You’ve talked it over incessantly with your spouse, and you made the decision: you’re going to put the family homestead up for sale and look into a 55 and older community.

And why not? These places, also called active adult communities, are perfect for those retired or near retirement who are looking for a change and a space that will provide them with a home and lifestyle in one central location.

It’s one thing to go house hunting in a typical American neighborhood, but it’s a completely different ballgame to hunt for the perfect house AND community to live in.

So as you begin researching and touring communities, keep these six things top of mind to find the best one for you and your budget.

1. Size of Community

When it comes to size, selecting the right 55 and older community for you is kind of like choosing a college campus. Across the country, there’s a huge range in size, from square footage of the development to quantity of homes and members. So, what size is right for you? Do you prefer a more intimate, small community with a little more personal care, or a sprawling development that may have more amenities? Maybe it’s somewhere in the middle.

Picture yourself in one of these communities and ask what size will make you feel most at ease.

2. Age Range and Restrictions

Another thing to keep top of mind during your search is the age restriction and age range of a given community. Though active adult communities generally sway toward residents over the age of 55, not all are age-restricted. These places, called age-targeted communities, appeal to the 55+ group, but accept residents of all ages.

Depending on your life stage, you may shoot for a smaller age range so you don’t have to deal with the possibility of sharing common spaces with those much younger than you. In this case, age-restricted communities would be best.

On the flip side, if you’re used to having younger people in your neighborhood or you’re looking for a place that will accept adult children (or even young ones), age-targeted communities are where you should set your eyes.

3. Amenities and Lifestyle

Let’s get one thing straight: these communities aren’t a bunch of retirement homes lining a few streets, oh no. Most 55 and older communities have specific facilities, services, and outdoor areas to accommodate your lifestyle in one central location.

If you have a lot of hobbies and interests and want a facility that can accommodate them all, a larger community is your best bet. This will provide you with a more resort-style living experience—but comes at a cost (more on that in a bit). Smaller communities offer more basic amenities, such as a clubhouse, multipurpose room, pool, and tennis court.

Here’s a list of common amenities you might see on your search:

  • Dining facilities
  • Spas and salons
  • Fitness and aquatic centers
  • Golf course
  • Exercise classes
  • Wellness clinics
  • Social and physical activity programs
  • Arts and crafts studio
  • Scheduled transportation
  • Assisted living services
  • Spiritual gatherings
  • Landscaping and maintenance

4. Close and Quality Healthcare

A 55+ community might offer all the above amenities, but if the proximity to a reputable hospital is out of reach, it might not be worth it. Even if you’re in perfect health now, having a nearby healthcare facility will become a bigger factor as you get older. Don’t be afraid to ask current residents about local primary care doctors and specialists, and check state and national rankings of hospitals in the country.

And if you want a community where you’ll have access to care as your needs increase, consider one that offers assisted living or a continuing care retirement community. Continuing care retirement communities offer assisted living and nursing home care as you transition out of independent living.

5. HOA Fees

You should get familiar with the Homeowners Association if you aren’t already. You’ll likely be paying a monthly or annual fee to this organization for upkeep of the community’s grounds and amenities.

The HOA is an organization whose purpose is to preserve, maintain, and enhance properties in a designated area. And as it relates to a 55+ community, the HOA also oversees the facility’s shared spaces. Sidewalks, streets, common rooms, golf courses, and all other shared spaces will be kept in great condition by the HOA. And yes, you can say goodbye to having to mow and maintain your lawn!

The cost of HOA fees varies by state and the number of services offered by the community. The more amenities and the more upscale the community, the more you’ll pay in HOA fees. Typically, these fees vary between $100-$600 a month, so ask your agent or community representative when hunting.

6. The Right Home (of course)

If you’ve decided to forgo making home modifications to your current home in exchange for living in a 55 and older community, it’s vital to find a house that’ll suit your needs not just currently, but for the next 20 to 30 years. So what does “right” mean for you? Does it mean having a curbless shower in the bathroom? A wheelchair accessible front door? Or maybe it’s a fully carpeted interior to prevent slipping?

The bottom line: Even if you think you’ve found the perfect community, it must have the right home that will best suit your present and future needs.

Speaking of the home, are you thinking about renting or buying? Not sure? Read this: The Benefits of Buying Later in Life.

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