It’s time to think about a starter home. Yes, you read correctly. As you transition into an active retirement life, you may find that your family home is just too big for you and your spouse — certainly you are using fewer rooms since the kids moved out — and it may be time to start fresh, in a home designed with you in mind.
Active adult communities are sprouting up across the country, attracting a healthy cross-section of full-time workers, semi-retired and those who left working behind years ago. What ties these neighbours together is their vitality and desire for a vibrant retirement community. They’ve retired from work, not life.
Consider these pros and cons to determine if an active adult community is right for you in your retirement.
The doctor is in 24/7. A growing number of active adult communities offer onsite healthcare, a highly sought-after feature. In the Del Webb 2010 Baby Boomer survey, boomers age 50 to 64 said healthcare was the most important consideration in selecting a retirement location.
Put the heavy lifting down. The convenience of an active adult community means your lawn care, snow removal and external home maintenance are covered. Now you can tend to your roses and enjoy the outdoors.
Time to putz around. Pursue hobbies and interests you put off during your working years, when you were consumed by your kids’ social calendar, soccer and Saturday morning math classes. Most homebuilders know they have to offer more because you are not going to rock on your porch, watching life pass you by. Communal game rooms and other spaces make it easier to meet friends for a pick-up poker game, ping-pong or just another quiet place to dive into a book that’s been on your shelf for years.
You have vitality and you want variety. After years of working, you are used to routine and after your morning coffee and paper, it’s time to maximize your day. Eighteen holes of golf this sunny morning. Clock your time doing laps in the pool. Get the kinks out with a massage at the spa. Most communities have a clubhouse featuring cards and billiards rooms, gyms, libraries and lounges, pools, golf courses, tennis courts, jogging and bike trails and even onsite restaurants. Decisions, decisions.
You value neighbourhood safety. Active adult communities are almost always gated. Residents usually have a code to enter, and visitors are required to check in with onsite security professionals. The result is a safe neighbourhood where you know who is coming and going.
Home design features work for you. Creaky knees? No problem. One-level living options abound — high-rise condo towers with elevators or detached bungalows, for example — and are making mobility easier. Wider hallways and doorways allow for wheelchairs and walkers. Homebuilders consider special needs, like adding grab bars in the bathroom and shower where slick floors could pose a falling hazard. Lever-handle faucets are installed, instead of the knobbed variety, making it easier for arthritic hands. Also, look for low-step showers and heated driveways as common features.
You like activity at your own pace. Slow down and interact with like-minded people who enjoy similar activities and lifestyle. Building communities around golf courses is not new, but what if you’re more of a Phar Lap person? At least one Ontario community under development is catering to horse lovers, and will feature a state-of-the-art equestrian facility. Down the road, the plan is to include on-site vets and an indoor arena.
This isn’t the family home. Most communities have a minimum age limit in effect, usually starting at 50, 55 or 65. Homeowners associations stipulate that residents must be a certain age and children under age 19 are not allowed to live in the community full time. This rule may also make it more difficult to transfer the home to your children in your will.
The resale market is smaller. Usually, retirees buy active adult homes for life. However, if you are selling (maybe you need more medical care), your buyers represent a smaller population.
You need your space. Downsizing from your sprawling, detached family home to a townhome, condo or bungalow can make you feel downright claustrophobic.
Homeowners’ association fees. You may be paying for amenities you don’t want or need. Monthly homeowners’ association fees average around $200 a month, depending on the size of the community, says Del Webb, a leading active adult homebuilder in the U.S.
Whether you decide to move into an adult lifestyle community or remain in your family home, make sure you have sufficient homeowners' insurance to protect your invesment.