10 Steps to Take Before You Choose an Active Adult Retirement Community

Active adult retirement communities are as varied as the people who populate them. Take your time doing your research and you're sure to find one that's a good fit.

As the years roll on, some Boomers will choose to sell their homes for a variety of reasons: to save money, to downsize, to be closer to family. Builders of retirement communities are doing a better and better job of discovering what features make these communities appealing to Boomers.

If you're considering an active adult retirement community, here are 10 steps to starting your research.

1: Choose an area

First, decide where you would like to live by region, state, and then city. A variety of Web sites now cover this subject thoroughly and are very helpful. My Web site gives descriptions of the areas if you are wondering what it would be like to live in California, for instance. Find the communities listed under that area or city. The type of community you're looking for is likely to be categorized as Active Adult or sometimes Independent Living.

Make a list of the active adult communities you want to consider further. There are many types of active adult communities so notice what kind it is. For instance, some communities only have rental apartments. There are some that are manufactured homes or RVs only. Some have assisted living services available. The most common type is the outright purchase plus homeowners fee.

2. Make a list of your wants and needs

Is a golfcourse necessary? What are your hobbies and can you pursue them here? What other activities are there that you may wish to try in the future? Do you want a resort-type active adult community? Is having a college nearby important so you can be near children or grandchilren? Do you want to be close to a particular medical facility? How about scenery? Is a view important to you. Make a list putting your highest priorities first.

3: Decide on your budget

Do you want to purchase or rent? How much is the homeowner's fee and what does it cover? Are there any other fees? Make a list of your total expenses. What is the policy regarding raising fees? Are there other active adult community plans that you find more desirable than outright purchase?

There are many types of financial plans, however, the most typical is purchase plus a fee. For example, in the community I live in, my fee covers property tax and insurance, utilities, basic cable TV, security services, clubhouse, and amenities such as fitness center and tennis. My tai chi class is an additional small fee. Usually there is an extra fee for golf and outdoor pool. For the greatest security, make sure you can cover your monthly expenses for the rest of your life.

4: Make appointments to visit

A good plan is to contact the community or home builder and let them know you're interested. I find the retirement community will then send a generous packet of information. Sometimes they may have a visitor's program offering a tour of the property and sometimes an overnight stay at reasonable rates. Visiting gives you more detailed information.

5: During your visit, be observant

Notice if the seniors appear happy and active, and whether some of them greet you. Don't be shy about asking them if they like living there. Notice if the landscaping is well kept and beautiful. Find out what amenities are offered. Where do you put out your trash and do your laundry. Seriously, both of these are conveniently right outside my door. My trash chute makes my life a lot easier. The building is cleaned every week. Sometimes, of course, you will have your own washer/dryer machines in your home.

Make sure the floorplan makes your life easier. Are there any unique health programs for seniors such as restaurants serving a menu that is lower in fat, salt and sugar? Get the newspaper or activities calendar and ask if there are resales, check out the local real estate office. They can also give you an objective opinion on the community.

6: Check out the transportation options

Is there transportation for residents? Is there a shuttle bus? This is wonderful if you take the one car to work and your spouse stays home all day. You may not want the expense of two cars anymore -- or any car at all. You don't want to be stuck in your home with no way to get around. How far is the shopping center. Can you walk?

7: Know your shopping options

Where are the grocery store and major shopping: Is there a shopping center located nearby and where is the major shopping mall. Ours is conveniently next to the community and we can walk if we want to.

8: Check out the emergency services and hospitals

Fortunately, most active adult communities are located near these facilities since adult community home builders know this is an important factor. However, some that are in more remote areas may not be near enough to emergency services and you may have to weigh this in your decision.

9: Research to security services

How does this community handle security? Is there an electronic gate only, a 24-hour manned gate, or manned gate and patrol? The manned gate plus 24-hour patrol is best. Our security service also handles just about anything that may come up that we need assistance with or are concerned about. It is wonderful and gives so much peace of mind.

10: Now choose which communities you like best

Get the names of persons you came in contact with for any questions you may have later. Get more details on the community and maybe try to rent there first to try it out. Retirement communities usually have short-term rentals available. You may wish to do a follow-up visit.

Choosing an adult community is easier than you think. The people you come in contact with at retirement communities are very gracious and helpful. Soon you will enjoy the new sense of freedom and pleasure that only a great active adult retirement community can offer.

Carol Fena, with many years of real estate experience, now resides in a retirement community and enjoys writing articles about them for her Web site http://www.bestguide-retirementcommunities.com.