Inside Edition: What Sandy Has Learned After 8 Years of Visiting Dozens of Active Communities

Category: Active adult communities

June 10, 2011 — Note: This is Part I of a multi-part series from Sandy. Don’t miss “Part II: How Anyone Can Afford a Warm Winter Retirement“.
Sandy and Roger from Michigan have been living what a whole lot of retirees dream of doing. On and off for the past 8 years they’ve been out exploring dozens of active communities. Along the way they’ve honed their vision of the perfect community, and they are closer than ever to finding their ideal match from the ones they have visited. This article will share the icing of what they’ve learned … along the way. A future article will provide a more detailed list of the communities they’ve visited, along with their impressions for each. We are very grateful for them sharing their insights with their fellow Topretirements members.

Sandy and Roger
Sandy, with whom we conducted this interview, is a very full of life 68 year old. Until she retired a few years ago she ran the recruiting portion of the placement office at University of Michigan Business School. She and her husband Roger, a former contractor aged 71, are a perfect example of the best way to find a retirement community. From the beginning of their search they looked south, thanks to Sandy’s motto that she “didn’t want to be cold and old”. The couple currently live in Michigan and have spent most of the last 8 years snowbirding, mostly in Florida.

What they are looking for -like walking into a party
The couple has several tools to help them rate the various communities they have visited. They have a rating checklist for the homes that each one fills out separately (we will share that in a future article). One of their criteria is having doorways that are at least 36″, since with 2 artificial knees Sandy realizes some day she might be wheelchair-bound. Roger is an avid woodworker, so finding a community where he could pursue that passion was important. They have a bias against manufactured housing, but nevertheless have seen some very appealing communities with factory built homes. Their most powerful rating tool is intuitive. As Sandy says, visiting a community is like walking into a party – you can tell almost immediately if you are a good fit and will have a good time. It is mostly a question about being comfortable. Are people out on the streets and in the facilities doing things – or is it quiet with no interactions going on? Your first impressions are key. Another rule the pair has developed is that they will not buy in a community before they have lived in it for at least a year (a good one!)



Out West
At the beginning of their search the couple fell in love with Sun City Summerlin in Las Vegas. There was so much to do, everything they could think of, including the wonderful Vegas entertainment and every kind of urban resource. Even though they really liked it, the pair became concerned about the future cost of living and changed their focus to Florida. Of course in the last few years prices and costs have plummeted in Vegas.

Off to Florida
For much of the past 8 years the couple has wintered in Florida, where they prefer the west coast and central areas of the Sunshine State. They feel more comfortable north of the Sarasota area and away from the East coast. They have participated in at least 5 Stay & Play (Discover) packages, and believe they are a great way to get a feel for a community. They also keep their eyes open when traveling around the state. If they see a sign for a community, they’ll stop in for a visit. And, we’re proud to say, they use the list of communities in the Topretirements’ Florida Directory of Active Adult Communities. Here are some of the places they have visited, along with some shorthand impressions (we will publish a more detailed list in a future issue).

Legacy of Leesburg. Gorgeous houses, but it felt somewhat sterile. They did not see much mingling or people enjoying each other in the public places.

Lake Alfred: Cypress Green – stayed here – GREAT, senior golf community and mobile homes, best maintained of all the mobile home parks we visited.

Sun City FL. When Sandy saw Sun City she thought it would be the answer to all of her prayers. But then she realized everything was too old for her taste – the houses were a bit creaky with dated plumbing and electrical systems. Even the people were too old – 15-20 years older than they were. Along the nearby highway there were closed strip malls and stores, which was depressing. When they went to mass all the altar servers were old. That bothered Sandy, who although she doesn’t want to live next door to kids, does want to be near a metro or city where you go can outside the community gates and interact with normal families and children.

Love at First Sight
Sandy and Roger fell in love with On Top of the World in Ocala this past winter. Surprising to both, they each immediate fell in love with the house they stayed in during their Discovery Visit. Everywhere in the community people were out doing things, and they were often invited in for coffee. The comfort level was “Phenomenal”. They loved all the activities, including a huge woodworking shop which would mean Gary would not have to move his machinery down from Michigan. There were indoor and 2 outdoor pools, golf courses, and resident garden plots (a big plus for Sandy). But perhaps the icing on the Top of the World cake for the couple were the golf cart paths extending all over the development’s 12,000 acres. The paths even ran to some nearby shopping areas, which meant not having to drive the car! The villas were very well maintained. Association fees are between $135-$330, depending on the size of the home, and that includes all outside maintenance and insurance; plus trash, cable, clubs, and amenities. The prices of new homes were reasonable, ranging from $150k to $250k (plus upgrades). Quite a few resale homes are for sale at much lower prices, sometimes even well under $50,000 for well-maintained homes. More big pluses were the giant Live Oak trees that gave the community a green look that reminded Sandy of being back home in Michigan.

People have no idea of how cheap you can live in Florida
Sandy is bemused by people from the north who fret about the cost of retiring. She says that she is astonished at the low cost of living available throughout Florida. Livable condos are available for way less than $50,000 – even $15,000, and rents from $400 – 500 a month. She says that if you haven’t been down to see what it’s like for yourself you just have no idea of how nice and inexpensively you could live.

Part 2 coming, with a surprise community
Next time we will provide details about more communities the pair has visited. In Part II of this series they will share their ideas on how anyone can afford a warm winter retirement. But meanwhile they have already reserved a rent for next winter in Ocala – but surprisingly, in a community across the street from On TOP of the World, Oak Run. Their thinking is that that way they will get to explore another community, and be close enough to TOP to give it a thorough examination! As we concluded our interview Sandy threw out one more tantalizing tidbit – they have started exploring another community that is both cheap and in many ways nicer than TOP – but she can’t share its name with us yet. Stay tuned!

More Boomer Retirement Profiles:
Jane and Jack: Retired in Place, But Mighty Busy
The Snowbirding Innkeepers
The Seafaring Couple Start an International Literacy Non-Profit

Comments. Have you visited any of the places on Sandy and Roger’s list? What were your perceptions? Tell us about your explorations in the Comments section below.

Posted by John Brady on June 10th, 2011

169 Comments »

  1. I wish them the best. One criteria, I am looking for is how is life for singles. As we age, life without a partner becomes more of a reality. Many of the retirement websites cater to couples and totally ignore singles. Perhaps Top Retirement would dedicate one single article on singles retirement?

    by Mona — June 11, 2011

  2. Amen! How about it?:smile:

    by Karen — June 11, 2011

  3. Nice article! I never envisioned us in one of these places. However it certainly intrigued me. Question: “Are there a fairly large selection of retirement 55+ communities available that rent on short term basis?” Say – 6 weeks or so? I don’t think we’d be up to “snow birding” for longer. Thank you!:cool:

    by nancy Gowins — June 11, 2011

  4. I too would like to see more on life for singles and appreciate your consideration. Thanks!

    by Rebecca — June 11, 2011

  5. Funny that this article just came out. We are moving to the Ocala area and looking to rent for a year before buying. Saw Top of the World, too big. Saw The Village, too big. Looking at Spruce Creek and the new Dell Webb Stone Creek which is still building. But I will clue Sandy in on one thing, go there in the summer!! Then you can REALLY tell about the full time population. Closing on the house June 30th and going down, hope I can find a rental for a year… Wish us luck.

    by Keith — June 11, 2011

  6. My wife and I have been following your articles for several years now. I have been retired for 10 years and Cindy for 2 years. We started investigating possible retirement communities 4 years ago. Our travels brought us to Puerto Rico, Florida, California, N. Carolina and Arizona. I particularly liked Sandy’s quote “didn’t want to be cold and old”. We discovered Sun City West, AZ last winter and for many of the reasons Sandy mentioned we decided “this was the place”. We purchased a beautiful, move in condition home at a very reasonable cost. We still also own a home in Massachusetts that will remain our Summer abode. Keep up these great articles. We love reading about other people like us that are still kicking and getting around. (It keeps us young)

    by JohnF — June 11, 2011

  7. Very informative article. Looking forward to part 2. I join Nancy in her question about short term rentals in the 55+ communities.

    by Becky — June 11, 2011

  8. Nice comments everyone! First, we have written an article about singles and retirement. http://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/the-best-retirement-places-for-singles.html/
    There are also some discussions in the Forum – such as http://www.topretirements.com/forum/t1946/The_dilemma_of_finding_a_+55_Place_with_enough_single_people.html
    It’s a good suggestion, we will keep it in mind.

    As far as short term rentals, Sandy (and others) tell me there is no shortage of short term rentals in most active communities. Start with the communities, look online, or talk with people you know there or a realtor.

    by John Brady — June 11, 2011

  9. After last winter here in Jersey, my wife and I are really looking forward to getting out of here . Our first preference is the West Coast of Florida, somewhere we can fish, enjoy a small boat, and be free of loud cars and music!

    by belleboy — June 11, 2011

  10. Thank-you sooo much Sandy & Roger for your wonderful article on the above
    communities. My husband & I are hoping to move to Florida w/in the next
    2-3 years. My husband only gets (1) week paid vacation and we cannot afford
    to visit these communities. However, after much research on line we
    to have decided on the Ocala area. Sandy, my husband is a carpenter and he
    too is tired of being cold. We’re looking for a simple residence. Must be
    modern & gated and quaint. Don’t need all the bells & whistles in a development, but would like to have a garden and a place for my husband to
    do some carpentry. Your future articles will be very interesting for us.
    Again thank-you both in advance.:razz:

    by Judy — June 11, 2011

  11. I was up in Michigan visiting the west coast over Memorial Day (fell in love with Holland!) and observed that the largest contingent of Florida plates were from the west coast: Lee, Sarasota, Pasco. I learned that there are new nonstop flights from Kalamazoo to Tampa.
    One thing to keep in mind if you are planning on a snowbird routine is what the weather is like there on a year-round basis. This is one of the factors that makes Ocala more attractive than say Fort Myers. Not that it doesn’t get hot in the summer but its inland location also makes it much less prone to hurricane damage.

    by KC — June 12, 2011

  12. One good rule of thumb – the newer the active adult community, the younger the average age of the residents. (Once they move in, residents tend to stay and age in place.)

    Jan Cullinane, co-author, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane, co-author The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your LIfe (Rodale 2007) — June 13, 2011

  13. I only got to spend one day at Top Of The World…but really liked it! The prices were very good and they offered me a site on the golf course for no extra charge. In the end though, I didn’t think the community was active enough for me. I’m still leaning towards The Villages.

    by Nancy — June 13, 2011

  14. […] Sandy said in last week’s story, “What Sandy Learned After 8 Years of Visiting Active Adult Communities“, if you haven’t visited the real estate market outside your state you have no idea how […]

    by » Five Reasons Why You Should Retire in Another State Topretirements — June 13, 2011

  15. Hospitals…looking at Ocala. Reviews horrible for medical care around there. Wonder where you go? Spoiled with the best docs ever here at home now but in a larger city. Just thought that might be a huge factor to think about and where you go around Ocala?

    by CJ — June 15, 2011

  16. If your thinking of retiring to an adult community I highly suggest reading the book Leisureville: Adventures in America’s Retirement Utopias by Andrew D. Blechma Mainly about The Villages but worth the read for all retirememt communities info, laughs and experience of the writer.

    I’m sure you know the plus’s about FL so I’ll just touch on the flip side. If you are retiring and $ is no problem then a lot of this will not apply.

    Having lived in an adult community in Ocala Fl for 10 yrs(and in different areas of FL for 23 yrs) my best advice is to RENT for at least a yr. You can always buy, but selling is a different matter.

    Read and understand the Deed Restrictions. All retirement communities have them and will fine you for breaking them. This is VERY important. Know what they are!!!!!!!

    When people visit FL in the winter all they see is the green and flowers w/a warm sun. Look beneath the surface. OTOW is a nice community but it is land leased, you have to go to the community mail box to get your mail. There is no curb side garbage pick up. You have to take your garbage to the community dumpster. You can’t keep it in your garage for long due to the heat of the sun. Think about driving your garbage to the dumpster. Do you mind doing this? The monthly association fees are close to $400.

