10 Tips For Choosing Your Active Adult Community Retirement Home

active adult retirement home location

You have saved and planned and are now looking forward to retiring. Choosing your active adult retirement community location is the next big step. Making decisions about finances, maintenance, amenities, lifestyles, pets, proximity to family and many other choices require thoughtful decisions. Here are 10 Tips to help you choose the best retirement property for you.

  1. Make a plan

Retirement means different things to different people. While you might be dreaming of a senior living community and daily golf outings, your partner may be leaning towards a condo and extensive travel.

The first step in choosing a retirement property is to make a plan for what it is that you want in retirement. If you have a spouse or partner, this needs to be a sit-down conversation where you discuss not only where you want to live, but how you want to live, and what finances will be required for that lifestyle.

  1. Determine your budget

Now is the perfect time to speak with a financial advisor or planner. Before investing in your retirement property, you’ll need to determine exactly how much you can afford. You’ll need to calculate things like social security, pensions and any other retirement income.

Are you planning to pay cash or finance? Additionally, you’ll need to consider HOA dues, taxes, insurance and maintenance costs. Beyond home costs, are you planning to travel or become a country club member? You’ll need to determine what your expenses are likely to be in the future.

  1. Choose the right down payment and financing options

Buying your retirement home outright or with a large down payment may sound like the smart move, but it may not be. Be careful to avoid the house rich, cash poor pitfall. Living the life you want may mean having a mortgage. This is another great conversation to have with your financial planner.

  1. What do you enjoy, and how do you plan to spend your time?

Choosing a retirement home is not just about a house or even a location; it’s about the lifestyle you want to live.  Do your retirement plans enjoy gardening? Golfing? Travel? Learning new things? Do you enjoy the beach or the mountains? Do you spend your time antiquing or hiking?

Active people who enjoy a lot of social interaction may consider senior living communities which often have a variety of outdoor and indoor activities. Some of these include community golf courses, athletic centers, art workshops, theater and more.

It may seem unimportant, but most people don’t want to spend the bulk of their retirement commuting to the things they want to do. Some travel and commuting are enjoyable – too much is drudgery.

  1. Pick the right location

Picking the right location in real estate is important, but even more so when you are choosing your retirement home.  You should be looking in an area that provides you with the things you enjoy or easy ways to access them, but also with the things you will need long-term. A rural home may be easy on the pocketbook and give you a place to garden, but how far away are amenities such as grocery stores or medical offices? Keep in mind that you may not be able to drive forever, and access to public transportation or family that can drive you may become a necessary thing as you get older.

Climate plays another key in choosing your future home location. If you are genuinely tired of snowy winters, maybe it’s time to look at a warmer climate. Just keep in mind that there are trade-offs, and if you have close friends and family where you live now you may be leaving them behind.

Neighborhood is another aspect you need to look at when shopping for your retirement property. While some thrive on being in a community of other active seniors, others don’t. If you want to spend time reading books and tinkering in your yard, you probably won’t care to live in an area full of community centers and events.

  1. Make a long visit to potential home locations before you buy

This tip is especially important for people moving out of their current area. Before you start shopping for homes, spend time getting to know the ins and outs of a location. Oftentimes people visit a place on vacation and decide to move there without spending any time there during other seasons.

Experts advise you to not only do your research, but also take an extended off-season vacation in the area. Some apartment buildings offer short term three-month leases, or you may be able to find an AirBnB or similar rental for a month or two. This gives you a chance to get a real feel for a location before taking the plunge. You might find that the weather is not to your liking year-round, or that gas or groceries are more expensive than expected.

  1. Look for homes that provide great features not only for the present, but also the future

For the most accessibility, plan for single-level living when choosing a stand-alone home. While you might be more than capable of handling stairs and sunken living rooms now, be mindful that these features can become obstacles down the road for things like wheel chairs and walkers. Additionally, many stair steps leading up into the home from a garage or walkway could prove to be dangerous when bringing in packages or groceries.

Kitchen spaces should be open enough for accessibility, with appliances and storage that don’t require a lot of bending, stretching or climbing. It may be easy for you to access an over-the-range microwave today, but in the future it may be too difficult to use or clean. Instead, look for counter-height built-ins for microwaves, and wall ovens instead of the traditional stand-along range.

At least one bathroom in the home should have a step-in shower, specifically in the master bath. Stepping over the side of a tub to shower can become difficult as you age. The rest of the bathroom should be spacious enough to allow for easy accessibility as well.

Other features to consider are attic spaces with fixed staircases rather than pull-down styled stairs, which are often flimsy with poor railings. Wide hallways and 36-inch interior doorways both allow for the maneuvering of walkers or wheelchairs, should you someday need them.

If you are considering new construction, plan for some of the more common and popular handicap features, including grab bars in the bathroom, pull-out cabinetry, wide hallways and open floorplans.

  1. Determine how much maintenance you want to do

Lawncare. Landscaping. Exterior painting. Roof repair. These are just a few of the many home maintenance items to consider when choosing your 55+ retirement home.

If you decide to maintain your home yourself, be realistic about it. How long will you be able to, or want to, do the work? Who takes care of things if or when you travel?

A number of communities now contract with companies to maintain the home exterior and landscaping within their association. Make sure you thoroughly investigate which maintenance items are covered by the association and which are not, as well as any and all HOA fees, including special assessments.

If you are choosing a home in a community that does not have a Homeowner’s Association, your realtor may be able to make recommendations for lawn care or snow removal companies.

  1. Consider how often you will see friends and family

Before you decide to move across the town/county/state or country, consider how that will impact your relationships with friends and family. While you might be willing to drive an hour or two to visit now, what will happen when driving becomes difficult?

While you may be ready to downsize into a one or two-bedroom home or condo, will you have room for when the kids or grandkids come to visit? If not, are there accommodations nearby?

  1. If you have pets, don’t forget to plan for them as well!

As you plan for your ideal living situation, don’t forget to include the needs of any furry companions you have presently or may have in the future. HOAs, condos and senior living communities all often have rules regarding pets that you want to be aware of before you buy. A number of places restrict the number of pets you can own, as well as having weight limits or breed restrictions.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider what the day-to-day of your pet will be. In a home with a yard, letting the dog out may be easy. However, if you are looking into condo living, you may need to take them up and down the elevator several times per day. Bathing Fido may require a utility type sink or a nearby groomer, and if you have a kitty, don’t forget that you’ll need somewhere to place the litterbox.

If travel is part of your retirement plans, are there qualified pet-sitters or boarding facilities nearby? How about veterinary offices? Who will walk the dog if you find yourself unable to do so?

With the proper planning, your active adult retirement community home can provide you with years of relaxation and enjoyment.

For more information about active adult retirement living in Orange County California, contact Melanie melanie@melaniecallahan.com or call (949) 525-3590