to do things you never had time to do before. Community Associations offer ready-made opportunities to bring you closer to your neighbors. Through this new group of peers you can pursue new experiences and interests, many of which are fostered within the association environment. Computer clubs, investment clubs, a foursome for golf, tennis partners, dance classes, craft clubs and opportunities to volunteer for the benefit and betterment of the community abound.
Retirement communities also thrive because of the greater environment or region in which they are located. Usually this is due to the opportunity the greater community offers in lifestyle or year-round climate. Perhaps there is a large senior population in the town, ready to welcome you into their fold. Clubs, organizations and volunteer opportunities thrive providing opportunities to socialize and make new friends. The greater environment may also offer intergenerational opportunities to enrich your life or that of others.
In exploring which active retirement community is right for you, keep in mind that retirement is not going to be about what you have given up, but what you now have the opportunity to gain. Go shopping for a retirement home with a pocketful of wishes, dreams and the concept of unexperienced opportunities. If you don't know what you are looking for, how will you ever know you have found it.
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This is the time of year when we can expect to spend more time outside. Cleaning the pool, cutting the grass, painting the house. Or are you reading this because you are looking to "getting a lifestyle"?
Active adult communities are geared to maximize the time you spend not caring for your home. At the end of the day, you may be tired, but will be from figuring out your choices, not from taking care of "honey-do's". Active adult communities foster lifestyle.
Researchers have found that people who move to active adult communities look to make new friends and relish new experiences. That works out neatly when you consider that developers include an amenities package geared to the 55+ (60+ or 62+) resident, validating the age restriction. Amenities translate to "lifestyle". What are the most commonly found amenities when you purchase real estate in an active senior community?
Retirement communities offer enriched lifestyles.
An 18 hole golf course Tennis courts A clubhouse offering social, recreational and avocational opportunities including A weight room and aerobics area Craft rooms Multi-purposes meeting rooms for clubs and classes A library Adult education classes, perhaps affiliated with the local community college Activity director or an Association structure that provides for activity planning Swimming pool and spa with classes from swimming therapy to water aerobics Maintenance of grounds and landscaping Maintenance of home exterior Security and emergency response system, sometimes manned by resident volunteers A range of clubs as diverse as the residents in the community Opportunities to be involved with the greater community
This list should be just a starting point for your conversation with the sales professional who will be proud to show you incorporated amenities. Weigh the benefits of living in one of these retirement communities, remembering that nothing is free, not even lifestyle. But because you expect value for your money, weigh costs against amenities for the communities you visit. Compare costs to benefits if you were to pay for them where you presently live. You'll find that an enriched lifestyle can be a bargain. It may be just the way you want to spend the rest of your life.
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Interstate and intrastate relocations of people over the age of 60 have been studied with grants from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) since 1975. It's no surprise to learn that the greatest receiving areas of relocating seniors are the sunbelt and coastal states.
Among the most sought after qualities are:
Low crime rate Nearby hospitals Low overall cost of living Mild climate Low (relative) housing cost Friendly neighbors An easily accessible major city An active social/cultural environment
Add up the above list and the message is, seniors seek a lifestyle change. They want to wake up in the morning when they no longer "have" to go to work, and have choices of what to do today.
Seniors look, within those states where they consider retiring, at locations that offer opportunities for recreational amenities, beaches, lakes, mountains, resort type destinations.
If you balance this profile of locations, with lower cost of living and relatively low housing costs, its no wonder Riverside County, California is a popular retirement destination. In fact the latest NIA study shows Riverside County was number one as a California County for in-migration among the 60+ population. It was 5 times as popular with Californians as the number 2 county - Sonoma. San Diego County was the number three choice.
So if you recently received a gold watch (if that is what they give now-a-days for retirement) and are looking for a retirement location, take a look at Riverside County, amenity rich communities.
You have been thinking of moving from your home of 30 years to a seniors community. You put the purchase off for the past several years waiting for the right market timing. You want to capture as much money from the sale of your existing home as you thought you could have gotten...in 1989.
The good news is, rising market demand has pushed resale prices of homes in your neighborhood to new levels. You are ready to shop for that new home.
There are new and existing senior communities to choose from, and a variety of floor plans in each. The lifestyle opportunities are exciting: golf, tennis, crafts, clubs, and neighbors just waiting to make new friends. The opportunites are there to find just the home and community to meet your plans for retirement, and the rest of your life.
The realization that new legislation will allow a couple to shelter $500,000 ($250,000 for an individual) from capital gains, on their home's appreciation when they sell, if it was owned for 5 years, and lived in at least 2 of those years, adds incentive to the shopping idea. Not only can you sell your home for more in this market, but now you can put more of the appreciation into your pocket! Shopping for a new home is even better. You can put more money into your new home and reduce or eliminate the mortgage. You may use some of the money for new furniture to suit your retirement home and lifestyle. You may even have money left to invest for the future, and supplemental your monthly cash flow.
If your home is in California your good fortune may not end there. Proposition 60 and Proposition 90 were passed so long ago, that many have forgotten that they can also put money into your pocket in the form of property tax savings.
Proposition 60, passed in 1986 allows seniors (55 or older)to buy a new home of equal or lesser value than the one they previously owned (within the same county) without suffering re-evaluation of the taxable base.
Proposition 90, passed in 1988, allows for intercounty transfer (between consenting counties) of their tax base when those 55 or older buy a new home of equal or lesser value. (Check with bothe counties to learn if they are still participating.)
If you meet the criteria of either of these propositions, you can take the tax base from your old home and have it reduce your real estate tax obligation on your new home. If you owned your home in 1975, when Proposition 13 went into effect your tax base will really be rolled back to a low level!
After you check the effect of the new federal legislation, and the propositions with your accountant, you are ready to cash in on these financial incentives helping seniors relocate. This is the best time to buy that new retirement home.
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The California lifestyle has long been characterized by the outdoor life it fosters. Outdoor spaces that come inside by placement of patios accessed through large sliding glass doors, or a wall of french doors. Patios accented with manicured potted plants; flower beds with seasonal color contrasting with perennials; expanses of grass framed by exotic trees and fragrant shrubs are typical of the "culture". It's haard to find those who take more pride in their landscaping than Southern Californians.
Architects and Landscape Architects design so that if you must be inside, you can enjoy the glorious outside as well. In Southern California lifestyle incorporates the outdoors. Retirees buy where they can have the best outdoor living options their money can buy based upon hobbies and priorities.
To some that means no yard to mow and no pool to clean. For others it's a yard or patio with room to grow roses, vegetables or tend shrubs that frame a space for entertaining. The chance to pursue horticulture hobbies, barbecue and dine outside. To stroll in safety and enjoy the stars on a balmy night.
Many communities incorporate meandering walks in park-like settings for strolling and jogging. Some have separate paths for cycling.
Other commonly found outdoor amenities are swimming pools, large enough for swimming laps and water aerobics and heated spas for relaxing. When available in a community these features come with the luxury of leaving chores related to upkeep to someone else.
Tennis courts, greens for lawn bowling or boccie ball, shuffleboard courts and horseshoe pits, are other outdoor features that might be found in retirement communities.
Of course there's also golf. A course may be part of the community, or available nearby. Membership in a golf course may be included in Association dues, or an optional extra. Golf courses don't just draw golfers. They draw lovers of the outdoors and open spaces. Views overlooking a golf course are in demand. Lot premiums reflect demand for homes alongside a course and many homebuyers who pay those premiums never play golf. They seek the uncrowded, relaxed feeling that soft rolling berms of green, sand traps and waterscapes offer.