Many people, as they approach retirement age and the kids are gone, begin thinking about downsizing. One of the more popular choices for reduction is moving to one of the over-55 communities that are springing up all over the country. That may or may not be the right choice for you. Here are a few things to consider before moving into an over-55 community.
• Understand the facility's management. One thing that is nice about most of these communities is that there is a management company that takes care a lot of the day-to-day maintenance and decision making. But you want to make sure this helps you to lead the carefree lifestyle touted by these neighborhoods. This requires dependable and competent management. Meet and talk to the management staff before making your decision. And most importantly, drive around and talk to some of the residents. They will know best how good the management is.
• Make sure you understand the total cost of ownership. These communities have costs that go beyond just a mortgage payment. There are fees required to cover management, maintenance, landscaping and the like, and the better or more inclusive these services are, the higher they'll be. Find out the exact costs and what it covers. You may find the fees quite reasonable for what they offer compared to what you paid for similar services in your old home. Also, again, talk to residents. How often have the fees gone up? Is everything that is included getting done?
• Find out what you can and can't do. These communities usually work quite well, often because of the residents' like-mindedness and sense of community. Part of the reason for this is the rules and covenants to which everyone must adhere. But you need to make sure you are okay with those rules before signing on the dotted line. There will likely be rules for how many cars you can own and where you can park them. There may be restrictions on whether and how you can decorate the exterior of your home. You may or may not be allowed to plant flowers in your yard. And there undoubtedly will be age restrictions. Can you live there if your spouse is younger than 55? What if your adult children need to move in for a while? You need to get the answers to all of these questions and make sure you are happy with the answers before deciding into which, if any, of the over-55 communities you want to purchase.
Over-55 communities are a blessing to most of the people that move into them. But for a few, they can be a curse. It is much easier to find out if this is right for you before you buy, rather than have to sell and move again when you find out it is not the right thing.