    Oak Run is aging, as a lot of these communities are. The developer has closed the 9 hole golf course along w/the restaurant next to it and it is not being kept up and thus starting to look neglected. The upkeep on the ammenties are not kept up as well as they could be. There are lawsuits w/the developer. Check this w/any community you want to move to.

    When you visit communities look closely at things. Example the indoor pool, the bathroom/showers,gyms etc. The salesmen are out to sell and will NOT point out the negatives. Drive around the community and look closely at the homes, lawns etc. There are a lot of foreclosed homes in FL so look closely at these communities and outside of them and really look at houses, lawns, closed stores etc. Look below the surface.

    Many of these communities are aging as their population is. Jan C is correct in her assessment. Newer communities have a younger population.

    FL has no state income tax. This is fine as long as you don’t get old/sick or disabled and need any services to help you, there are none. You need $$$$.

    Housing prices are way down and unemployment is way up in FL. If you intend to work at all know this area has one of the lowest pay scales in the state. Water is very expensive.$54-100++ a month(the upper end if you use your sprinklers to water the lawn).Soil is mostly sand. House insurance also is expensive and can be hard to get due to the hurricaines, especially near the coast. Electric runs $100+++ in summer. Food is equal or higher than other parts of the country.

    Sink Holes. Don’t let any salesman tell you there are not any. Every community has them and they can be a big problem. Palmetto bugs (giant cockroaches)and all sorts of other little critters need to have the house exterminated against them 1x a month. Love Bugs 2x a yr that if you don’t get them off your car they ruin the paint. A major airport (Orlando or Tampa) is 90 miles away. Any big shopping mall is in Orlando or Tampa.

    Medical is adequate. If your used to big city Dr’s and hospitals you will not find them here. Shands at UF is excellent but 100 mile RT from Ocala.

    High humidity causes mold and mildew to grow on everything outside. Houses, patios etc have to be cleaned every year. Summers are miserable unless you like living in a steambath. Summer storms can be fierce with tornados in them.

    If your going to be a snowbird you are very lucky. If you plan on moving to FL permanently be sure you want to be that far from your kids, g-kids etc. There are restrictions on how long kids can visit in retirement communities.

    These communities are geared toward couples. There are single groups but women out number men 7 to 1. Two percent of Marion Countues population has higher than high school If your used to big city culture, transportation and diverstiy you will not find it in Central FL.

    Research before you decide to pack up and move to any retirement community. Talk to people who live there, in the stores, at the pool etc. Articles about the best places to live are done mostly on statistics. Research, visit and most of all rent for the 1st year or 2 to see if it is really what you like. Good luck and enjoy your retirement.

    by SS — June 17, 2011

  17. Why are all of the articles being cut off on the right? It really makes it difficult to follow what someone is saying.

    Hi Larry: Sorry you are having this problem. We have had reports of this in the past but thought we had solved it. What kind of browser are you using (Internet Explorer, AOL, Firefox)? Do you know what version it is (will appear in the Help section of the browser)? That will help us zero in on the problem, which i hope is very rare.

    by Larry — June 20, 2011

  18. I concur with being careful to do yor research before you move. The wife and I fell in love with a 55+ active adulr community outside of Eloy, AZ. The price was right, the home were beautiful as were the amenities. We started our research by looking in the neighborhood newspapers online and found out there was a private max security prision that was built about 5 mile up the road. It houses the most dangerous prisioners from Hawaii. It isn’t labeled on any map but if you use Google Earth you can pick it out from the satellite.
    This caused us to move our hunt farther north. Be igilant and talk to the residents if possible for the secrets the real estate companies don’t wish to share with you.

    by Rob — June 20, 2011

  19. I am having the same text “cut off” problem on the right side. Noticed it within the last few weeks.

    I have Explorer, Version: 9.0.8112.16421

    by Bill — June 21, 2011

  20. I have IE Ver 8.0.6001.18702.
    If I use FireFox, I do not have this problem.

    Thanks Larry and Bill. This is helpful information. We will get the techs on it. Just upgraded to new version of WordPress, maybe it is the culprit. John

    by Larry — June 21, 2011

  21. Hi
    I’m the Sandy John wrote about. Yes, we have been in AZ, FL and GA in the summer. I’m not thrilled by the 100 temps, but I can handle it better than the 20 and below temps. To the singles out there: There are ‘tons’ of single groups. One of the reasons I want a bigger community is that you have a wider variety of interests and On Top Of The World is part of a larger community – Ocala. The Villages, Sun City and other cities that are just seniors is too much of the same thing – all older individuals. In the Ocala area you are part of a bigger community where you can see young people and watch little kids grow-up, especially, in your own church. That I realized was important to me. I’m off-track – single clubs. Many of the communities, the bigger ones, have singles groups. Even when we winter in areas that have snowbird clubs, there is always a singles group. Finally, there are some places in the panhandle area of Florida that rent for shorter timeframes i.e. 6 weeks. When you get further south, most like multiple month rentals. Check some of the rent by owner websites, and they will state if they mandate a particular timeframe. ANYONE can winter in Florida at reasonable rates. Our first year rented a condo for $600 for 6 weeks – it can be done and in this economical environment negotiating is key. Good luck, you deserve it!

    by sandy — June 22, 2011

  22. I’ve enjoyed this site for the last year or so and also noticed the right side of the text is frequently cut off now. I also have Explorer, Version 9.

    by Dale — June 22, 2011

  23. Have been enjoying all the great info. We are still in the “searching mode”, but keep coming back to central FL. Has anyone found a community, besides the Villages, where you can drive your golf cart to the grocery store and some shopping – anywhere in the warmer part of the good old USA?

    I wonder if clicking compatibility view would help those on I.E. with their text.

    by Kate — June 25, 2011

  24. My question is the same as Kate’s–any more golf cart communities out there? Preferably in Florida or Arizona? My husband doesn’t drive and eventually as we age most of us will need to resort to alternate sources of transportation. It seems difficult to find a practical solution.

    How about an article on communities that are transportation friendly? golf carts, community transportation, walking to amenities or even a great bus system.

    by Aliza — June 26, 2011

  25. I found a way to see the entire text and not be cut off. click on PAGE on your toolbar then go to STYLE, click NO STYLE; hit your REFRESH button and all the text shows up!

    On Top Of The World has golf cart access to grocery stores, salons, etc. I think a bank is included in one of the two shopping centers that has a golf cart path to. That was one of the major reasons, I like OTOTW. I too realized that my car will be taken away. Plus, they do have a bus service within the community. Many towns have their own senior shuttle – you can just go to that city’s website and see if they have transportation. The web is a great resource!

    On central Florida culture and medical facilities: I would think with the University of Florida right up the road, (Gainsville) there are all kinds of activities and a good medical facility. I agree that you HAVE to live in the community a year to see if you want to spend the rest of your life there.

    by sandy — June 26, 2011

  26. Please excuse me if some of these questions seem a little basic and I’ll apologize now for seeming at all ‘age biased’. I don’t mean to offend.

    I just turned 55. My wife is 49. We both still work by choice but are financially comfortable. Retirement is looming and we’re thinking this will happen in the next 5 years. We have lived in Asia for the last 30 years and are a little out of touch with North American living. Our plan however is to spend part of the year in Vancouver and part of the year is warmer climes. Probably California.

    We are looking at buying a house or townhouse in Palm Springs or perhaps San Diego. While we like the idea of spending time with people our own age who share common interests, I’m a little worried about the lack of younger people in 55+ communities. I don’t mean to be offensive but I feel I stay young by engaging with younger people. I still play soccer in an open league with most players in the 20’s and 30’s but will be hanging up my boots this year. I’m worried that moving into a 55+ community will lack some of the energy we thrive on and be a little too staid.

    What are the policies on younger people visiting these places? I assume most people living in 55+ communities have grown families with children of their own. When the kids and grand kids come to visit are they welcomed or just seen as noisy unwelcome interlopers?

    Lastly – are there adult communities which are not age restricted? Are these the ‘active adult’ places and if so how do ‘active adult’ communities differ from 55+ communities?

    Thanks – Brad

    by Brad — June 27, 2011

  27. Brad, you haven’t seen active seniors. They play softball, pickle ball, tennis, run many don’t hang up ANYTHING! They just have more time to do the things they love. Senior communities only mean you have more friends to play with – you can play ANYTIME you want and not have to wait for a ‘playmate’
    enjoy retirement!!!

    by sandy — June 28, 2011

  28. Thanks Sandy. I know you’re right. I’m in awe of what my own 85 year old mother still does and she still lives in the same big old house she’s lived in for 45 years. Age has hardly slowed her down a tick.

    What I really need to do is visit some of these communities in order to experience them. That will tell us if this is the life style we’d like.

    I’m sure my views in 10 years will have changed considerably. Being the young one on the block is different from being in the middle of the pack. As we all know at our age(s) – 10 years will pass in the blink of an eye.

    Does anyone know of a resource I can access which gives ratings and reviews of various communities? I’d love to read and get different views on the different estates – both good and bad. The only ones I’ve found have been rather generic.

    Thanks – Brad

    by Brad — June 28, 2011

  29. I think I have a solution to the “text cutoff” to the right.Go to the page tab on your tool bar, scroll down to style, click on no style rather than default. This should fix the problem for most, not all browsers. The only problem that you might encounter is that for some reason this changes size of text. You will have to adjust to your preference. GOOD LUCK!!

    by Whiskey — June 29, 2011

  30. What I also discovered, is that everytime you enter the site, you have to change settings on page. Maybe the “TECHS” can look into this.I have not found any Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Google, etc. forums that can clearly supply a solution. GOOD LUCK!!

    by Whiskey — June 29, 2011

  31. My husband I have have looked at communities for active adults 55+ in Denver, Tuscson, several in Texas and Fla. Our porblem is that we love the trees in Michigan and the Midwest. We can’t find a place that is really active, no kids allowed, has beautiful trees, that we can afford. We loved the activity level of the Villages but can’t deal with the heat in Fl. We loved (western) North Carolina. They have beautiful gated communites and million dollar homes, but no 55+ community, no kids. BTW, this blog is terrific. Thanks to all of you for you wonderful insights.

    by helen depinto — July 1, 2011

  32. We visited Fairfield Glade in TN and really liked what we saw. Affordable homes, really low real estate taxes, low monthly association fees. Trees and mountain views! Less than 90 minutes from Knoxvill and Nashville and major airports. Restaurants and services available within 30 minutes drive. Some medical services available right inside the community. Children and families are welcome although the majority of residents are young retirees. 11 lakes and 90 holes of golf, tennis courts, etc. One of the best benefits is that these ammenities must be self supporting. We don’t golf so we aren’t interested in supporting the golf course expenses. Those that golf pay for the expense of the courses. The huge fitness center is owned by the local hospital, so when it needs a new pool or new equipment or a new roof it is not the expense of the homeowners. You pay a membership fee to participate in the wellness center, just like belonging to the Y at home. We’re only 55 and looking for a place that still has a young and vibrant community feel. Has anyone else visited or lived in Fairfield Glade TN? What did you discover? Anyone found a similar place?

    by Retirement Coach — July 2, 2011

  33. I’m sending out this sos in response to SS’s comments of June 17th. Your feedback on Florida’s health care system is very important. The other issues he addressed: i.e., water cost, bugs, sink holes; garbage maintenance were all
    very disturbing. Not to mention that communities are not being maintained properly. Florida is our 1st choice for retirement. We’re considering the
    Ocala area. Jan C.& Sandy your comments are greatly appreciated and I feel your both very well informed. I enjoy reading all the wonderful suggestions, and I feel connected to people who are contemplating making FLA their retirement destination. Your comments and concerns over ss’s remarks are very
    much appreciated. SS remarks shook me up and honest, truthful feedback from
    each of you is truly dire to our decision. THANKS AGAIN.

    by judy — July 3, 2011

  34. Judy, yes there are sink holes in Fl and other states but they seem to appear much more often in FL, and generally in the southern part of FL. We lived several winters in the Lakeland area where many of them appeared, and it seems to happen when they (farmers) have used lots of water; usually in the winter when the farmers and trying to save their crops – oranges/strawberries, etc.

