February 14, 2011 — As so many of our members and visitors are learning from ScottP’s excellent Forum posts, it is so interesting to learn from the retirement adventures of other folks. In this article we are indebted to Betty and Jim (not their real names), who were kind enough to shared with us their in-depth observations about their search for the ideal place to retire. Read on to learn more…
Betty and Jim
We would love to stay here in on the southern NC coast- the weather, the community, the proximity to the beach, etc. are great. But, the development is getting younger, it does not have golfing opportunities that fit our needs, and has minimal activities comparable to some place like The Villages (TV). And, we are just feeling the urge to strike out, find news friends, and enter a new segment in our lives when Betty retires. It also is much easier for us because we have no family in the area, so our location will not be dependent on being by our kids or any relatives.
Betty has been in real estate for 20 years. She has seen a lot over those years with regards to folks looking to relocate and find a retirement area/home. We hope that those lessons, along with what we have discovered in our search for a new community, will be helpful to others in their search as well. Here goes:
What we’ve learned
Number 1, most folks just don’t have their priorities well defined. It is critical to a successful move to understand your own motives/wants/needs. Perform a comprehensive financial analysis and a budget, so you know exactly what you can afford short and long term.
2. Kids and family are an important consideration to mention in the list of ideas regarding relocating. We have seen a number of folks move into our community, appear to be very happy, but then suddenly determine they can’t stand the distance between themselves and family. And, this is generally relevant to their kids and grandkids.
3. Since so many of these retirement communities are only partially complete, understanding the financial scenario of the developer is critical, along with determining how the transfer of ownership will occur when it is built out, and what type of contingency funds are in a protected account, etc.
4. It is very hard to determine how many people live in a community. We have used number of homes, then simply multiplied by two to get a rough number of residents. If Topretirements can make this process more specific , that would be great! For example, some places have condo’s or some type of multiple occupancy dwellings; this can make estimating the total number more difficult.
5. We also try to ask how many folks are permanent versus only part-time residents. This is important to determine the number of folks that will really be activity living in the area. Some have significant numbers of “snow-birds’ vs. year-round residents; finding folks to play tennis, golf, or just socialize with might be much smaller during the summer months.
6. We always ask for Age distribution numbers, which are generally not readily available. But, once again for our goal, we want to be in a somewhat homogeneous age group similar to our age. We have found that some of the older 55 and up communities have aged-up such that we might be too young and active to be a good fit.
7. Many of these developments have 1, or maybe more than 2 courses. But what kinds of courses are they – many seem to be the Professional type that are, long, difficult, and expensive? Whereas, especially for the average golfer and as we get older, the Executive type courses are much more attractive. This is one of the biggest attractions to us at TV.
8. Regarding tennis, I am amazed at the how majority of these developments seem to have Hard courts. Once again, for older folks, the advantages of Clay or HarTru courts cannot be over-stated! If you are not familiar with this issue, the difference between the two surfaces is huge as far as pain and suffering to one’s body.
9. We are ready for a warmer climate. We have lived near the coast in a nice gated community in North Carolina for about 20 years. This is the worst winter in memory. But, our major driver in relocating is to get into an age restricted community with more activities directed to our lifestyle. Also, while we have over 1,500 houses here, with golf, tennis, etc., we just do not have enough potential friends to actively inter-act. We took a trip this Fall to Fla.. We checked out The Villages and Timber Pines. Timber Pines was really nice. But like a few others we visited, probably too old and too small for us.
Where we are in our search
After all of our searching it has become obvious to us it will either be The Villages or something similar. In looking at some of the other potential competitors, three of the four places do not really look close to TV in size and amenities. We would not consider a condominium setting.
I have requested info from Sun City Center near Ruskin. That community has some merit regarding the size issue; they have about 11,000 residents. The information packet they sent was very comprehensive compared to most. This place reminds us a lot of Timber Pines which we personally visited. The positives for us about Sun City Center: Size probably OK, cost probably OK, although seems a little expensive for quality of development, ownership by residents so no developer pull-out worries.
The negatives: very old, houses very dated, concern that the median age might be too old for us, probably too close to metro-area, also too close to water as we are seeing huge insurance rate changes even where we live; i.e. hurricane concerns. The golf course situation does not look good compared to like TV. The info mentioned something like 72 holes combination private and public, that does not sound like enough for this many folks.
Also, we have looked at a couple of the Sun City’s by Del Webb, we visited Sun City Hilton Head and is a possibility. We have a son moving back to Austin , so we may make trip out there and look at the one just outside of Austin (Sun City Texas). We do like the Austin area and climate. Again, it just does not look big enough and the golf meets the typical scenario for these communities; i.e. two or three Professional courses that are on the expensive side to play regularly.
Our bottom line – for the moment
The one issue we keep coming back too is the sheer size of TV, with essentially 26 Executive Golf courses that are free and fit our style of play versus the big professional and expensive courses. And, we are huge into tennis and the Pickle-Ball looks like great fun and is huge at TV.
Editor’s note: Thanks Betty and Jim! We appreciate your candor and careful research. Also, we greatly appreciate Jim’s earlier suggestion to include the number of units in our database of active communities, now implemented.
Now dear members, what do you think? Where are you looking for the perfect retirement community, and what have you learned? Use the Comments section below, or the Forum thread – “Where I am Looking for the (Almost) Perfect Climate“.