You’ve read all the articles about the best places to retire. Consulted all your friends and acquaintances about what they think are the best retirement towns. But unfortunately, you still aren’t sure you have found your ideal active adult community.
Sound familiar? Finding the active adult over 55 community that is the best fit for you is not that easy. For one thing, there are thousands of choices – not only in the U.S., but in foreign countries as well. For another, a few well known communities tend to get all the publicity, while others that are just as nice, or even better, are hard to find out about. To help you get started with the process, we will try to give you some practical help in this article.
If you want to find your best active adult community, these are the steps we recommend you start with:
1. Find your state and town. We have tried to assemble reviews of the most promising retirement towns and states on this website. Use our resources to find the states you are interested in, then drill down to identify towns that sound appealing. Keep track of the ones that pique your interest for further research and a potential visit. If you haven't used our Retirement Ranger yet, try that free service. The Ranger asks you 10 questions, then gives you a personalized list of towns that fit your profile, so it's an easy way to start the process.
2. Check out our database of active adult communities. After you have found some promising towns or regions, use our Directory to find active adult and 55+ communities in those areas. Another way to do it is to use Advanced Search to look for developments by price range, type of community, and amenities. Our Top and Showcase Listings provide even more useful detail and links about those communities.
3. There are still more active adult communities out there – and you need to find them. One problem is that a lot of over 55 developments were established a long time ago – they have sold all the original units and disbanded their sales offices. Other places have very small advertising budgets and remain undiscovered. Sometimes these unknown communities tend to be among the nicest.
4. Use the Internet and networking. Searching on the Internet will usually turn up more 55+ community possibilities for the towns you are interested in. Type in search phrases like “active adult communities in (name of town”, "gated communities", "55+ communities", etc. at Google, Yahoo, or Bing and see what kind of results they bring in. Sometimes you will get a lot of choices, other times nothing useful comes back. If you don't find enough results, try searching for homes on websites like Zillow, Terabitz, Realtor.com, and ZipRealty. You could also call the Chamber of Commerce in towns on your list and ask them for ideas about places to live.
5. Get a good real estate agent! If you haven’t found your dream active adult community after looking at all the listings on this site and others, the best answer is a very traditional one. Get a good real estate agent! After all, you are buying – not selling. You won’t have to pay a commission, so for Pete’s sake, get a hard-working professional to do your leg work for you! A good real estate agent will know all the best communities, and should be able to quickly point out developments, places that you would never find on your own.
5. How to find a good real estate agent. There are lots of ways to know. You can search on Google for “realtors in ” and you will instantly find a good list for any town. Or, go to Realtor.com – there you will see ads for realtors specializing in different areas, including active communities. Also on that site you can use their “Find a Realtor” feature to find a professional from their organization.
It is fairly easy to know if you have found a good agent. Sometimes it’s just instinct – does this person strike you as hard-working, smart, and honest? Do they return phone calls, show you places you want to see, respond to feedback, come up with more suggestions than you do on your own? Check out references, don’t be shy. And if time goes by and you aren’t seeing what you want and the vibe is not great – find someone else.
6. Go on a road trip. You owe it to yourself to make sure you have looked at the most promising developments. If you plan ahead, vacations during the last few years of your working life can do double duty - you get some fun and you can check out different places. Many communities have "Stay and Play" or "Discovery" packages where you can stay in a community at discount while you check it out. As we hear over and over again, there is no substitute for an extended stay in a place before you buy. Rent first, then buy, is always good advice.
7. Do your due diligence. Elsewhere at Topretirements we have plenty of articles about how you can make sure you are making a good move. But that all starts with due diligence - look at the Home Owners Association rules and financials, interview residents, go online and look for problems with the builder. Get a lawyer to represent and help protect you.
Finding your dream active adult community is not an easy process. But it is important to do it right so you make a smart decision – the first time. Good luck!
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