    Yes, there are bugs, but aren’t there bugs everywhere of some kind??? God put them on our planet for a reason, even if we don’t like them.

    Don’t know what the garbage issue is. Any place we’ve rented always had trash pick up and we’ve never experienced an issue. Again, Florida is the only place we found that regardless of the season we can get out if we are feeling good – I don’t want to wait unitl the snow and ice are gone before I can go outside – 2 artifical knees makes it scary to walk on ice! There isn’t a PERFECT spot, only what you make of it!

    by sandy — July 4, 2011

  35. We appreciate all the information both good and bad. We are also waiting with anticipation Sandy, of your place that is better than OTOW. We spent a day there in May and were impressed. Randy and Pat

    by Randy — July 4, 2011

  36. We are also looking to retire in Fl. I was wondering, Sandy, if you ever visited Ocala Palms and Stone Creek by Del Webb. We are very interested in On Top of The World but thought these other two places looked good for our needs as well.

    by Kaye — July 4, 2011

  37. WE TOO ARE LOOKING TO SPEND NOV-MAY IN THE OCALA AREA. WE WILL BE VISITING BOTH OTOTW AND STONE CREEK IN SEPT. TO GET A COMPARISON. SANDY, DO YOU HAVE ANY IMPUT ON SUMMERGLEN,ALSO LOCATED IN THE AREA. THIS BLOG HAS BEEN SO HELPFULL AND INSPIRING. THANK YOU IN ADVANCE.

    by Michele — July 4, 2011

  38. It’s Sandy: Randy – What I will share later is not something better than OTOW, but a really inexpensive way to have warm winters while you are checking out Florida communities or while you are waiting to sell your northern home.

    Kaye: We have checked out both and they are nice, but neither had a wood carving/working club and that is the most important club to my husband. I promised wherever we went he would have a group of people who LOVE to carve.

    Michele: We looked at Summerglen and it was nice; again no woodworking when we checked into it.

    Many place don’t have outside house maintainance and that is important to us as we age. Many of OTOW’s communities have outside care and they have a GREAT wood working club, so that was perfect for us.

    Make sure you are comfortable in any community you visit. You will make friends wherever you live, seniors know that they need to have others that will be available to help out when needed. Life’s short – ENJOY!

    by sandy — July 5, 2011

  39. I’m curious about the statistics that are reported for several of the towns listed for retirement. Mainly, when I see that the crime rate is “high” or “very high”, how are others factoring that into their research, if at all.
    Thanks so much for your thoughts!

    by Ginger — July 6, 2011

  40. We found a great website at http://www.city-data.com/ They give lots and lots of information about places you might like to live, including a breakdown of the crime and comparisons to the US in general. Their website says “We’ve collected and analyzed data from numerous sources to create as complete and interesting profiles of all U.S. cities as we could. We have over 74,000 city photos not found anywhere else, graphs of latest real estate prices and sales trends, recent home sales, home value estimator, hundreds of thousands of maps, satellite photos, stats about residents (race, income, ancestries, education, employment…), geographical data, state profiles, crime data, registered sex offenders, cost of living, housing, religions, businesses, local news links based on our exclusive technology, birthplaces of famous people, political contributions, city government finances and employment, weather, tornadoes, earthquakes, hospitals, schools, libraries, houses, airports, radio and TV stations, zip codes, area codes, air pollution, latest unemployment data, time zones, water systems and their health and monitoring violations, comparisons to averages, local poverty details, professionally written city guides, car accidents, fires, bridge conditions, cell phone and other towers, mortgage data, business storefront photos, a forum and a social network with 1,000,000 registered members and 18,000,000 posts, blogs, 5,000 user-submitted facts, 27,000 exclusive local business profiles with photos, restaurant inspection results, and more demographics.”

    by Laura — July 6, 2011

  41. Ginger’s question about crime is a very good one. At Topretirements our primary source of crime data is the one mentioned by Laura, http://www.city-data.com. Not sure where they get their data. City-Data gives an overall crime rate as compared to the overall US crime average (319). So if, for example, Clemson’s crime rate is 173, we would rate it to be “low”. However, that factor alone can be misleading. Many towns, particularly cities and many towns in the south, have high overall crime rates because they have some tough neighborhoods – yet most retirees might never get near those neighborhoods. Some of the crime might be petty property crimes, and some might be extremely violent like murder or rape. So overall, crime is a hard thing to judge. You have to consider the neighborhoods where you are going to live, play, and shop. You also have to visit and discuss this issue with the people who live there – the answer to the question is sometimes not that simple.

    by John Brady — July 7, 2011

  42. Hello All- I just moved from Colorado to Arlington Ridge in Leesburg Fl, 8 miles south of the Villages, it is awesome, houses on the golf course for 119,900! Concrete block, no land leases very affordable. It has a Village Green instead of a club house. It looks like a upscale shopping center with large, beautiful trees! (Note: Katie lives in this community and loves it very much – she is also the Sales Manager and a Topretirements advertiser, which we appreciate).

    by Katie Everett — July 7, 2011

  43. I think some people are certainly aware that SOME of the people responding to the topics on this site are “professionals.” However, others may not be. Katie Everett is the sales manager at Arlington Ridge. Yet, her email makes it SEEM that she is a new homeowner there, giving her honest (and unbiased)opinion regarding that community. I am using this one example, but have found this NUMEROUS times in emails at topretirements. I greatly appreciate the value of this site and all of those trying to pass on information they have learned. It is merely too bad that some way is not present to ID sales pitches from sincere opinions. This is something I have noticed over the years at sites such as VRBO, a once valuable means for individual renters and owners to meet, bypassing an expensive and useless middle person (the agent). I am uncertain if the change was after homeaway acquired VRBO, but many/most of the properties now seem to be “managed” by pros/companies. It is extremely difficult for many of us planning retirement to get HONEST information. I have been gladdened by the number of people I meet personally and online who are willing to share what they have learned over the years of their own efforts. Thus, I am merely suggesting that “buyer beware” is also true here.

    by Mad Monk — July 7, 2011

  44. Two comments: One to see what crimes are really like in a city, I check out the local newspaper online daily. I’m not sure how city-data.com gathers their data. So this is my way to check out the crimes and where they occur within the city I’m interested in.
    Second: I’m am naïve! I would never have thought ‘sales’ people are giving their ‘pitch’ here without stating who they are. I am VERY disappointed in those individuals. I will start reading with a VERY critial eye from now on – thank you Mad Monk!

    by sandy — July 7, 2011

  45. Just want to clarify – I’m a “professional” in the sense I wrote a book and get paid to do talks about the non-financial aspects of retirement – and want you to know that I personally funded all my travels to all the communities I visited and wrote about (and included the positives and negatives of each). I paid for my own transportation, food, and lodging when I travelled. I wanted the chapter about relocation to be a “Consumer Report” approach to where to retire, and not influenced by any developer, realtor, or builder. And, I’m not a realtor.

    Jan Cullinane, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane, co-author The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your LIfe (Rodale 2007) — July 8, 2011

  46. Mad Monk raises an excellent point about self-promotion, repeated by Sandy and nicely clarified by Jan. Unfortunately one of the problems with a site like Topretirements is that we are a daily target of spammers. They love to make Comments to our Blog and post the spammiest posts to our Forum. They have hacked our “Forward to a Friend” feature and got our emails blacklisted. We waste a tremendous amount of time keeping them off this site. If you think you spot a spammer of self-promoter here, please let us know and we will remove them.

    Our Site Rules are quite specific about what can and can’t be done on our site – please read them at http://www.topretirements.com/SiteRule.html.

    The situation Mad Monk refers to is far milder than the usual spammer problems we run into. Arlington Ridge is an advertiser with us, and like a lot of folks, Katie is enthusiastic about where she lives and works. That’s ok with us, as long as that role is acknowledged (since corrected, thanks).

    by John Brady — July 8, 2011

  47. ALL – I do live at Arlington Ridge, I am free to tell people that I love it, I am being honest. I am not self promoting, I am a resident here.

    by Katie Everett — July 8, 2011

  48. Retirement Places Rated 2007 rates Georgetown, Texas as number 1 for “America’s Top 30 Retirement Places”. How come there is no discussion about Texas? That is where we are considering. That books lists 2 places in Texas, 3 in Arizona and 2 in Florida. I’d like to see some discussion about the state I am interested in.

    by Susan — July 12, 2011

  49. Lots of great information here. We too are looking for a 55= in Fla. Has anyone checked out Solivita? We did and loved it. We’ve also been to Lake Ashton and a few communities in the West of Fla. We keep coming back to Solivita but no decision yet. Currently we are looking in the Space Coast area so if you have any suggestions for Melbourne to Port St. Lucie, all help will be appreciated.

    by Needapalmtree — July 14, 2011

  50. […] years researching how to find the perfect – and affordable – retirement spot. “Part I: What Sandy Learned in 8 Years of Visiting Dozens of Active Adult Communities” has attracted 49 comments so […]

    by » Sandy’s Adventures Part II: How Anyone Can Find An Affordable Warm Winter Retirement Topretirements — July 15, 2011

  51. […] further Reference Virginia Directory of Active Adult Communities Sandy’s Active Adult Adventures: Part I Sandy’s Adventures: Part […]

    by » Destination Williamsburg, VA: Hop on Jay Michael’s Retirement Tour Bus Topretirements — July 26, 2011

  52. Ive read about Ocala but from people I know who have friends there I could never consider it. Not being Christian nor extremely conservative Im told the response from people tends to be quite cold.

    by e — July 27, 2011

  53. We are boomers who are also interested in checking out Solavita. Since it’s in central Fla, will it be hotter or have less of a breeze than a community 15-20 miles form either coast? Does anybody have actual experience during the summer months?

    by rob — July 28, 2011

  54. To ‘e’ – there are 3 Catholic churches in Ocala and all seem to be very friendly – we have attended all three and enjoyed them all. We are from a small country church so all three were too big for us. But several of the surrounding small towns have Catholic churches, so we will check them out next winter. I found the people in quite friendly while we were shopping our out dining; however we were never in the downtown Ocala area; we were always South of the city. Didn’t experience anything like ‘cold’ faces. And I have to say most older people are conservative.

    To Rob: It is much warmer in the central area of Florida; we found if you have lots of space between houses you will get some breeze; not anything like the coast area though. Good luck Solavita is beautiful.

    by sandy — July 29, 2011

  55. Susan…I am also looking into retirement and have been to Georgetown, Frisco Lakes and Robson Ranch. What I have found is: GEORGETOWN has restrictions I felt was a little much, i.e. no more than 2 animals (I have 3 cats whom have never laid a paw on the ground and they would not waive the ‘animal ownership rule’. Also, I did not like the ‘No Alcohol’ at the pool (I am not someone that ‘must’ drink all the time; however, I do ocassionally like a cold beer or some wine with friends at the pool). ROBSON RANCH was OK, but could not find a lot of ‘activity’ in areas of the pool or exercise area..just not much activity going on (and this was in the early Spring before our terrible heat dome settled in. FRISCO LAKES was the best of all three….I have found people everywhere when I was there (twice). The people are extremely friendly and the property is well maintained….also their HOA is not outrageous and has not risen in the last couple years like the other two properties have ~ Frisco Lakes seem to be sustainable and seem to work on keeping ‘costs’ low for their residents. BTW, there are many communities in Texas and I have found them by perusing the TOP Retirement website.

    by Linda — July 29, 2011

  56. Linda: I am considering the same three developments in Texas as I live in north Texas. Did you do the stay and play programs at these three or just do a tour?

    by lscanlan — July 30, 2011

  57. Hi! Has anyone looked at ‘Lake Ashton’ near Lake Wales, Florida? We are looking for a 55 gated communities, and can use some input on this area. Having never lived were there could be tropical weather this is also of some consern to us can you who live here help us out? Thank You

    by Brad — July 30, 2011

  58. To Brad:
    We looked seriously at Lake Ashton; housing is GREAT; lots of activities outside of the golfing; people very friendly; we had three couples invite us into their homes and one went out of their way to give us a GRAND tour; GREAT wood workshop – husband loved it; down side for us is that is was a bit too pricey, especially when the market is so depressed; plus outside of the gated community wasn’t what I wanted. Winter Haven is your big town and it is ok. Hope this helps.

