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Over 55 Communities: What You Need to Know

An older man wearing a blue striped shirt with two women either side of him as they all have tea together.

Over-55 communities may seem like a new trend, but it may surprise you to know that the first age-restricted communities were formed in Arizona in the 1950s – one of them, named Sun City, is still operating today!

Over the years, real estate developers have created different types of 55+ retirement communities that fit the lifestyle and budgetary needs of a variety of people. If you’ve considered downsizing and aging at home by purchasing a dwelling in an over-55 community, you should do your research to be sure it’s a good fit for you.

What is an Over-55 Community?

These active adult communities vary greatly across the country however, many typically require that at least one member of the household be over age 55 in order to live there. Often, the communities will allow an adult child over age 18 to live in the home but this varies. The homes themselves can be

luxurious condominiums or houses, while others may be smaller, more modest manufactured homes, apartments or mobile homes.

Many people are attracted to over-55 communities because of the quieter neighborhoods, availability of amenities like pools and clubhouses even golf courses and tennis courts and the ability to socialize with other residents who have similar interests and active lifestyles.

How is an Over-55 Community Different from Senior Living?

Even though 55+ and senior or assisted living residences are frequently called retirement homes or retirement communities, they offer very different ways of living.

Over 55 communities are best for those who want to live independently. People who live in these communities do not require assistance with activities of daily living, and they are just looking to move to a place where they can socialize with neighbors without the hassle of home maintenance and repairs.

Senior or assisted living facilities provide a higher level of care, that can range from daily check-ins to skilled nursing and medical assistance.

Are 55 and over communities expensive?

This can be a difficult question to answer. If you are looking to downsize and reduce the time and expense of chores and upkeep of a single-family home, you may find that the expense of purchasing a home in a 55+ community is worth it. These homes are typically more expensive than others of the same size in the community because of the amenities that are included in the selling price. As you age, however, you may find that you like the idea of having someone else take care of fixing and maintaining your home.

The style of the home, its location and the included amenities will greatly affect the price that you will pay for the property. Housing prices also vary depending on where you wish to locate, so it’s important to consider where you want to live as much as how you’d like to live.

Are There Extra Fees to Consider When Buying in a 55+ Community?

Most over-55 communities charge a Homeowners Association fee (HOA) that covers amenities like trash and snow removal, landscaping and maintenance of the dwellings and recreational areas. HOA’s usually set aside some of the dues to have in reserve for future repairs and maintenance.  If you purchase a home in a 55+ community, you may choose to become a member of the HOA to help make important decisions and be in the know about how the money is being spent. 

What Types of Restrictions Might a 55+ Community Have?

Beyond the expected age restriction, over-55 communities may also have other restrictions that residents must adhere to. If you become interested in purchasing a home in one of these communities, be sure to ask plenty of questions like the following:

  1. Can you have pets? If so, how many or what type?
  2. Are grandchildren allowed to visit and stay with you or for extended periods?
  3. Can you landscape your yard, have a garden, hang laundry or have lawn furniture?
  4. Are you allowed to have a satellite dish, cable TV and internet? Can you choose your providers?
  5. Are you allowed to rent the property if you decide to move elsewhere?
  6. Are there noise restrictions? Can you have parties and have guests park at the property?
  7. Are you allowed to change the design or color of your dwelling, add holiday decorations or store items outside your home?

If you tour a 55+ community, try to speak to residents so that you can get a sense of the social network in the neighborhood and find out if people enjoy living there.

Take your time making the decision about whether to move to an over-55 community. Your retirement should be filled with the happiness and relaxation that comes with living in your dream home no matter what type it is!

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