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 Topretirements.com 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.
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),
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.