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Are There Big Differences in West Coast vs. East Coast 55+ Communities?

Category: Active adult communities

August 2, 2017 — Last week we reported that for the first time ever, 2 towns in the Western part of the U.S. came out at the top of our “100 Most Popular Places to Retire List for 2017“. We found that to be pretty big news, particularly since: a) more people live in the Eastern part of the U.S. (58% in 2011), and b) we assume that more folks in the East consider migrating in retirement because their winter weather is worse. 2017’s winners could be a one year anomaly, or it is possible it is part of a long term trend – we are not sure.

That question brings up another aspect of the East vs. West retirement issue. We have long had an assumption, not supported by any data, that the the two parts of the country have quite different types of active adult and 55+ communities. This article will explore that question. But beyond our speculations on the topic, we are really hoping for input from our Members who have spent time visiting or researching active communities in different regions of the country.

We have reviews of 3491 active adult, 55+, or other retirement type communities in the Communities database. By a large majority, most of those are located east of the Mississippi. For example, there are 688 Florida communities reviewed at Topretirements, vs. 266 in Arizona.

Differences by types and size of communities
Because it is difficult to compare big groups of states in our database of communities, we used a small but representative sample of states in each region. For the East we used FL, GA, SC, and NC. In the West we chose CA, NV, and AZ. In both cases the states chosen were at the southern end of the region, more likely to be retirement spots because of their warmer weather. We then used Advanced Search to look at a few types of communities for those states (there are 50 different types – from Log Cabins to Assisted Living). You can do the same thing by using Advanced Search to look for community types, amenities, expense, state, etc.).

RV/Mobile Home Communities
Following a hunch, we first queried the database using our Advanced Search to find out the number of RV/Mobile Home communities we have in the sample states listed above. The difference was profound!
East – 89 RV/MobH communities, or 5% of what we have for single family home communities. Citrus Park in Bonita Springs, FL, is an example of a typical RV community.

Fiesta Grande in Casa Grande

West – 125 RV/MobH communities, or 46% of the single family type. Fiesta Grande in Casa Grande, AZ, is one of many RV communities.

Manufactured Home Communities
Here the West still had a higher percentage of manufactured home communities than in the East, but the differences were not so startling.
East – 147 Manufactured Home communities, or 9% of what we have for single family type communities (1710)
West – 44 Manufactured Home communities, or 16% of the 270 single family type total.

Size of Community
We speculated that the West might have more large scale communities than the East, thinking that the availability of cheap land might be a factor. The numbers turned out to be about equal, although a slightly higher percentage of Western communities were larger scale:
East – 5 over 10,000 units; 188 over 1000 units
West – 6 over 10,000; 126 have 1000 or more units
For example the East has several giant communities including The Villages and On Top of the World (both in Central Florida),

On Top of the World, a huge community near Ocala, FL

while the West has Laguna Lakes Village (CA), and the various Sun City Arizona communities.

Bottom line – do these differences mean anything?
Frankly we are not sure. One reason could be that people in the East and West favor different lifestyles. For example, RV living/retirement might be more popular in the West, and 55+ developers are merely building what people want. Or it could be retirees in the two regions have come to expect different types of communities when they look for a place to retire, or builders are just following what they think people want. Cost affordable open space land is probably more available in the West, but that doesn’t seem to have much effect on the type of communities developed. One thing is clear though: if you are looking for what we consider a traditional active adult community, you have more choices in the east. If you want an RV/Mobile Home community for retirement (which typically cost much less, go West!)

The bigger question is do both regions have the type of communities you are looking for in retirement – and what is that type? Would you prefer a community that is single family, RV/mobile home, manufactured home, garden home, townhouse, etc.? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below – we would really like to get a better idea of your interests in this area.

Posted by Admin on August 2nd, 2017


  1. Single story, no stairs at all. Active adult in a collegiate community with senior education, theater etc. Preferably new community for making new friends. Planning for Chapel Hill in the spring!

    by Cherie Christensen — August 2, 2017

  2. For us it is single family and in the process of building a home at Victory in Verrado, AZ. After years of traveling the U.S. and checking out North & South Carolina, Georgia, Northern Florida (Jacksonville) and lived in Knoxville, TN for 15 years we decided on the West (Arizona). No lawn work at all because of desert landscaping. The dry heat appeals to us much more then high humidity.

    by Bruce S — August 2, 2017

  3. We are looking at Sun City Anthem in Henderson NV. It is close (but not too close) to Las Vegas activities, shopping & dining. Other reasons include proximity to children in southern Cal, no state income taxes, warm dry weather, virtually no risk of hurricane, tornado or flooding & NO humidity or mosquitoes.

    by DougR — August 2, 2017

  4. First and foremost for me is climate. Hate hot and humid so that eliminates the east coast. Love the ocean but try to find an affordable retirement community on or very near (3-5 miles) the ocean.

    No RV/mobile home parks, manufactured maybe, but my first choice would be a garden home.

    by Cheri Johnson — August 3, 2017

  5. We searched from east to west in the southern tier of states. East was too muggy and buggy, Texas was too windy and flat (except for hill country), California was too expensive and too crowded. We then began a search in the Phoenix area. After visiting several times within three years and finding ourselves caught in one traffic jam after another it caused us to ask ourselves, “Why would we live in a large city with all this traffic (forget about the fact tha we had already decided that we would have to have two homes in order to escape the summer heat)”? Then we heard about the quiet town of Green Valley, AZ. We visited 5 times and decided that it was our paradise. We have now lived there for 18 years and love it now as much as when we first arrived. Tons of activities (Green Valley Recreation) and since it is at 3000 ft. in elevation, the summers aren’t as hot as Phoenix. We were young retirees (47 and 51) but were accepted and made many friends very quickly. Long story short, we love it any will most likely be taken out feet first!