    by sandy — July 30, 2011

  59. To Retirement Coach: I spent a couple hours (on my own) at Fairfield Glade last month. I love trees but not so dense that you can’t see that you have neighbors. Much of it was so hilly, with my bad knees I would be unable to walk daily as I like to do. Also when I was at the community center (which seemed very small), I was asked if I was there for a Time Share! At a retirement community why would there be Time Shares? I don’t like that idea at all. Nor did a realtor (I had been communicating with but was unavailable that day) reply when I asked about it.

    by pleusink — July 31, 2011

  60. Having same problem with right side cutoff – using Explorer8

    by Genie — August 1, 2011

  61. Linda,
    Thank you for the information. I have done some research on Frisco Lakes and Georgetown and will be asking them if we can stay for a day or two. Ruled out Robson because of cost. Our place in Texas will be a second home which we will claim as primary resident since we would avoid state income tax. Real estate taxes are also much lower than WI. People say the Fredricksburg area is nice but we want to live in a retirement community with activities.
    Any comments on that?

    by Susan — August 1, 2011

  62. […] Further Reference: 10 Questions to Ask Before You Buy in an Active Adult Community What Sandy Learned from 8 Years of Visiting Active Adult Communities 100 Most Popular Active Communities: […]

    by » Pros and Cons: Should You Buy in a New or an Established Active Community Topretirements — August 20, 2011

  63. […] Further Reference: Sandy’s New Home Rating Sheet What Makes a Great Active Adult Community What Sandy Lived in 8 Years of Visiting Active Adult Communities Jump on Jay Michael’s Retirement Tour Bus 9 Things Betty and Jim Learned When Looking at Best […]

    by » How to Develop Your Personal Rating System for Active Adult Communities Topretirements — September 16, 2011

  64. This was an excellent article and the comments also generally offered good value. Retirement, like many things, is very personal and each individual must think long and hard what is important to them.

    For instance, my wife and I are cruisers who have visited over 60 countries. A retirement community, while not ruling it out, is not applealing to us.

    Tampa’s Channelside area is a very appealing combination of generally low costs (comparatively to other cruise ports) for us plus access to the Tampa International airport, and with the proper city location, walking distance to a major cruise port. For us, this relocation would save thousands per year in saved travel costs on the extra travel legs required to get to a cruise port or major airport. I would also recommend an online resource, bestplaces.net, for comparing any 2 different USA cities in about 100 different statistical categories. Good Luck To All!

    by D.L. Eurofly — March 14, 2012

  65. @Katie & MadMonk: I laughed when I read this, especially when in the past I’ve read posting from “Artie Schwartz” who promotes the beauty of The Villages. I always wonder, is this a real posting when Arthur Schwartz was the grandfather of the Morse Family Empire that created The Villages, or just a coincidence. I guess we’ll never really know…

    by Neil S. Schuster — March 15, 2012

  66. I have also wondered why Texas is not mentioned more often when discussing retirement options. There seem to be so many good things to offer in the Dallas area. The weather is good year round for the most part, healthcare options are numerous, major airports are close by, cultural activies are available, affordable housing is offered, and no state income tax. Does anyone have any reasons why they would not choose Texas? Also, to the administration of this site, why are the right hand margins cut-off??

    Editor’s note: The display problem is usually something related to Internet Explorer. If you use Mozilla Firefox you wont have this problem. But some of our members offered this tip for you to try:

    “I found a way to see the entire text and not be cut off. click on PAGE on your toolbar then go to STYLE, click NO STYLE; hit your REFRESH button and all the text shows up!”

    by Rory — March 15, 2012

  67. I don’t use IE. I use Chrome and the right margins are cut off.

    by Linda — March 18, 2012

  68. My husband and I are looking in the Venice FL area in a few months at the different communities – we will be buying a home in the next six months but need to look around before deciding what community is best for us. Any helpful hints or comments about this area would be appreciated before we head down soon. Thanks.

    by MKB — March 19, 2012

  69. I have spent months looking at the retirement communites in Florida…now I am more confused than ever. Looked at Leesburg, Fort Myers, Tampa etc. 55+ communities. I have seen lot rents from 300 to 700 dollars. They pretty much all look the same. We are from Minnesota, so can someone out there please help us narrow down the search. Here is our wants:

    Lake/Ocean
    quiet/non metro
    activities
    clean
    safe
    friendly

    by Tomi — March 19, 2012

  70. So happy to see that this is a current thread. DH just retired. We are late 50’s and early 60’s and we are Florida bound! The question is where? I always thought that we would end up in West Boynton Beach, but we want to make sure that we find the best fit for us. Some of the questions are about the Valencia communities that are established there. We know nobody. Is it more of a challenge to make friends moving into an already established community? Years ago we had family who lived in Coral Lakes. It was great….at that time. Are younger people moving into some of these established communities, and if so, any mention of names of them would be so very much appreciated.

    The other areas we are contemplating are Ponte Vedra, Tampa, Sarasota area and possibly the Villages. The concern I have about there are whether it would be too conservative politically for us, and whether or not living so far from the beach would be something we would miss. We are not golfers, but are definitely “people” “people”. We also would prefer to find somewhere that people will be living all year round as we will be doing so as well. Good food is important, as well as being near a Whole Foods would be great. Anyone who might be able to offer any comments or suggestions would be so appreciated. Thanks in advance! Lee

    by Lee — March 20, 2012

  71. […] and clubs is just about endless, including a multi-acre airport for model airplanes.  See “What Sandy Learned” for more.  We are proud to have it as one of our Showcase communities.  Another community […]

    by » Tempted by The Villages: Here Are Some of the Best Retirement Alternatives Topretirements — March 21, 2012

  72. […] Ohio Directory of Active Adult Communities Pennsylvania Directory of Active Adult Communities Sandy’s Active Adult Adventures: Part I Sandy’s Adventures: Part […]

    by » Jay Michaels’ Pursuit of the Perfect Active Adult Community – Part 2 Topretirements — May 14, 2012

  73. […] also see the articles by Jay Michaels, “Hop on the Williamsburg Tourbus“, plus “Sandy’s Active Adult Community Adventures“. Mexican Retirement Gone […]

    by » Our Journey from the Expatriate Life in Mexico to Central Florida Topretirements — June 10, 2012

  74. Tomi and Lee: I, too, am from MN and am looking at the same criteria as you. I’ve found Venice to meet all of them and it also seems to be more moderate politically than most anywhere in that area. Loved Sarasota but it’s pretty conservative, from what I can tell by talking to folks around there. St. Petersburg is more liberal than most, but there are some very tough areas and the crime rate is pretty high. We intend to go back this summer and hone in on Venice, Englewood, and the greater Sarasota area, and if I get any new info, I will pass it along here. Thanks.

    by kimbee jeanq — June 11, 2012

  75. We live outside Boston, MA looking for someplace in Florida only or Jan feb and march. Not interested in movng there yet. Any safe, clean reliable rentals that anyone has found? Pls and thank you. My email is stefniharris923@gmail.com

    by Stefani harris — October 19, 2012

  76. My husband & I have been in South Florida for 15 yrs now(orig. from CT) – it sucks – crime, unemployment,immigrants- high-husband works for gov’t. retiring in 2 1/2 yrs. We plan on looking to Greenville, SC(upcountry/foothills Blue Ridge Mts.-beautiful) The west coast of FL is better than east coast, BUT do homework-some areas are bad too-high crime in greater Tampa area, some parts of Ft. Myers-gangs-stay away from Boynton Beach area on east coast-very high crime/gangs-not safe-local mall run down. There is really not too much to do in the greater Palm Beach county area either. Lots of RUDE, nasty, over pretentious Palm Beach wannabees! Don’t forget, Forida is top battleground for FORECLOSURES.

    For those of you looking at the Villages, very big master planned area if you like that type of living and lots of NY-NJ retirees if you can handle those people.

    Healthcare – it sucks here as well. Most of the hospitals belong to either HCA(Hospital Corporation Of America-Gov.Rick Scott-FL was CEO when Fed’s found out they screwed Medicare/Medicaid few years back or Tenant-these are investor owned healthcare companies. All about $$$. I’ve worked for both. Not too many teaching hospitals like the Northeast. Staff sucks, both doctors offices and hospitals. I can honestly say there are only a handful of good doctors here. Nightmare to go to Jackson Memorial in Miami. Been there.

    If anybody wants to know more detailed particulars about Fl (my family moved here some 50+ years ago) email me: ssuperbuyer@aol.com and I’ll give you all the facts. Happy retirement hunting.

    by marsha c — October 20, 2012

  77. What really surprises me are all the negative comments I’ve been reading regarding health care in Florida. I have no persoanl experience with use of doctors/hospitals there, and have never “lived” in FL other than for a few weeks/month at a time as a tourist. I would have thought that with so many 55+ citizens and visitors that care for illnesses, injuries and diseases that afflict this group would be a lot better than I am hearing. I would expect geriatric care to be excellent, but that does not seem to be the case. I do know that there is a large VA Med Center in the area south of Tampa-St Pete. However, I’m not sure of it’s reputation amongst veterans. Health care is going to be one of our major considerations. People have mentioned how expensive it is to live in MD, but they have Johns Hopkins and other excellent hospitals. Pittsburgh has UPMC (and others). Even the small university town of Morgantown (WV) has TWO major hospitals. We have interest in possibly moving to the Pacific Northwest. Anyone know what health care is like in WA (Olympia->Seattle->Bellingham) or Portland (OR) area? Of course, Boston has GREAT medical facilities, and if I was in my 20s, would love to live there.

    by Mad Monk — October 21, 2012

  78. Health Care, I know nothing about the Health Care in FL, but regarding a couple of other states. My mother-in-law lived Leisure World in Seal, Beach, CA and was a member of SCAN. It was an excellent health care system. I have a friend whose in-laws retired from CT to North Myrtle, Beach, SC. They absolutely love living there much more affordable than CT. But they return to CT several times a year because they like the doctors much better.

    by Mark — October 21, 2012

  79. Take the negative remarks about Florida for what they are – they are one person’s point of view. We moved to Fort Myers from Texas and are absolutely delighted with the healthcare here. 95% of the doctors take all the medicare supplements, all the hospitals take medicare and we have received excellent care. In Texas we ran into the opposite – doctors there don’t need to take medicare patients and most don’t or only take you if you “age into” their practice before you turn 65.

    I had to laugh over the crime information – Fort Myers and gangs. I don’t know of a major city anywhere these days that doesn’t have a bad zip code or two and gangs. We live in a wonderful 55+ community far away from the bad zip code and have no fears about safety here.

    by toni — October 22, 2012

  80. TEXAS: those who are wondering about moving to Texas can look at some of the posts I’ve put on here, along with a couple of other folks who moved here, to get our impressions. We are looking to leave Texas and re-retire somewhere else. Weather is horrible – almost 90F STILL … Its horrendous in the summer, lots of bugs and mosquitoes so u can’t enjoy the outdoors in the summer, although no State income tax, you are taxed to the hilt on everything else i.e. cable, phone, etc. They also “fee” you to death on top of taxes. Cost of home and car insurance is one of the highest in the country. You have to take flood insurance in many areas on top of that. Politically extreme conservative in most places. Medical care some of the best anywhere – IF you can get it. I’ve had no problem with Doctors taking Medicare but have heard of others who’ve had problems finding Docs to take it. We are also not happy about the real estate equity situation here. You build little to none! We bought 7 years ago and invested close to $100K in renovating – will see little to none return. Places here just don’t appreciate like in other areas of the country. Good luck!

    by sheila — October 22, 2012

  81. Florida has the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, as well as Shands in Gainesville, and MD Anderson in Orlando. Just three examples of excellent facilities. Some physicians take new Medicare patients – no problem – others will accept Medicare if you are already a patient with other insurance, and then become a Medicare patient. So, be sure you check out your prospective medical care, wherever you are planning to relocate, in terms of your current and future coverage.

