What to Look for if Buying a House in a 55-and-Over Community

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  • Communities catering to seniors are popular among pre-retirees and current retirees.
  • It's important to find the right community if you'll be moving to one.
  • HOA fees are one of several key things to look at when deciding which 55-and-over community is right for you.

Don't make this big move without knowing exactly what to look for.

If you are getting older, you may be thinking about relocating -- especially if you are tired of maintaining your home or if your mortgage payment has become prohibitively expensive as you near retirement. 

One possible place you may be considering for your move is a 55-and-over community. These areas are designed for seniors who are in or near retirement, and they often have special features that may be attractive as you consider your future.

But, before you select a 55-and-over community to buy your new home in, there are a few key features you’ll want to check into. Let's check them out.

Will you own or rent?

One of the first things to research when considering a 55-and-over community is whether the neighborhood offers rental properties or if you must purchase your home. 

If you do not have the money for a down payment or don’t want to commit to ownership until you’re certain you like the area, you may want to look for a community that offers rentals first so you can try it out. 

The downside of a rental, though, is that you don’t have the permanence that comes with being an owner -- and you can’t customize the space. If you are sure you’re going to stay put for at least two to five years (and ideally longer), then buying may be your best bet if you can afford it. When you retire and have to live on a fixed income, you’ll likely appreciate the stability that comes with a fixed-rate mortgage. 

What activities, if any, are offered?

Many people move to 55-and-over communities because they offer amenities and activities you can do in order to remain social and active and to help fill your day once you no longer have a job.

If having a full schedule is important to you, check to see exactly what types of things the community offers. In particular, be on the lookout for groups you can join, sports on offer, travel opportunities, and other chances to enrich your life and meet friends. 

How much are association fees?

In many 55-and-over communities, you have to pay a fee to a neighborhood association or a community association that helps maintain the common areas and organize the activities.

Typically, the more features the community offers, the higher these fees can be. Now, you may be willing to pay to have lots of activities planned for you and to have things like swimming pools and game rooms -- but be sure you understand these costs upfront and that they fit into your housing budget.

Is there an option for getting supportive services as you age?

If you’re old enough to buy in a 55-and-over community, then you’re old enough that it’s worth thinking about what your future will look like if you develop serious health complications. 

Many people don’t want to have to move to a whole new place when their health is failing, so you may want to look for a community that offers both independent and supportive living. You could, for example, find a place where you can buy your own house but where there is also a skilled nursing home in the neighborhood you can move into later in retirement if you need to. 

What is the policy for underaged guests?

Finally, find out what the policy is for guests who are not 55-and-over to make sure you’re able to have younger guests visit. If you’re hoping your grandchildren can stay with you during the summers or if you think your adult kids may move back home for a while, you’ll need to be sure this is allowed.

By taking these key issues into account, you can find the right 55-and-over community that works well for your needs.

Our Research Expert

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