    by Linda — August 3, 2017

  6. I live in an adult community Bridgeville, De. I have a beautiful home 2 levels on a corner lot. It is much to big now that I lost my Mother in Law last February. I want to downsize to a single family home possibly a resale. My biggest things are property taxes, quiet, and health services when needed. I believe I made a mistake buying here it is very quiet yes, but the town is very low income and the sevices are very few. So I believe after trial and error maybe the third time will be a charm.. I lived in Monroe Township, New Jersey as well but now it is very crowded they have 11 adult communities there, plenty of services, but taxes are high and it is noisy. So my problem is I don’t know where to live. If anyone can figure it out let me know. Thanks.

    ps. I thought of Florida like Sarasota, but I am worried about climate changes and sink holes.

    by Mona — August 3, 2017

  7. Cheri, have you considered coastal Oregon? You can purchase a condo for less than $100000, a manufactured home on its own lot for about the same price as well. No sales taxes either!!

    by mary11 — August 4, 2017

  8. Mary: I have noticed many comments from you about coastal Oregon; I was wondering if you could elaborate a little more about specific towns that you like best and the names of low priced condo communities and manufactured home communities on the coast or slightly inland. My apologies if you have elaborated on other posts but I have not seen them. Thanks.

    by judy — August 4, 2017

  9. Judy…Most of these communities can be found on Craigslist and the real estate websites. One of my favorite Mfg home communities where you own the land is Greentrees in Florence Or. THE HOA is only $220 monthly and that includes cable. Older homes start at $60000 and homes facing the river are in the 200s. It’s a large resort park with tennis courts, saunas too. Florence has an old town facing the river which offers many festivals and the town offers many senior discounts. Brookings oregon is another favorite of mine which is only 10 miles from the CA border. They have a resort mfg home community overlooking the ocean. The homes are in cabin style and you can rent them out anytime and they manage that for you too. Homes start at $49000 and lot rentals are about $500 but that includes cable. I sign up for all the real estate sites and receive Daily emails on new home listing and rentals too. Good luck researching!!

    by mary11 — August 5, 2017

  10. The park in Brookings is called Whaleshead…

    by mary11 — August 5, 2017

  11. Mary11 I don’t know how much you’ve been in Florence or Brookings. We go there almost every summer and you’re right, they are both charming. However the weather in both is certainly a factor. It is seldom sunny and can rain nonstop for months on end. Last August it started raining and virtually didn’t stop til June. While I love visiting both towns, I’d think twice about actually living there full time. You might be better off 10 or 15 miles inland from the Oregon coast…unless you’re a duck?

    by Laura C — August 5, 2017

  12. Laura, I lived in Portland for 8 yrs and before that in Florida and Buffalo NY so….I am used to not perfect weather such as I have currently in San Diego. It’s just that we can’t afford to continue to live here. So unless you have invested well for your retirement there are certain priorities you might have to adjust. I am also looking into inland towns such as Salem, Eugene, Medford, but they get pretty hot in the summer.

    by mary11 — August 6, 2017

  13. Mona, we moved from our main house in NJ in 2005 to new Tampa, Fl. I too absolutely love my house now too big and we want to downsize. Florida is having a building boom again as house prices keep going up. The ammeneties of gated community and clubhouse cost money if that is not a problem do not worry. We may not stay in Florida we cannot take the heat and humidity the main issue. Sarasota is where we should have gone now prices are high. I overpaid for my house and will lose money when I sell. We were considering the beach area of Delaware and Wilmington, NC. We are back in NJ for the summer where we own a small condo at the beach however too small for full time living. I am loving the weather compared to Florida.

    by Ginger — August 7, 2017

  14. Wait till November.

    by Carol Dugan — August 8, 2017

  15. We are looking to retire in Dallas. If you could suggest some nice neighborhood sections, where there are good hospitals, library, public transportation, shopping centers etc. that will be a big help. Or Even some maps around the Retirement communities would be good too.
    We are from new jersey, and do not know about Dallas.

    (Comment from Lalitha). Anyone have any advice for her?

    by Admin — August 28, 2017

  16. I’m not sure why you want to move to a place that you know so little about. Is there family there that makes it attractive? I would look up 55+ communities that interest you and then go visit and see the areas they are in. I’m guessing a realtor there would be a big help in giving you the info that you want.

    by Staci — August 29, 2017

  17. I recently learned about the requirement in many newer Florida developements for the buyer to assume a CDD bond which requires the homeowner to make annual payments, plus interest to the bond holder and that is separate from the HOA fees that are paid. After briefly researching CDD bonds, it seems these bonds can go for 20 to 30 years, and there are many communities where the CDD bonds are in financial trouble with questions about what happens to the club houses, roads, sewars, golf courses, etc. that are being paid for by the bonds. Do the homeowners then have to pay even more or risk having the amenities and basics like sewars sold ?

    by Jean — September 8, 2017

  18. To Mona we are considering retiring to delaware coming from New York.
    I am concerned about health care but we are attracted to the low taxes and nicer weather.
    Can you shed more light on your experiences in delaware.

    by Barbara Jayko — September 9, 2017

  19. Barbara
    What I do in addition to researching hospital reviews, is to call doctors offices in areas you’re considering and ask if they are accepting ( in my case Medicare ) patients.
    When I looked into DE (west of Lewes) I found it difficult to find a primary care physician.

    by Staci — September 9, 2017

  20. To the lady who wants to relocate to Dallas from New Jersey. I am a realtor in Dallas and we are looking to retire somewhere north of the Dallas area. Dallas gets very hot and humid in July and August, which is the reason we want to move, but the rest of the year is fairly mild.

    by Lori Spencer — September 10, 2017

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