    Jan Cullinane
    AARP’s The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement

    by Jan Cullinane — October 22, 2012

  82. Thanks to those who responded re: health care. I’m sure many of us have run into poor health care during our “long” lives, but also dedicated doctors and good hospitals. Jan’s response reminded me of something I’ve been following for years … the “expansion” of well-known hospitals/clinics throughout the world (MD Anderson [Texas] is even in Spain and Turkey … at least in name). Mayo (MN) is also in various areas. Same for Johns Hopkins, etc. I do not know how they are organized (i.e., whether they just “rent” their name to a place and consult from “central” on cases, or what), but computers and the internet have allowed “experts” to be available anywhere that a connection or signal is avaialble. Perhaps any doctors/nurses on here could comment on just how these satellites of the great hospitals work. Also, this is something that has occured in other fields (e.g., education). Universities have “branches” in lots of non-traditional (for them) areas, and ones like MIT have even made (some of) their courses available to anyone free online. Certainly a world much different to the one we entered as a child … of course, our parents said the same thing, didn’t they? 😉

    by Mad Monk — October 24, 2012

  83. Well, I can’t speak for MD Anderson or Johns Hopkins since I wasn’t involved with those institutions, but I would imagine they followed pretty much the same process Mayo did when they set up these satellites years ago. “Telemedicine,” as Mayo calls it, allows the local doctors to consult with the doctors at Mayo in Rochester. Mayo now has satellites/affiliated clinics in many other locations. They are pretty fussy about what they will associate their name with.

    by Linda — October 25, 2012

  84. We are just beginning our search for a 55 Active Community in Florida. We like the Tampa area and the Gulf Coast Beaches. Valencia Lakes looks really interesting; has anyone else researched this community? We are also interested in Ft. Meyers, but haven’t found anything real exciting yet.

    by Nancy B — October 26, 2012

  85. We are just beginning our search. Like the area from Sarasota to Naples. Can anyone comment on any outstanding manufactured home communities in that area?

    by Richard E — October 27, 2012

  86. Nancy B – we looked at Valencia Lakes. Loved the homes, loved the community but did not love the surrounding area – no beaches to go to – it’s on Tampa Bay and shopping areas were sparse. We traveled south and looked at several other 55+ communities before looking at Pelican Preserve. We purchased a new home here which is due to be completed next week. We have been renting a home in Pelican since April 1st waiting on our new home. People are very friendly here, the amenities wonderful and we love the area. There are other 55+ communities in the area but all are sold out and aging whereas PP is a mixture of ages from 55 on up to the 80’s depending on the age of the neighborhood. There are a number of resale homes here from $150,000 on up….come visit!

    by toni — October 27, 2012

  87. I have to reply to Rory, who commented that the weather in the Dallas Tx area seemed to be pretty good year round….

    Surely you jest. I grew up in that area. The weather is horrible all year round. The summer is super hot and humid….think 100+ degrees and 100% humidity and it isn’t raining. Just like living in a sauna. Then you get a month or so of decent weather in the autumn, then it gets cold and windy. And of course there is the yearly tornado threat, the bugs that proliferate in the humidity and heat…it is just awful there. No one likes the weather there, they just tolerate it.

    by Ginger — October 28, 2012

  88. Everything is relative
    As a Wisconsin person it seems warm to me in the wintet

    by susan — October 28, 2012

  89. To Ginger. My written comments were regarding our time spent in Fort Collins, Colorado and the HOA in the beautiful area where we lived. Only been to Dallas for a few days, and it is not for us.

    by Rory — October 29, 2012

  90. I would imagine Fort Collins is much drier than Texas, as Colorado is higher elevation. And yes, I’m sure Texas winter is much warmer than Wisconsin; good point! I think if you read through some of the other posts though you will find some other former and current Texas dwellers who have said similar things about the weather; it just really isn’t very nice. I left the area when I was 17 to go to college and never willingly go back, although I have a lot of family down in those parts.

    by Ginger — October 29, 2012

  91. […] Nine Things Betty and Jim Learned Hop on Jay Michaels’ Retirement Tour Bus (Part 1 of 2) Sandy’s Active Adult Community Adventure Tour (Part 1 of 2) Posted by Admin on December 4th, 2012 Comments (0) Entries (RSS) and Comments […]

    by » Latest Scouting Reports from Our Members: Florida and Texas Topretirements — December 4, 2012

  92. […] Do you and your significant other have similar goals and plans? More Boomer Retirement Profiles Sandy’s 8 Year Adventure with Active Adult Communities The Snowbirding Innkeepers The Seafaring Couple Start an International Literacy […]

    by » Retirement Profile: Staying in Place – and Very Busy - Topretirements — September 10, 2014

  93. Does anyone have feedback on Lakes at Leesburg. This manufactured home community has a 9 hole golf course, proximity to shopping (golf cart access) and advertises an active community. The prices are reasonable and HOA (lot rent) is middle of the road for the area. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

    by Robert — September 11, 2014

  94. Robert – for whatever it’s worth, I did look in Leesburg a few years back, but not at Lakes at Leesburg.

    But, I did not care for the area – AT ALL.

    by Liz — September 12, 2014

  95. […] Active Adult Communities Want to Maximize Your Retirement Dollar – Move to These States! Sandy’s 8 Years of Exploring Active Adult Communities Destination Williamsburg: Hop On Jay Michael’s Retirement Tour […]

    by » Tell Us Where You Are Living in Retirement - Topretirements — October 21, 2014

  96. We came to Fl to visit close to our son wo had moved to the state and fell in love with a park model with a sun room which we bought without larning about the possible pitfall of having a permanent unit on leased ground. We spent 9 wonderful years in our home paying our rent always on time and never getting any notice complaints. Suddenly one day we came home to find a 15 day notice to get ourselves and our things out of the park we were living in. We found a place to move to and left 3 days early. What we did not know was that personal things meant our park model too. Under Fl law the landlord (owner of the lot we were leasing) can give you 15 day notice to move if you pay monthly and 30 dys notice if you have a signed lease and they do not have to give you any reason why.If you do not take your park model or take it apart for scrap to get it off their land, the can and will evict you. They do not have to allow you to
    sell your home. They can possibly offer you pennies on the dollar of the value of your home but they are after it for nothing plus charge you lawyer fees and rent until you sign the title of your home over to them. I’m not kidding about this because it happened to me and I lost thousands of dollars which I could not afford to lose. DO NOT BUY IF YOU DO NOT OWN THE GROUND. If you cannot move the house yourself off the ground then do not buy it!

    by Aileen Stock — October 27, 2014

  97. these places are not affordable for the average u.s. citizen. most of us are not wealthy

    Editor’s note: We try to have a range of places that are suitable for people from all walks of life. See http://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/more-affordable-places-to-retire-a-reading-list.html/

    by jon te — August 12, 2015

  98. Most of these items are very old, written during the housing/employment bust. How about updates, especially on affordability, amenities (that were subpar, such as medical & shopping), and whatever else has changed?

    by Sallie50th — August 13, 2015

  99. Is there no place in Washington state that is a joy to live in? My requirements are: high walkability score (60+), not more than 1 hour from a major airport, not more than 1 mile from a large body of water, near a college community with OLLI, not in desert. There are others, but these are basics.

    by Sallie50th — August 13, 2015

  100. Sallie50th,
    Have you ever been to Port Angeles, Port Townsend or Squiem Washington? All
    are in the same general area That area may be what your looking for. I haven’t been there for a number of years but am planning a trip soon.

    by Jim C — August 14, 2015

  101. Jim C – None of those places are within 1 hour of a major airport (SeaTac or Spokane – regularly scheduled flights is my criteria for “major”). Having lived in Tacoma for close to two decades here is my take. Both Seattle and Spokane are close to airports, but both are high in crime (roughly double the national average). That being said, their are some safer neighborhoods in those cities. In Seattle you will pay for the privilege of living there… housing is expensive, sales tax high, and in December the sun rises at 8 AM and sets at 4:30 PM. Basically you go to work and come back home in the dark. There are reasons why there are so many suicides in Washington State, lack of sunlight is one, drizzle is another. The yearly average forecast for Western Washington is “50/50/grey”. 50 degrees, 50 percent chance of rain, grey skies. Despite having family there the wife and I will not be retiring to anywhere in WA. We figure when we are retired we can fly back for visiting at any time for any length of time… we just don’t want to live there. Go Hawks!

    by art bonds — August 14, 2015

  102. Have to agree with Art on most counts. Seattle is as he mentioned, Port Angeles and the others are a good two hours from Sea Tac. Spokane has harsh winters very spring summer fall. Costs are very reasonable for housing, Crime is as in any large city, mostly isolated areas, high property crime not violent crime. Actually either Vancouver or Olympia are worth considering. Vancouver has the benefit of bing on the Oregon border, so no income tax in Wa and no sales tax in Oregon. Vancouver is a well kept secret sit is in the shadows of Portland. And it is only 30 minutes from a major airport. Then of course there is always western Washington to consider. I grew up in Spokane and now live in St. George Utah, ideally would spend 6 months in each.

    by Gary — August 14, 2015

  103. Thanx all. Have been to Port Angeles (has no charm, too far from airport), Gig Harbor ( not walkable, no there there), Seattle (too expensive, traffic dreadful). Vancouver sounds like it might be worth a try — I like Portland. WA calls to me because of good income tax situation and generally cool weather. Can you get to Port Townsend by road rather than ferry? Isn’t it in rain shadow, so less gray and wet?

    by Sallie50th — August 14, 2015

  104. can anyone share a comment good or bad about Newark , DE. healthcare, traffic, weather

    etc.

    by john — August 15, 2015

  105. Art,
    Agree with everything you said. Back in the early 90’s my wife accompanied me on a business trip to Seattle. She liked the city and has been considering it as a possible retirement destination. I have been pushing for Squiem or Port Townsend because 1) I don’t like big cities and 2) the rain shadow effect. Although I realize even with the rain shadow it is still overcast much of the time.

    I’m a sunshine person so don’t think I’d do well in eastern Washington.

    by Jim C — August 15, 2015

  106. We are looking for info on Lake of the Ozarks or specifically taxes. You know how some states will take money off the assessed value of your home if you are 65? We wonder if there is anything like that in Missouri. Anyone live there or have knowledge of this??

    by Shelley — August 15, 2015

  107. Yes you can get to Sea Tac and Seattle by road rather than ferry, about a 2.5 hour drive. And Spokane has more sunshine than Seattle but it can get darn cold. It’s one of this places that looks large but has always maintained that small town feel.

    by Gary — August 15, 2015

  108. Sallie, Port Townsend, Sequim and that area is in the Banana Belt, or what is known as the Olympic Rain Shadow. Read about it here: http://www.komonews.com/seattlerefined/travel/Need-some-sun-Visit-Washingtons-Banana-Belt-287525081.html
    It is a good 2 hour drive from that area to the SeaTac airport at around 1 AM in the morning with no traffic. Otherwise it may be 3 or more, especially if you get caught up in PSNS and Bangor SubBase traffic.
    Other than Seattle, no WA city ranks as high as you want on the walkability scale.
    Vancouver is nice, not high on walkability, close to Portland International Airport, on the Columbia River, not far to Pacific Ocean beaches (Long Beach is nice). As you know WA has no income tax, and it’s just a jump across to Jensen Beach in Portland for shopping with no sales tax, but you would have to be spending some serious change to justify driving there (appliances or other big ticket purchases). Pay by cash… oh, and remember to declare and pay your WA State Use Tax on any purchases you make in tax free Oregon. 😉
    You are going to have to make some compromises somewhere.

    by art bonds — August 15, 2015

  109. Aaaargh! That ugly word – compromise! OK, OK, time to reconsider & make a new list with priorities. Now reality.

    by Sallie — August 15, 2015

  110. What in the world is WA State Use Tax? Hmmm. I suspect that states that do not tax retirement income have other ways to support state services, and that I might do well to dump that requirement from my list. Is there a mathematician out there who has analyzed that aspect of retirement expenses for some of the more desirable states?

