April 22, 2014 — This request came in from one of our members, and it seems like a good one: “Could you please do an article on 55+ retirement developments that are under $200,000. There are so many great places to look at but most aren’t affordable to us.”
The happy answer to this question is that there are all kinds of 55+ and active adult communities with homes available for less than $200,000 – sometimes far below. In this article we will first explore different strategies for finding an affordable community, then list some of the developments found in our database.
1. Existing communities usually offer the lowest prices. There are several reasons why homes in older active and 55+ communities are the least expensive option – with homes often well below $100,000. For one, a new home offers a blank slate for buyers to fill out their dream. Builders help that luxury to happen in exchange for the opportunity to make a fair profit. As time goes on the price of the home depends on many factors, though. Perhaps it is discounted because it isn’t brand new anymore, or because it can’t be modified/customized as easily. The community facilities might not be quite as up to date, or as shiny-new. But note that most communities offering new homes usually have an inventory of previously owned homes as well.
Another big reason why established communities are less expensive is that their homes and infrastructure are starting to show wear and tear. The kitchens might be dated, the roads have cracks, and the elevators creak. The same can often be said about the inhabitants. Active communities start out with everyone about the same age. Fast forward 20-25 years and community residents will have aged as a group. Baby boomers might be turned off by the “older” composition of the community, which gets reflected in the prices. Note that some of the best buys in this market are in communities more than 30 years old. In this case the original buyers have mostly turned over and a younger group, willing to update homes purchased at a discount, is starting to take hold. See our related article with quotes from our faithful contributing member, Old Nassau: “Budget Buyers See Opportunity in Older Active Communities“.
2. Manufactured homes are less expensive. Many people are turned off by the concept, but the reality is that factory built homes can offer all of the quality and features of a stick built home. It’s just a lot more efficient to build a home in a factory and then ship it to the site for final assembly. Folks looking to save should investigate communities that feature manufactured homes.
3. Stay away from the coasts and other expensive real estate. It is unlikely that you will find a bargain community in a town where the real estate is high priced – land is too expensive for that. For example if you are looking in Southern California or Fairfield County, Connecticut, there just aren’t many bargains. But if you explore areas like Florida, South Carolina, and parts of Arizona and New Mexico, you will have more affordable options.
4. Think about the value of the amenities you are paying for. Generally, but not always, the greater the number and the more lavish the amenities, the higher the entry cost. Many times the value provided by the amenities is a bargain – you get facilities and services that would cost you much more if you had to purchase them individually. In our experience HOA fees can vary tremendously. If too high or unusually low, they can even have an inverse effect on real estate prices. Some communities offer more of a “pay for play” model – for example, if you don’t play golf you don’t have to help support that activity. Along with the price of your home, monthly fees are an important consideration in your decision to purchase in one community vs. another. Make sure you understand what community fees you will have to pay, plus any assessments, before you buy anywhere.
At Topretirements we have reviews of just under 2,600 communities. They are loosely arranged into 3 categories of pricing: lower priced, intermediate, and luxury (many communities have homes in more than 1 category). When we used our Advanced Search to find those categorized as lower priced, we found 505 communities. Note that this categorization is somewhat subjective: some of the communities setting up listings with us have different ideas than others about what is lower priced and what is intermediate. In our opinion lower priced should mean not much more than $100,000. It is probably fair to say that more of the 2,600 communities in the Topretirements.com database are priced below $200,000 than there are places costing more than that.
Not surprisingly, the inexpensive active and 55+ communities are mostly found in the states with generally lower real estate prices. Florida has 192 lower priced communities in our data base, whereas (higher priced) California has 40. You can easily use Advanced Search to look for lower priced communities not only in a particular state, but you can also select by amenity, type of community (condos, independent living, carriage homes, etc.), and size. That way you can create your own custom search and see what the possibilities are when selecting the requirements that are important to you.
Start with our Advertisers
For the record we have at least 10 featured advertisers at Topretirements.com that are classified as offering lower cost homes. These outstanding communities help support this website, so we are proud to salute them for offering homes for less than $200,000:
Holiday Island (Holiday Island, Arkansas). Located in the Ozark Mountains, this planned community at the edge of 53,000 acre Table Rock Lake has 2 golf courses and a marina. Homes start at $50,000 and go to over $300,000.
