How to Choose the Right Retirement Community for You

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Relaxed 55+ adults camping with friends and drinking a cup of coffee while enjoying retirement.
How do you choose the right retirement community? We have some advice!

11 minute read

Choosing the right retirement community is an important decision, and 55+ homebuyers looking to find their ideal community may have a few questions before packing their bags. Homebuyers have different types of active adult communities to consider, such as age-restricted active adult communities, active lifestyle communities that don’t have an age requirement, and senior living communities that often provide residents with medical care.

Below, we highlight some of the most important questions to ask yourself when choosing the right retirement community for you. We also showcase some of the regions you may want to consider, depending on your answers.

What Is Your Retirement Budget?

Coins in a glass jar with a calculator and an alarm clock.

Your retirement budget will help you decide the style of home you have, the community you want to live in, and the area you may want to be in. Of course, there’s no right or wrong way to start your retirement. But it’s important to consider your budget, especially when it comes to buying a home.

Migrate for the Winter

Are you a snowbird looking for a second winter home that won’t break the bank? There are many communities specifically targeted to active adult homebuyers who wish to live in their community only part-time. Florida is one of the most popular states for snowbirds with many low-maintenance communities. Some great Florida communities for snowbirds include Palm Cay in Ocala and Kings Point in Sun City Center.

Enjoy a Laid-Back Lifestyle

Are you looking for a moderately priced home within a suburban community? Homebuyers looking for a community with modern homes that satisfy their budget might consider communities such as Sunbird in Chandler, Arizona, or The Elms of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina.

Retire in Luxury

Are you looking for your dream home and don’t mind spending the cash it might take to get it? Homebuyers who wish to find their ideal luxury home might consider communities such as Gavilan in Rancho Mission Viejo, California, or Sun City Texas in Georgetown, Texas.

Depending on what kind of homebuyer you are, the community you choose should have a home that meets all your physical and financial needs.

Do You Prefer to Live Close to Quality Healthcare?

A doctor using a digital tablet.

Active adults concerned about being close to medical centers and facilities may want to take a closer look at the community’s surrounding area. Also, consider the best places to retire for certain conditions, such as arthritis or type 1 diabetes.

A few questions to ask yourself might be: Do I have to go to a medical facility often? Does a senior living community make sense for me? What are my specific medical needs? Answering these questions will help you decide whether or not living close to health care providers is important to you.

What Do You Want the Weather to Be Like Where You Live?

An autumn forest path at sunset.

Of course, no one can forget the question of climate when considering retirement. Whether you’re looking to experience all four seasons or leave the winter behind, the weather is a major factor.

Ask yourself: Where is the community located? What is the weather like there? What kind of climate am I personally looking for? Do I want to live in a wooded area, desert, or near the ocean? Since U.S. homebuyers can choose from a variety of climates, it’s a matter of deciding what you want most.

Change of Seasons

If you love experiencing the change of seasons, you might want to live somewhere in the Midwest or on the East Coast, such as Illinois, Ohio, or Pennylvania. The Midwest is known for its hot summers and snowy winters. And, the East Coast is known for the changing of leaves in the fall and its mild, breezy summers.

Warm Weather

If you’re looking for a dry, arid climate, you might want to consider a Southwest retirement. Arizona is known for hot summers with winters ranging from the 40s to the 70s. Or if you’re looking for a beachside location, the Carolinas are known for humid summers and mild winters. If you’re looking for a more tropical climate, you might consider a Florida or Southern California retirement.

What Style of Home Are You Looking For?

A cozy house with beautiful landscaping on a sunny day.

All homebuyers must ask themselves what kind of home they want to live in, especially active adult homebuyers. Active adult communities can have one kind of home or offer a combination of home types, such as single-family, attached, and condominium.

Some questions to consider might be: How much space do I need? Do I want neighbors in the same building as me? Am I looking for a low-maintenance home? Am I living alone or with others?

Considering your space needs, the style of living you’re looking for, and your specific living situation will help you decide what type of home is right for you. If you’re looking for a part-time home, you may want to consider a condo that doesn’t require much upkeep. Or if you’re moving with a spouse or family, you may be looking for a home with more storage and space. If you’re hoping to find a home slightly bigger than a condo but still low maintenance, an attached townhouse might be for you.

What Kind of Amenities Are You Looking For?

A senior couple relaxing in lounge chairs.

Amenities, social clubs, and various services draw many active adult homebuyers into a community. It’s fairly common for an active adult community to have many amenities and clubs, although this isn’t always the case. There are also plenty of active adult or lifestyle communities that don’t include clubhouses and amenities. 55+ homebuyers should consider what kind of amenities they’re looking for or if they prefer a community without amenities.

Common Amenities

Community amenities typically include a clubhouse, a fitness center, a pool and patio, and various sports courts throughout most communities. Some communities even have a golf course, a woodworking or poetry shop, a day spa, a continuing education center, or more.

Some questions to consider when thinking about amenities might be: What are your interests? Are you looking to utilize your athletic skills? Or are you hoping to have more hobby-focused amenities? Do you want a community with a spacious clubhouse or a more simple design?

Communities such as The Villages in Florida and Watermere at Southlake in Texas offer a plethora of amenities with elegantly designed clubhouses. Communities such as Saddlebrook Farms in Illinois and The Tapestry in North Carolina have a more concise list of amenities and social clubs.

Social Clubs

Another thing to consider for some homebuyers might be social clubs. Some active adult communities have their own lifestyle director who organizes events for residents, while others don’t. Do you want a community that has a long list of clubs and gatherings to participate in? Or are you more interested in focusing on how to cultivate your retirement independently?