    by Sallie50th — August 15, 2015

  111. Sally. ‘Use Tax’ – A sales tax on purchases made outside one’s state of residence on taxable items that will be used, stored or consumed in one’s state of residence and on which no tax was collected in the state of purchase. Most states that have a sales tax has a use tax. States hate internet shopping as there is no way for them to collect unless the purchaser volunteers the information, or the retailer has a tax nexus in the state (usually a physical location like a distribution center) OR the retailer rats them out. Amazon, via an agreement with Tennessee, has recently began sending purchase information to the state so in theory if I don’t voluntarily report the purchase amount and pay the tax the state can come after me for tax evasion. I have heard that some folks have started to shy away from Amazon and use Tiger Direct, MWave, Newegg or other online retailer because of that.

    by art bonds — August 16, 2015

  112. Gary, would you please elaborate on your opinion of Spokane. We are looking at Medical Lake or Cheney for retirement (we are retired military and they are both close to Fairchild AFB). We spent years in Colorado Springs. Any similarity as far as the winter goes? Thanks.

    by Alice — August 16, 2015

  113. Alice, I grew up in Spokane, and my daughter teaches at Eastern Wa Univ and lives in Cheney. It’s about 10 minutes from Spokane, Fairchild (I am ret AF), the airport is next to the base. Cost of living in Spokane very reasonable with lots of unique neighborhood choice, fairly vibrant downtown with a number of community festivals and events. Cheney housing is even lower in the town and surrounding areas. Colorado has more sunny winter days, otherwise quite similar. It’s four seasons weather.

    by Gary — August 16, 2015

  114. My wife and I are a few years from retirement, and we are heavily into the research phase of trying to figure out where to go. So we appreciate the columns and comments folks submit on the website. I haven’t had much to add up to now, but we live in Portland, OR so the comments on the Pacific NW is something about which we have some knowledge. The whole Sequim/Port Townsend “rain shadow” effect is, in our opinion, largely PacNW lore. While it is true that the area gets less total rainfall than Seattle (38″” vs 20″), in terms of cloudy & dreary, it is very much a relative scale. After all, if it is cloudy and rainy/drizzly, do you really care if it rains 0.25″ vs. 0.15″? We had some friends who bought a condo in Port Townsend as a weekend getaway/potential retirement place based in large part on what they had heard about the weather and the “rain shadow”. They sold within two years after they realized it was nearly as rainy and dreary there, especially in the winter, as Portland is. My wife and I spent some time in the area exploring, and stopped one day at the official visitor center and asked the person there if it was true that Sequim had something like 200-225 days of sun per year like we had read. He laughed, and said “you have to understand they define a sunny day as the sun appearing for 10 seconds”. But if you look at climate data, you will see that the area has 4x as many cloudy days vs clear days (225 vs 56; homefacts.com is the source of my info). If you add in the partly cloudy days with the clear days, you still have nearly 4 months more of cloudy weather than “sunny” weather. Even the clearest month of the year, July, has more cloudy days than clear days on average. Combined with the previously mentioned issues of relative isolation, distance from major airports and cities, it is definitely not for us.

    by Partagas — August 16, 2015

  115. Shelley. A homestead exemption is “The homestead exemption is a legal regime designed to protect the value of the homes of residents from property taxes, creditors, and circumstances arising from the death of the homeowner spouse. Laws are found in state statutes or constitutional provisions which exist in many states in the United States.”
    Homestead exemptions, both senior and for those not yet blessed to be a senior (tic), vary from state to state and sometimes from county to county within the state. It is all rather complicated as each state does it differently. For example Washington State will freeze your taxable value if your income is $35k or less and exempt some other special levies.
    http://www.dor.wa.gov/docs/pubs/prop_tax/seniorexempt.pdf
    Florida gives a homestead exemption of $25k on all property taxes (county, school, etc) to all ages on the first $25k of home valuation, then another $25k on the value between 50k and 75k for all non-school taxes. See example.
    http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/property/brochures/pt113.pdf
    Florida has an additional exemption for seniors but you have to have lived in the state for 25 years.
    Missouri give both renters and homeowners an exemption depending on your income and marriage status. I never found out how much they give back.
    http://dor.mo.gov/pdf/proptax.pdf

    Since they are so varied it would take a lot of time to sort through all 50 states. However, see my replies to Sallie regarding other thoughts I have about taxes and retirement.

    by art bonds — August 16, 2015

  116. Sallie, I had an answer for your “Is there a mathematician out there…” question, but when I tried to post it the website told me “Hmmm, your comment seems a bit spammy. We’re not real big on spam around here.”

    Apparently not big on well researched and linked posts either…

    Admin, how do I format a message with links and not get this error? Is the site configurable enough to allow certain users to post with the spam filter?

    by art bonds — August 17, 2015

  117. Sallie asks: “who has analyzed that aspect of retirement expenses for some of the more desirable states?”

    Sorry Sallie, I am not a mathematician, but I am a computer programmer so I probably share most of the bad traits of mathematicians… and maybe worse. Here is my take on your question.

    I read all the “10 Best Places to… ” type of lists and usually find an issue with them.

    As you pointed out the state has to get money from you some how. there are 3 main taxes we pay: income, property and sales.

    by art bonds — August 17, 2015

  118. For income there are the states that have no income tax, like WA, NV, TN, WY, SD, TX and FL (note that TN exempts all income except dividends and interest… if you are rich you might pay something, for the rest of us nada):

    http://taxfoundation.org/blog/how-high-are-income-tax-rates-your-state

    But for a retiree whose primary income is Social InSecurity, it is usually not subject to state income taxes so that is taken out of the equation… now all you worry about in those other states is sales and property.

    http://taxfoundation.org/blog/monday-map-state-income-taxes-social-security-benefits

    by art bonds — August 17, 2015

  119. State sales tax can be onerous,

    http://taxfoundation.org/article/state-and-local-sales-tax-rates-midyear-2015

    but many states exempt food and medicine, usually two of the bigger expenses for seniors.

    http://www.taxadmin.org/fta/rate/sales.pdf

    Property tax is the hidden killer, in my opinion. It is not based on your income or what you purchase, but on the value of the home, which can go up.

    http://taxfoundation.org/blog/how-high-are-property-taxes-your-state

    While some states have exemptions, the ones I have seen seem rather lame or restrictive in what they give back.

    by art bonds — August 17, 2015

  120. I have found several documents that are helpful. the first shows tax breaks for us old folks for 2015.

    http://itep.org/itep_reports/2015/03/state-tax-preferences-for-elderly-taxapayers.php?gclid=Cj0KEQjw6cCuBRCh4KrGoJ6LoboBEiQAwzYsdEa7F_wwo9c8B7XshyZeLoGH9dkxD8ar6c1hbUXO2LkaAjIT8P8HAQ#.VdFelPlVhBc

    Another is a map showing when you reach your Tax Freedom Date… the date when the average citizen has earned enough money to pay his/her total tax bill for the year. Anything after that date is yours.

    http://taxfoundation.org/blog/when-will-your-state-reach-tax-freedom-day-2015

    The last is when you really want to drill down to the state level:

    http://www.retirementliving.com/taxes-by-state

    by art bonds — August 17, 2015

  121. Also things to consider…

    Average auto Insurance costs:
    http://www.insure.com/car-insurance/car-insurance-rates.html

    Average home insurance costs (gee, Florida has highest cost? Wonder why…):
    http://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-of-homeowners-insurance

    After looking at it all, to me the best state would be Tennessee. Tennessee is a “halfback” or “boomarang” state, if you know what that is. Centrally located in the East, mild 4 seasons weather. Despite having the highest sales tax, the lower property and no income tax offset and makes it number 4 on the list of best states to keep your money in your pocket. And remembering the criteria “more desirable states”… the lower taxed states, LA, MS and SD, have heat-humidity/freezing cold issues for me. And if you live in the upper NE corner of Eastern Tennessee you can easily drive to VA for lower sales taxes.

    Just my opinion of course. Sorry to make multiple posts, but the spam filters blocked an all-in-one post.

    by art bonds — August 17, 2015

  122. Also things to consider…

    Average auto Insurance costs:
    http://www.insure.com/car-insurance/car-insurance-rates.html

    Average home insurance costs (gee, Florida has highest cost? Wonder why…):
    http://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-of-homeowners-insurance

    After looking at it all, to me the best state would be Tennessee. Tennessee is a “halfback” or “boomerang” state, if you know what that is. Centrally located in the East, mild 4 seasons weather. Despite having the highest sales tax, the lower property and no income tax offset and makes it number 4 on the list of best states to keep your money in your pocket. And remembering the criteria “more desirable states”… the lower taxed states, LA, MS and SD, have heat-humidity/freezing cold issues for me. And if you live in the upper NE corner of Eastern Tennessee you can easily drive to VA for lower sales taxes.

    Just my opinion of course. Sorry to make multiple posts, but the spam filters would not let me do an all-in-one.

    by art bonds — August 17, 2015

  123. One last tidbit…

    Motor vehicle licensing fees:

    http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/registration-and-title-fees-by-state.aspx

    https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/hwytaxes/mv103.pdf

    Using the above resources you can pick any state, look at all the guides, and estimate what your yearly costs will be close to.

    by art bonds — August 17, 2015

  124. Art, Thanks for all the great information! Once concern i have is the value of the differences. You’ve chosen Tennesse as a first pick, but to me the question is what would be the dollar difference of Tennesse over, say, Georgia, North Carolina, or Virginia. For example, the tax freedom website may list the date in which residents reach their tax freedom day, but it doesn’t list, in dollars and cents, what that means. What if it’s only a $10 difference between states, or a $100 difference? Even a $500 (just choosing a number, here) difference is negligible if other factors make one state more desirable over another.
    My ideal computation, at least for state income tax, would be a choosing a generalized income amount and finding what the different states would tax on that number.
    As for property tax, it’s trickier than it seems. It’s not always whether a county taxes 100% or 50%, etc. It’s also the number that the home value is multiplied by (I think this is called the mil, not sure). A state can assess 100% of the value of a home, and the property tax can still come out lower than a state that assesses 50%. It is all determined by the mil used. I find it’s often most helpful to view the tax amount of a home i may be interested in buying.
    That’s it for now. Despite my curve balls, i do thank you for all your helpful information!

    by ella — August 18, 2015

  125. My wife and I will be retiring in about 2 years and we have been searching FL, SC and NC. A number of 55+ communities have you owning the home but leasing the land. I am a little concerned about leasing since we will be on a fixed income. Can anybody expand on the pros and cons of being in a community that leases the property. Has anybody had any issues with the owners raising the lease so it becomes cost prohibitive.

    by Mike M — August 18, 2015

  126. Wow, thanks Art for all of this great info!

    by Shelley — August 18, 2015

  127. ella, try this site for income tax differences. http://www.taxformcalculator.com/state_tax.html

    And in regards to property tax, you are entirely correct. TN takes the appraised value then multiplies by 25% then multiplies that by the millage to get money. I don’t see any difference than taking the whole 100% and multiplying by a quarter of the millage. They get the same amount of tax either way.

    However I have to believe the folks that put together the site that ranked property tax had to already take that into consideration. As empirical evidence I’ve lived in quite a number of states. In AZ my property tax was roughly what that site says… about 2,100 in taxes on a 250k house. In NE I was paying 2,200 on a 125k house (pathetic), and in TN my tax is around $549 on a 70k house (my property tax would have been only $278 if I lived in the county… the rest is City of Bristol taxes). So when I look at the percentages listed on that site per state, I think it is really is comparing apples to apples.

    Also the homestead exemptions will skew the figures, especially ones like in FL that exempts 50k of valuation on homes worth over 75k… so my house in TN at 70k would only be taxed at 25k @ the 1% or so. However, try finding a 3br, 2bth, 2000 sq ft home on 1.4 acres in a city for 70k in FL… which brings up the point that all equivalent housing does not cost the same. I’m sure you can get quite a bargain in Detroit compared to Seattle. 😉

    by art bonds — August 18, 2015

  128. Folks, ella says it the best… “but to me the question is what would be the dollar difference of Tennesse over, say, Georgia, North Carolina, or Virginia. For example, the tax freedom website may list the date in which residents reach their tax freedom day, but it doesn’t list, in dollars and cents, what that means. What if it’s only a $10 difference between states, or a $100 difference? Even a $500 (just choosing a number, here) difference is negligible if other factors make one state more desirable over another.”