Hot Springs Village (Hot Springs, Arkansas). The world’s largest gated community has resale homes from $100,000. There is a dazzling array of amenities.
Tellico Village (Tellico Lake, Tennessee). “It’s better at Tellico Village” for its 7,000 residents who enjoy living on the lake as well as amenities that include three championship golf courses and state-of-the-art wellness facilities.
Lost Dutchman (Apache Junction, Arizona). Lost Dutchman is a vacation-style, 55+ manufactured home community. New homes start at $60,000. It has three community centers and a wide range of fantastic amenities.
Serendipity (Fort Myers, Florida). A friendly, vibrant community with a small-town atmosphere featuring lovely homes, lush landscaping, and resort-style amenities. Rentals or new homes to purchase from $60,000.
Sun City Apple Valley (Apple Valley, California). This brand new active community with golf course and many other amenities has homes starting in the high $100’s.
Royal Palm Village (Haines City, Florida). This gated 55+ community of manufactured homes features Venice-like canals and ponds with scenic lakes, park areas and nature preserves. Pre-owned homes from $15,000 and new ones from $60,000.
Gulfstream Harbor (Orlando, Florida). Discover resort-style 55+ living with shimmering lakes, scenic surroundings, beautiful homes and resort-style amenities. New homes from the $80’s and resales for much less.
Alston Park (Bluffton, South Carolina). New single family homes start in just the $160’s and come with impressive included features, beautifully landscaped yards with sprinkler systems and a 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty.
Lawton Station (Bluffton, South Carolina). This private, gated community features award winning one and two-story single-family homes ranging from the $190’s to the $300’s.
Crossroads by Jensen Communities (Aiken, South Carolina). Residents enjoy a carefree lifestyle at Crossroads, a community for people 55 and over in Aiken. Crossroads is an affordable gated Manufactured Home Community.
A random sampling from Florida
The communities listed below have an “intermediate” price point, with at least some homes for sale for less than $200,000. They represent just the tip of an iceberg – there are hundreds if not thousands more to choose from. We’ve just concentrated on a few communities in Florida, our apologies for the many we had to leave out! Note: We’ve pulled most, but not all, of these sample communities from our advertisers at Topretirements.
Century Village (Florida). There are actually 4 Century Villages on the east coast of Florida near Boca Raton. These are older communities with extensive amenities, and sometimes problems. But one thing they are is inexpensive, often well under $100,000. In fact, younger buyers are moving in and reclaiming older units.
Solvita in Kissimmee, FLorida is an example of a community with new homes that sell from the mid $100’s. It has extensive amenities.
Indian River Colony Club, another fine Topretirements advertiser in Melbourne, FL, has homes available for even less than $100,000.
On Top of the World in Ocala, FL has homes from the mid $100’s. This is a very large community with some of the most extensive amenities anywhere, over 250,000 sq.ft. of them.
Palmer Ranch in Sarasota, Florida features homes from the mid $100’s.
Valencia Lakes is a community of new homes in Tampa with all kinds of exciting amenities. They have some units available starting in the high $100’s.
Our database shows 50 lower priced communities in Arizona, including the likes of Sun City Grand in Surprise, with its hundreds of clubs and an unbelievable list of amenities. In California, where real estate is usually priced out of sight, there still are many communities where you can buy a home for less than $200,000 (use our Advanced Search to find them). Leisure World Seal Beach is one example. This long established community offers a 9 hole golf course, amphitheater, 6 golf courses, and 24 hour gate security – yet small co-ops can be purchased for as long as the low $100’s.
The happy fact is that among the 1000’s of active adult and 55+ communities that there are to choose from, the majority offer homes for sale below $200,000. In fact there are many communities where the average home is closer to $100,000. Use the tools provided in this article to find a community that works for you.
Comments: Do you live in a lower cost community, or do you have ideas for others that Topretirements members should consider? What do you consider affordable? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
For further reading:
Affordable Places to Retire on the Coast
Budget Buyers See Opportunities in Aging Active Communities