Whether you’re looking for a community with several amenities or none at all, it’s important to consider what life is like throughout your community in order to make the best decision.

Do You Do a Lot of Traveling?

A happy 55+ couple using a smartphone at the beach.

Active adults who love to travel may not spend a lot of time at home. Frequent travelers might consider a lock-and-leave style community. Or you may simply need to live in a community near an airport.

A lock-and-leave style community allows residents to own a home without having to worry about the maintenance that typically comes with traditional homeownership. This option is especially attractive to snowbirds who may live in their community for only part of the year.

Some questions to consider if you plan to travel might be: How often will I be at home? How far am I willing to drive to the nearest airport? Do I need my home taken care of while I am not there? Am I living within the community part-time?

The requirements of your living situation will dictate the kind of maintenance you should look for within your community. Maintenance varies from community to community with some taking care of everything from lawn care and snow removal as well as gutter cleaning and trash removal, while some communities may just focus on lawn care.

Do You Have Pets?

A senior couple walking their beagle dog in the autumn countryside.

Many active adults have pet companions and want to be in a community that welcomes their furry friends. If you’re an active adult homebuyer with a furry friend, it’s important to find a community that allows pets.

Every community is different, and there’s certainly no universal rule when it comes to pets. Many single-family home communities allow pets. There are also many condo communities that allow pets but may have restrictions.

Check the Rules

Something else to consider when looking into a condo community is if each building within the community has the same restrictions. Often times a community with multiple unit buildings will have a different set of rules for each building. Some may allow pets and some may not, while others may allow cats and not dogs or vice versa. Be sure to clarify with your agent or a community representative the restrictions for pets.

Do You Want to Live in the City or the Country?

Dreamy modern 55+ lady relaxing in a city park.

The surrounding area of a community is another important thing for active adult homebuyers to consider. Though you may love spending time within your community, what do you want to experience when you venture outside?

55+ communities come in a range of sizes and are surrounded by a wide variety of settings. When looking to find a home in a retirement community, you should ask yourself if you wish to retire to an urban area or a more peaceful country setting. Or are you looking for something in between?

Urban, Suburban, or Rural

If you want to live in an urban area, consider moving to a community just a few miles away from a major city. Some popular urban areas for retirees include Phoenix, Arizona, Washington D.C., and Portland, Oregon. Or if you want to live in an area that’s not too close to the city but not too far, some regions you might consider are St. George, Utah, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Looking to get away from the hectic lifestyle of the city and suburbs? Some secluded country regions you might consider are Idaho, Central Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

Do You Want to Live in a Big or Small Community?

Train tracks and a water tower in the small town of Anna, Texas.

Many active adult homebuyers struggle with deciding what size community is right for them. While there is no perfect answer, consider what you want from your retirement community. Are you looking for a community with a lot of neighbors and plenty of opportunities to meet new people? Or do you want to live in a more intimate community with fewer homes?

Active adult communities come in a range of shapes and sizes so you have plenty of options to choose from. Homebuyers looking to live in a community with a plethora of homes and people around may be interested in communities such as On Top of the World in Florida, Sun City in Arizona, or Laguna Woods Village in California.

Homebuyers who are leaning toward a more cozy community may enjoy communities such as Water Crest on Lake Conroe in Texas or Lone Tree in Arizona.

Do You Have Family Visiting Often?

A big, happy family on a sofa and smiling together at home.

Every homebuyer should consider their family when thinking of moving into a new home. This is especially true for active adults, as many 55+ communities may have certain restrictions when it comes to an overnight guest or visiting family.

Though each community varies with its rules, much like pet restrictions, it’s important to obtain all the information available before making your decision on where you want to retire. Some active adult communities have no restrictions on overnight guests, while others only allow guests to stay for a night or two.

If you have family members who will be visiting for a long period of time or moving in with you temporarily, check with the community’s homeowners’ association (HOA) to make sure your needs will be able to be met. Guests who are under the age restriction of the community may or may not be able to visit or stay with you.

Active adult homebuyers with grandchildren should consider an active lifestyle community, which is a community without an age restriction or a community where the rules are more flexible. Active adult homebuyers who wish to be in a community without children should consider a strictly 55+ community that has restrictions on guest and visitors.

Whether you’re ready to move in today or need some time to consider, it’s important to consider these questions. 55+ homebuyers should also take stock of all the different prices, environments, amenities, home styles, and restrictions that can be found in 55+ communities across the country. Luckily, 55places can connect you with a partner agent who can help you find the right 55+ community for you. Contact us today!

Discover what’s next.

To learn more information or connect with a real estate expert, contact us today.

Can you spot the $207,744 difference between these identical homes?

Financing is the difference!

Get the details in The 62+ Loan Homebuyers Guide.

55places Mortgage is a joint venture between Mutual of Omaha Mortgage and 55places.com.
Details here.

We're here to help! (800) 928-2055

Call us to speak with a customer service representative.

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I agree that 55places and its affiliates, partner providers or agents may call, text, or email me about my inquiry, which may be made with automated means. I understand that my consent is not a prerequisite for buying a property. I may revoke my consent at any time by contacting optout@55places.com. Message/data rates may apply. I also agree to 55places.com’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

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We’re changing the way people 55 and older are searching for their perfect next place. With a national network of hand-selected real estate experts, plus comprehensive information, unbiased content, and on-the-go insight about thousands of communities across the country, we’re a trusted resource paving the way from here to home. Whether you’re interested in a low-maintenance single-level residence, an active lifestyle or age-qualified community, an intimate enclave, or anything in between, we can help you make your next move the best one yet.

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