    My tongue in cheek side of me says if the difference between TN (Apr 9) and GA (Apr 15) is only $10, then your SS check must be after Republican “reformed” your “entitlement” called Social InSecurity… 😉

    But ella is correct, you can save some money in one state and be miserable, or you can spend a little more and be happy because of (insert some reason here). It’s all a value judgement… I could be miserable in Louisiana and save some money, but I choose TN.

    However… I would think staying from the states that will tax and freeze you to death at the same time could make a person happier… Again, just my opinion.

    by art bonds — August 18, 2015

  129. Art, thanks for your affirming words, and for the website link. If it does what i’ve been trying to do, on my own, for the past 14 months, i will be so grateful! Do you have a link for the property taxes? Your apples to apples reference was excellent!
    By the way, as i see you’re living in Bristol, what do you think of it? Jonesborough is on my ‘maybe’ list. Also, Abingdon and Galax Virginia. Did you consider SW Virginia, and if so, would you tell me why you chose Tennessee?
    Many thanks,

    by ella — August 19, 2015

  130. Art, love your comment about staying away from states that will tax and freeze you to death at the same time! That has definitely inspired my move from Minnesota to Florida!

    by Linda — August 19, 2015

  131. ella, in addition to the original website link in my previous post regarding property taxes,
    http://taxfoundation.org/blog/how-high-are-property-taxes-your-state

    I found another on that actually put a dollar amount in a table,
    http://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-property-taxes/11585/
    However, they do not say how they came up with these figures, what they are based on, just “average”. Not a study with a lot of meat. For those of us that say “Show me the beef” you can use this website to look up average property taxes by state and county (ours is Sullivan Co):
    http://interactive.taxfoundation.org/propertytax/

    by art bonds — August 19, 2015

  132. Now if you have a raging case of insomnia, settle down in bed with your laptop/tablet, a warm glass of milk, and this website, which is guaranteed to put you to sleep in no time…
    http://www.lincolninst.edu/subcenters/significant-features-property-tax/upload/sources/ContentPages/documents/Pay_2013_PT_Report_National_FINAL.pdf

    I have lived in CA, WA, AZ, TN, FL, LA and NE, and visited most other areas of the States at one time or another (except Alaska and most of New England). In my opinion anywhere along I-81 from where it intersects I-26, eastbound all the way to Salem, VA is in the Appalachian Mountains and stark raving beautiful (but then again I like trees and mountains)(living in AZ was a trip, the desert has it’s own type of beauty, but it was too dusty and brown for me). We usually have a mild 4 seasons (except for the last 2, EVERYbody got socked this last year), some snow, some humidity in summer but not like most of the South. Deciduous trees so we get color. We have lakes for boating, mountains and parks for hiking (Bristol has the 2,200 acre Steel Creek Park with 24 miles of trails within it’s borders).

    by art bonds — August 19, 2015

  133. For beauty I would compare this area to the Finger Lakes area of NY, without the bitter cold.

    So why TN vs. SW VA? It’s all the same geography wise, right. Well, in a word, taxes. VA has an income tax, TN does not. We have slightly less property taxes in TN (see links), and we are close enough to VA to jump across the line to Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, etc and pay the lower VA sales taxes (except in restaurants where the City of Bristol VA has an onerous sales tax markup).

    The worst though is in VA you get to pay not only for the license fees on you vehicle but also PERSONAL PROPERTY tax on you cars, light weight trucks, motorcycles, recreation vehicles, boats, boat motors and manufactured housing. Value set by NADA book. This can add several hundred to thousands of dollars to the cost of licensing your vehicles. See these two websites to get an idea of the costs.
    http://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?NID=1625
    http://www.harrisonburgva.gov/personal-property-tax

    by art bonds — August 19, 2015

  134. My vehicle tabs in TN run me $24 per year no matter what the value. No personal property or excise tax on my vehicles. I have 2 cars, a diesel truck, a travel trailer and a fifth wheel RV, total value probably in excess of $75k, so I’m saving thousands by being on this side of the border.

    I don’t know what electricity cost is in SW VA, but my rate here in 6.5 per KW. My electrical utility also offers fiber as the internet connection around here so we have good connectivity, up to gigabit connectivity if you feel the need for speed.

    Any specific questions you have I’d be happy to answer. Sorry for the multiple post, but the website said my original all in one comment was to “spammy” so I had to slice it up. Again.

    by art bonds — August 19, 2015

  135. Linda, we used to live in Sidney, Nebraska, so we feel yur pain. When we were looking for a place to move coming out of NE, having lived in Florida already we knew what it had to offer. Same with TN, we have lived here before (Nashville). We didn’t want to be “halfbacks” so we went with Eastern Tennessee this time. Being here we have less than a days drive to anywhere on the East Coast, and we can visit Florida anytime… as long as it’s November, December or January.
    😉

    by art bonds — August 19, 2015

  136. Great information and Art is a great resource.
    I agree with Linda, why sell your current home to retire to the same size and equal or higher costs? From most ‘retirement’ websites it appears that all retirees are loaded!
    Like Mike M, my wife and I are looking to retire in about months, Lord willing, and are looking in the Mid-Atlantic for affordable & NICE adult communities. Not easy to find.

    Any suggestions on how to find established communities with resales?

    Thanks

    by Peter — August 20, 2015

  137. Art, you have us interested in Tennessee. What drew you to it besides its beauty? Was it lower taxes?

    by Shelley — August 20, 2015

  138. Shelley, precisely. Re-read my prior posts, go to all the websites I posted links to, compare TN to any other state. We have no income taxes except on dividends and interest. And the property tax is down there also.

    The sales tax is pretty darn high though. On average we are #1 for high sales tax. In Bristol TN it is 9.25. But I have seen worse elsewhere once you add state and local taxes… like the City of Seattle at 9.6%.

    http://taxfoundation.org/article/state-and-local-sales-tax-rates-2015

    The secret is to live close to the VA border, like in Bristol TN. Living here means I can jump the fence and be in Bristol VA (literally… my back yard fence is on the border…). Bristol VA’s sales tax rate is 5.3%. On average the State of Virginia is one of the lowest ranked states at #43. I thin we have the best of most worlds up here in the NE corner of the state.

    This area my not be the lowest cost area of the US to live in, but it is in my opinion the lowest cost area that has the weather and beauty I like. Like ella says, you can be miserable in the lowest cost area.

    Cons: We taint got no ocean beaches close by.

    by art bonds — August 20, 2015

  139. And Shelley, all of TN is not the same. The state is over 500 miles wide. There are three distinct areas. Western Tennessee, Memphis, is mostly flatland, low elevation, hot and humid, like LA or MS. Central TN, Nashville, 500 ft in elevation, cooler but still humid and sticky. Eastern TN, Knoxville (800 in elevation) and Chattanooga (700), cooler still but to me still sticky.

    Between Central and Eastern is the Cumberland Plateau. Cookeville is around 1,100 ft in elevation, it is where the Nashville elite used to go to escape the heat in Nashville before the invention of air conditioning (or at least that is the story I hear).

    East of Knoxville the elevation rises to where I am at in Bristol, at 1,600 ft in the Appalachian Mountains. Average temps here are moderate, you can look up the averages on Google. Our unemployment rate is 5.3, lower than the US average of 5.5.

    There are no quality retirement places like The Villages, Sun City in (you name it) or Trilogy at (you name it again). Apparently Del Webb had not discovered Far Eastern Tennessee yet. The closest big retirement communities are in the Knoxville area (Tellico Village, Rarity Bay, etc). I’d love to see a 55 retirement community go in between Bristol and Johnson City, maybe near the Tri-Cities Airport. Maybe a mixture of Tiny Houses, Park Models, smaller single family detached or multi-family (du-, tri- quad-plexes).

    Yo, Del Webb, are you listening? But on the other hand those developers would probably want $250k for a one bedroom park model…

    by art bonds — August 20, 2015

  140. Shelley, for more info…

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/retire-here-not-there-tennessee-1337741809499

    by art bonds — August 20, 2015

  141. Art, Thanks for all your great information. I can hardly wait to invest time in the treasure trove you’ve provided. A few questions for you about NE Tennessee. Isn’t Bristol and the entire Tri-City area busy? (As in, not rural, which is what i’m looking for.) Have your visited Abingdon, Damascus, and Galax in Virginia? We will only have one car once we retire, and nothing else that can be taxed, as you described above. So that aspect isn’t a concern to me. That said, how does your area compare to these areas in SW Virginia?
    I’ve also noticed that the summer temperature goes up once one passes the No. Carolina/Tennesse line. Why did you rule out No. Carolina?
    If you don’t mind, please be as specific as possible. My husband and i are not good travelers, and can learn a great deal from your experiences.
    Thanks so much!

    by ella — August 21, 2015

  142. I would go to maps.google.com and look at the overhead of the Bristol area in the Earth view (the one that shows vegetation, not the road map). You can see how urban or not the area is.
    Galax and the others would be less populated than Bristol. To me there is a lot of open space. Check out the size of Steele Creek park.

    IMO I don’t think we are to urban but ‘just right’, as another thing to consider is the availability of shopping, restaurants and services (medical, construction trades, etc). If you get too rural you may have to drive a distance to get to things you need or want, and be held hostage to higher prices due to lack of competion.

    When lived in Sidney, NE, population 6500, we had a Walmart, Safeway grocery, a Perkins, McD, Wendys, Subway and a few others. To get to any major stores or restaurants required a drive to Sterling CO, 45 miles, for the few extra they had (Home Depot, KFC), and a drive of 75 miles to Scottsbluff NE for a Sonic, Menards, or 105 miles to Cheyenne WY for Logans, Lowes, Texas Roadhouse, Red Lobster. Medical care was available but not great. My doctor sent me to Aurora Colorado to have heart work done, even though we had heart care doctors in Sidney. When I asked why he sent me 150 miles away he said “Because I wanted you to live.” Still doing good after a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft I had in late 2007. Doctor gave me a 10 year warranty. Said if I die within 10 years he would do it over again (gotta love a doctor with a sense of gallows humor).

    Also when it came to getting things done on our house we were charged outrageous prices from the local tradesmen. They were very few, and they colluded with each other to keep prices up. You had no choice. In a more populated area with competition that happens with less frequency.

    Income: Neither NC or VA taxes Social Insecurity so if that is your primary income that takes the ‘income’ side of the equation out. Any additional income will be taxed by NC or VA, the income tax link I listed above will be able to give you a ball park figure.

    Property Tax: TN is lower of the three, then VA then NC as the highest. But according to the property tax website listed above the averages are no more than $200 from the cheap to expensive. For VA if all you have is one car and it is older you will pay less. Take the estimated value, divide by 100, multiply by whatever the millage rate is. Some places in VA this is up around $5 per hundred, I think Washington County (Abingdon) is a lot less, don’t know about the others. I think it can be looked up online. In NC you will have to pay a one time Highway Use Tax of 3% of you vehicles value upon registering. Paying the sales tax in another state does not qualify, you still pay the HUT (hmmm… is his first name Jabba?). Not sure what the continuing yearly fees are, the stuff I saw seemed complicated.

    Sales Tax: Best of the three is VA, NC then TN. Check the links to see if food and medicine are exempted.

    While any Appalachian area to me was desirable scenery and weather wise, TN had the lowest of income and property taxes, and due to my choice of location and being able to jump the border, I have the lowest sales tax of the three. A win-win-win tax scenario.

    Communities in VA or NC could not give me what I have in my current location. It is not so much that I ruled out SW VA and NC as I ruled in THIS particular location. It is not to rural with no amenities, not to urban with a mass of people, a good selection of shopping close by and medical seems more than adequate.

    Granted that opinion could change in the future as my situation changes (health, finances), but for now it’s the reality on the ground for me, my wife and our subservient quadrupeds.

    Glad to offer my opinion (and remember, opinions are like rectal portals, everybody has one), and if you have more questions feel free to ask.

