June 16, 2016 — We’ve been wresting with a question about active adult and 55+ communities. The question is: does one side of the of the USA have a better range, selection, and type of active and 55+ communities than the other? Does the East (from Maine to Florida and west to Wisconsin and Louisiana) offer more, or is the Western half of the country (from Kansas to Hawaii and parts North and South) the one with more interesting active adult possibilities? The obvious answer finally came to us – ask our Topretirements Members – you have a range of collective experience that is incredibly valuable! So we are asking you at the end of this article to share your point of view about the areas that provide the best options for active adult living.
Part of the reason we ask comes from the challenge we continually face in adding new active adult and 55+ communities to our database. Although it usually easy to find a community we haven’t yet reviewed in the Eastern part of the US on any given day, it is much harder to discover new or existing ones from the West. Which leads us to believe that perhaps the fence is much greener if you decide to retire somewhere in the East. But perhaps it is, as several frustrated Members have suggested, because we are just stuck in our East Coast geographic biases!
First, a few facts
We used the Advanced Search function to find out just how many communities we have reviewed at Topretirements. Here is some of what we found after studying the database:
Note that by no means is our communities database complete, even with well over 3,000 reviews. There are undoubtedly developments appropriate for retirees we have missed, although after 10 years of adding to the list they are probably either on the small side or newer. Note that we have 2 newsletters that profile 3-5 different communities each week from each side of the country. You can subscribe to them here.
After looking at the facts found through our Advanced Search we can conclude a few things about this question:
1. There are a lot more active adult and 55+ communities in the eastern half of the country than the west (2040 vs. 1160).
2. For whatever reason, the West has a much higher proportion of RV/Mobile Home communities than does the East (13% vs. 4%).
3. Although there are small differences between the two halves of the country on aspects such as Community Size, New Urban, Manufactured Homes, and Price Range – there are no major disparities.
4. Both parts of the country have a wide range of great communities to choose from. The regions do offer different types of communities based on the local topography and other factors – for example out west you will find developments laid out on former ranches, whereas in the East many are situated around the coast or bodies of water. Both offer mountain locations – whether it is the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Carolinas or offshoots of the Rockies in Colorado or Wyoming. If you look, however, you can find just about any type of community in any region or state because this country is so big and diverse.
We used our Advanced Search to select by State and type of community. Going into this research we predicted that the West would have more RV/Mobile Home communities. Note that some communities might have multiple types of homes, amenities, pricing, etc., so the numbers can add up to more than 100%.
1. Number. Topretirements has reviews of approximately 2040 communities in the Eastern part of the U.S., and 1160 in the West. That’s almost a 2 to 1 ratio in favor of the “Right” coast (sorry, no disparagement intended).
2. Size: In the East about 280 of those 2040 communities have more than 1,000 units (14%). In the West there are 186 or so communities of that size (16%). Clearly both sections of the country have a fair number of very large communities, with the share of large ones slightly higher in the west, possibly because there is more room to build. See our related article series, “Does the Villages in FL Have Any Equivalent Competitors” (there is an East Coast and a West Coast edition).
3. Type of community
RV/Mobile Home Communities. These type of communities often provide the best value for the money in terms of prices and amenities offered, although they are not for people looking for a more traditional setup or more privacy. In the East 80 are RV/Mobile Home communities, or about 4% of the total. Out West we have 150 RV/Mobile Home communities (just under 13%). Arizona alone has 65 communities of this type.
Manufactured Homes. There are 260 Manufactured home communities in the Eastern component of our database (13%), vs. 122 in the West (10%); roughly the same proportion as in the West.
New Urban/Master Planned. There are 160 New Urban/Master Planned communities back East (8%), very proportionate to the 106 out West (9%). Note that there is a lot of flexibility in exactly what developers mean whey they claim they are New Urban/Master Planned communities.
Pricing. In the East Topretirements has 500 communities that say they are “lower priced” (25%), and 670 that are “luxury” (33%). That compares to over 300 in the Western component of our database that claim to be “lower priced” (26%), and 330 that are “luxury” (28%) .
55+ or Age Restricted. The Eastern communities we have listed include 1150 that are 55+ plus or age restricted (56%), vs. over 700 that are 55+ or age restricted (60%).
Distribution by State. Florida has active adult and 55+ communities than any other state – we have over 300 in our database. There are 220 in North Carolina and 170 in South Carolina. That compares to the Western states with the most communities – Arizona and California each has 250 and Colorado has 85.
The whole active adult community movement got started in Arizona at
Popularity. Looking at the annual Topretirements report on the 100 most popular active communities for 2015, the Eastern part of the country cleaned up. Fearrington Village (NC) was #1 and The Villages (FL) were runaway favorites. Only 2 Western communities penetrated the top 10, and they were #7 Talking Rock in Prescott, AZ and #10 Silver Sage Village in Boulder, CO.
All in all there are not too many big differences between the communities offered in the East vs. the West. The greatest is why there are relatively few communities available in the West. Why is that – because westerners don’t want this kind of living experience, they don’t have to escape a hostile winter climate, or whatever? We urge our members to explore as much of the country as they can, because there are wonderful communities to be discovered in every part of it. How else will you be able to find the one that is perfect for you? Here is where you can find our complete list of active communities by state.
Comments? What have been your experiences – have you explored communities both in the West and the East? Do you see differences in the types, range of builders (big vs. small, high end vs. low end, amenities, environment etc.?) If you know of communities that we don’t have reviews of, or that other folks should explore, please please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.