    Art

    by art bonds — August 21, 2015

  143. Thanks for doing all of this for us Art! It is really appreciated! 😎

    by Shelley — August 22, 2015

  144. Art, I add my “yes”, with Shelley above; and thanks so much for answering my question about SW Virginia and NE Tennessee so completely. Sooo appreciated!

    by ella — August 26, 2015

  145. I haven’t seen Sun City Hilton head mentioned? Anybody have comments?

    by Carol — August 28, 2015

  146. I plan to move to the Denver area. I am a young widow at 68years and just want to enjoy life while my body is healthy & my mind happy. Please share any opinion you might have, besides cold winters, in regard to the positive fun environment within the few 55+ ACTIVE Communities in Colorado. Comparisons would be most helpful.

    by R Williams — August 29, 2015

  147. I am new to this site, but any chance the posts can organized somehow … maybe most recent first &/or by region OR coastal vs inland OR cold vs warm states OR ???

    by R Williams — August 31, 2015

  148. To Carol ‘re:Sun City Hilton Head. Pricey

    by Angela miller — September 1, 2015

  149. One area for those who may want it all is Savannah Lakes Village (SLV), located in the very small town of McCormick, SC. SLV is on Lake Thurmond (formerly Clark’s Hill) and is what I call the “hidden gem” of South Carolina. We are about an hour north of Augusta, GA, one and a half hours from Greenville, SC, and only twenty-five minutes from Greenwood, SC. We have low taxes, an active community, and very friendly people. Although not strictly a retirement community about 90% of the folk ARE retired. We have two excellent golf courses (the Web.com tour plays here each year), an activity & fitness center, a bowling alley, numerous tennis and pickleball courts, and numerous boat slips on the lake. We also have numerous clubs which includes a rod & gun club with it’s own firing range & skeet shooting. You see, we are in the middle of Sumter National Forrest complete with all kind of wild animals. The boating is extraordinary, inexpensive, and you can boat from just north of Augusta to just south of Greenville. HOA fees are the lowest I’ve encountered anywhere (about $85 per month). We have four season with very mild winters. The biggest drawback for some people is the lack of shopping within a half-hour. If you can get by with a Food Lion & Amazon ….. you’re all set!

    by Lou R. — January 31, 2016

  150. Hi, I’m 64 years old, single, retired from Chicago, currently living out of the country. I am moving back to USA in the middle of June 2016. I am looking for “independent living” in a senior community. (in Florida) Would do all the cooking and cleaning by myself. My annual gross income is around $30,000 including social security. I am looking for a studio or 1 bedroom, around lower to mid ($600 to$650). Would appreciate either public or your own transportation nearby. ? Can u help me? Thanks, uma

    by UMA — February 1, 2016

  151. UMA, sorry I do not know FL well enough to help you. I think one of the challenges will be finding safe public transportation nearby…not sure if that is a requirement for you since you also mentioned “your own”
    transportation. Some FL communities offer transportation to grocery stores, etc for their residents.

    Here is a site for rental in FL once you narrow down your choices. http://www.bestguide-retirementcommunities.com/floridaseniorapartments.html There are more sites just search…and hopefully some others will be able to help you with places in FL

    Be sure to look in other topreirement blogs topics, especially ones on affordable, budget etc. Also look at the specific blog topics for FL.

    by elaine — February 2, 2016

  152. UMA, I have looked at this place several times and thought it was very affordable. I am not affiliated in anyway to this place. Look up Golden Pond Village in Florida.

    by Louise — February 2, 2016

  153. I have lived at On Top of the World, Ocala, FL for eighteen years….it was once a very resident friendly community but has changed. You are gold until the house closes……we live in the Villas and we are suppose to have complete maintiance but that is not so. Over the years the trees have become much to large for the lots but they will not let us take them down…..our area is dirty with black mold on the eves and five year old roofs that look like twenty-five year old roofs. The yards are full of roots and glass cannot grow. The large overgrown trees are have caused me to be ashamed of where I live. I still love the rest of the community I just hate to come to the Friendship area. When you are here drive over and see how it is kept and see for yourself. We, the homeowners, have no say……..

    by TJ Harner — April 8, 2016

  154. Welcome all the information, but would really appreciate more pet friendly communities without restrictions…
    have managed to find quite a few wonderful 55+ communities in Florida and then found out they have pet restrictions and even these are not documented under the individual listings….or even more discouraging the fact that homes for sale in the same communities seem to have totally difference restrictions……it is quite discouraging…..it’s hard enough to find a community, in your desired area, then find a home you really like and then find out about all these restrictions……are there 55+ communities that are pet friendly without restrictions, or at least have them listed in advance to save time and aggravation??? Thanks ….have just begun my search and would appreciate the help……….

    by dagmar mclaughlin — April 20, 2016

  155. Does anyone have any experience with Robson Ranch in Denton Texas?

    by Cindy Warner — April 22, 2016

  156. Looking for comments about living in the Bradenton area – walkability, arts, safety, etc. Thanks!

    by Elaine — April 23, 2016

  157. I echo dagmar…We have delayed moving to Florida (Tampa area) because we have a large dog and can’t seem to find a nice area that would accommodate a larger breed. Most of the “pet friendly” communities turn out to only want small dogs. Even more pricey communities that have dog parks included limit the size. Any comments would be appreciated.

    by deb — April 23, 2016

  158. Carol: RE: Sun City Hilton Head..(actually Bluffton) .thousands of homes..Older complex with homes very close together. Huge area..traffic outside the complex is horrendous, Especially in the summer. It’s on the main highway into Hilton Head and the Island. . About a 45 min drive down to the beach..way longer in summer. Nice landscaping and they keep it pretty nice, but it comes with a cost. Fees are high. Something to think about if you don’t play, tennis, golf, use gym, pools, pickle ball, boccie ball, play pool, woodwork and tons more you will pay for in upkeep. We have family living there. Good luck in your search. Hope this helps. We are looking for a smaller 55+ with a nice pool and clubhouse with activities and with fewer amenities.

    by sunlovingal — April 23, 2016

  159. Dagmar and Deb, Solivita allows three pets. I can’t remember for sure, but I believe they allow dogs up to 50#. That was as of September 2015 and it might even have been more than 50#. It’s a little over an hour from Tampa. I’m sure if you give them a call they can give you specifics on what they allow. You’ll have a hard time finding a 55+ community with no pet restrictions, but they should disclose them when you ask.

    by Tessa — April 23, 2016

  160. To Tessa and Deb – we just returned from visiting both Solivita and On Top of the World in Ocala. One of them, I think it may have been Solivita but not sure, had a 100 lb weight limit on the dogs. Hope that helps.

    by Laurie — April 24, 2016

  161. Laurie, I think you’re right about it being 100# but wasn’t sure and knew it was at least 50#. Did either community stand out to you? I only did a quick tour of Solivita but it’s a place I want to go back and do a stay and play type visit. I’ve had my eye on On Top for awhile and will go back for further investigation there as well.

    by Tessa — April 24, 2016

  162. Dagmar, Check out Valencia Lakes in Wimauma FL south of Tampa. I know they have certain breed restrictions but not sure about dogs as I am a cat owner and we are in the process of building so I am not currently living in the community. I know they have two Yappy Hours – one for small dogs and one for the larger dogs in the doggie park.

    by Patti — April 25, 2016

  163. My husband and I just came back home to Ohio from a fact finding and or elimination vacation for retirement on the west coast of Fl. This is what we found….retirees from 20+ years ago have done no updates. NONE! Yet want top dollar for said homes. Listen up people….you cannot buy your retirement dream home and just live in it for 20+ years! I know we will not buy a home and then put another100,000 in it to bring it into the 21st century! Get real! We are now looking at new homes because of this. Good luck on the resale of your home if all you have done is just live in it.

    by Janet — April 25, 2016

  164. Hi, Tessa: We did the Discovery Tour at Solivita and the World Tour on OTOW. This is just our opinion, we preferred Solivita. The people were very friendly and it had a good sense of community. You have to give some consideration to the gators if you have pets. We saw 3 in the two days we were there, and they need to be reported to security so they can be relocated. Not sure about their nocturnal habits, but I was concerned about taking the dogs out after dark. They also have an anit-venom fund for pets snake bites, but they have never had to use it. All that being said, our biggest issue with Solivita was the traffic getting into Kissimmee. Of course it all depends on what you’re used to, but we found it to be a problem. Kissimmee itself has a lot going for it though, if you don’t mind the traffic.
    OTOW is much larger and spread out. It’s more like a small city. Very few residents were welcoming to strangers, though they were talking and socializing among themselves, so that would probably change with time. Certainly there are an abundance of amenities including the Master the Possibilities to keep the mind active, so worth checking out. If you’re going to look around Ocala, you might also consider Stone Creek by Del Webb. We really liked that a lot. There is also the brand new Trilogy at Ocala Preserve which right now has only about 50 residents, though there is a lot of construction going on, and they have already broken ground for their clubhouse and pool, so they aren’t waiting for the people to come. We did meet several of the residents there and they seem happy and social. Hope this helps.

    by Laurie — April 25, 2016

  165. I wrote a post this morning. Where is it at? Someone delete it?

    by Janetfla — April 25, 2016

  166. Found it. Thanks!

    by Janetfla — April 25, 2016

  167. Laurie, Thanks so much for your response. That’s interesting about the gators. I have an indoor cat so I wouldn’t have pets outside. When I get the chance, which probably won’t be until I retire next year, I want to do visits at Solivita, Trilogy Orlando, On Top of the World, and Stone Creek. Even though I was only there an hour or two, I got a good feeling at Solivita so your comments are encouraging. They also seem to care a lot about animals there and I like that. Another one that I stopped at for a quick look around was Trilogy Orlando and had a good feeling there, too. I didn’t have the opportunity to look at the surrounding areas of these places so I want to take a few extra days and explore when I do my visits. I didn’t get near Kissimmee so I don’t know about the traffic.
    Master the Possibilities is a big draw for me for the two Ocala communities. I haven’t paid much attention to Trilogy at Ocala Preserve because I wanted a place that was a little more established, plus the prices looked really high to me when it first opened. Friends of mine who did stays at both On Top and Stone Creek thought the residents at Stone Creek were a few years younger on average than those at On Top. They preferred Stone Creek as well. I really liked the houses at On Top. Decisions, decisions. Thanks again and good luck in your search.

    by Tessa — April 26, 2016

  168. Tessa: I’m glad that helped. While I didn’t mention it, one of the things we noticed at OTOW was that many of the residents were rather elderly. We drove by Trilogy Orlando on the way from Kissimmee to Ocala, and were surprised that it really wasn’t anywhere near Orlando proper. I believe though, at this time, their homes may be more expensive than Trilogy Ocala. We haven’t made a final decision yet, but right now we’re leaning toward Del Webb Stone Creek.

    by Laurie — April 27, 2016

  169. I know California ranks poorly in most areas for the running of the state, but my husband and I have found a wonderful place in SoCal where we have decided to make our retirement home. It has tennis, pickleball, volleyball, an indoor pool for water volleyball and an outdoor recreation pool. As my husband and I have always been avid tennis players, this was important to us. Pickleball is our new love! There are dances every Friday and Saturday nights as well as Valentine, Halloween and New Year’s Eve bashes to rival anything you’ve ever attended. While we still RV in the summer due to the inland valley heat in CA, it is a wonderful three season place to live. Bugs have been mentioned as a concern in Florida and CA is much superior in that catagory with very few mosquitoes and much smaller cockroaches?. And NO alligators!
    We, too, were worried about retiring with a population that was too old for us. We are long time rvers so didn’t worry much about small footprint living and currently own a 400 sq.ft. park model home with a 400 sq.ft. addition and feel it is plenty of space for us.
    Our place is called Glen Eden Nudist Club and is a family friendly club but does not allow children to reside. They are welcome to visit and many do, but it is nice not to have children around all of the time. While many people are not open to a clothing free environment ( I certainly wasn’t as a retired elementary school teacher) we have found it to be a very active, healthy lifestyle for us and because we are a family club it is a very wholesome environment for all. The nudist life may be worth pursuing for truly active seniors.

    by Laura C — August 22, 2016

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