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Finding The Best Active Adult Communities Can Be Fun!

Category: Active adult communities

June 20 – Finding the active adult community or retirement town of your dreams can be fun, but it does take some effort to do it well. Lately we have received some interesting questions about how to use Topretirements for that purpose. We’ll use this post to give you some ideas – and ask for your help as well.

Question 1: You’ve got so many communities listed at Topretirements. How can i narrow the list down to a manageable number, short of clicking on every community in your State Directories of Active Adult and 55+ Communities?

A: We think we have some good suggestions to help… with this problem. One way is to concentrate on towns within a state. You can use a Google map to narrow down towns within an area. Then click on the communities for just those towns to see what they have to offer.

Another, better, way is to use the Search link in the top navigation. Once you are there move down to the Advanced Search function. You can search for characteristics by town or by 55+/active communities (not all are 55+). You can search by State, Type of Community, Amenities, Size, and Cost range – all of which will help you narrow down your search. For best results you should search several times with different options checked – the results can be very different depending on what you select.

Another way is to use the Google Search box at top right of all pages, right above the “Find a Community” pull-downs. Type in an amenity or feature like “Har-Tru”, “55+”, or “Executive golf” and see what you get. Putting the words in quotes might help. Lastly, our Retirement Ranger can help you narrow down your search.

Q: I visited some communities on your list and I was underwhelmed. It looked like some of these places were only half-finished. How can I avoid that disappointment?

A. This is an area where we need help and support from all of our members. As a free resource, Topretirements has only limited resources. We encourage developers to list their communities on the site because we know our members want to know about all of the possible places to choose from. However with over 1400 communities listed, the list changes every day. Developers go bankrupt, communities change owners, problems occur within the community. Inevitably there will be some places listed that shouldn’t be here (and others we would like to know about)!

We do our best to weed out problems as we become aware of them. But the best solution for this issue lies with you, our members. If you visit a development that is marginal (or worse), send us an email. You can also report directly on your findings – each community listing has a link at the bottom of the page where you can easily create a Forum post for that community. Once you do that we’ll also take a look and either modify or delete the review for that community, so your fellow members can profit from your experience. All we ask is that you be professional and avoid personal remarks.

Another good way to avoid disappointment is to call ahead before you visit a community. We almost always provide a phone number for each community. If they don’t sound too good or answer your questions well – save yourself a trip.

Q 3. We intend to visit a lot of places. How can we keep them straight in our head?

A. Even a person with an exceptional memory will get glazed over after a long road trip. We know a lot of people who keep a log and/or a rating checklist (see sample in “Further Reference” section below. Figure out what characteristics about a community are important to you, and then record your observations for that criterion while you are visiting, or shortly afterwards. You will definitely find the list helpful. Taking photos is another good memory aid.

Q 4. What is a good way to visit these communities?

A: Go for a Discovery (Stay & Play) visit. You’ll get a discounted vacation and have a great opportunity to see the community for yourself. There is usually a little sales pitch involved, but you can view that as not only a good way to find out what the community has to offer, but it’s a great time to get answers to your questions. Even if you don’t see the community offering one of these packages – ask. They probably have something. Another way is to rent for a week, month, or season in a community. You will really have a good idea of what it is like by the end or your stay. But if you don’t have time for either of those options, at least stop by. The developments will be happy to see you. Talk with the sales people, ask them questions, try to visit with residents if you get the chance.

A friend of ours, who spent a few weeks on the road going from North Carolina to Central Florida and looking at active communities had this to say about the process: “This was really fun. We loved seeing and comparing what was out there. I could do this all the time!”

Q: How can we find places to rent or buy?

A: We get this question a lot, and the answer is really a lot easier than most people think. There are are many, many rentals available today. The quickest way is to go online and search for something like (Jacaranda West rental, and see what comes up. You will probably quickly find real estate agents who concentrate on specific communities within an area. Web sites like (Vacation Rentals by Owner) or will also come up. You can also contact the development directly, using the phone numbers and web addresses at Topretirements. Bit communities like The Villages have Forums with lots of rentals listed. A really great way to find rentals is if you know someone in a community. Ask them directly if they know of anyone renting (they are often posted on physical or web bulletin boards), or if they will post a notice for you. The advantage of this plan is your friend can help screen your choices for you. Finally, before you do rent, ask to see pictures, look at references, and find out the rules for issues like pets. Don’t be taken advantage of because you didn’t do your homework.

Comments. Please use the Comments section below to let your fellow members know about how you have gone about finding your ideal community, and where you have visited.

For further reference:
What Makes for Great Active Adult Communities
Are You Active Adult Community Material?
Searching for a Retirement Community Can be Fun
New Home Rating Form
How to Find a Stay & Play Package
How to Find Active Communities

Posted by John Brady on June 20th, 2011


  1. In reading about the financial problems of the Four Seasons Charlottesville VA just how can you check out these issues
    with a community before you decide to buy? I am concerned in this economy that any development could be having problems that they do not want
    potential buyers to know about. It’s too late once you sign the deal. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance for your help.

    by Gene — June 21, 2011

  2. Please publish a list of retirement communities that are in financial difficulty – large assessments, bankruptcy filings etc. That would be the most helpful way you could assist in our search! Thank you.

    by Sandy Zerbinopoulos — June 22, 2011

  3. I don’t understand why Oklahoma was named one of the top ten tax friendly states by Kiplingers. After living in Texas for many years my husbands career brought us to a small Oklahoma city. There is a food tax. This may not seem like much, but this city has a 9.8% city sales tax.Major shopping is 1 1/2 hours in Norman and the sales tax there is lower.Utilities aren’t cheap either.The people here are wonderful but that’s about it.We have our house on the market now and will be retiring as soon as it sells.

    by carole — June 22, 2011

  4. Hi Gene – a few quick thoughts. When investigating a place, if there is some kind of HOA (Home Owners’ Association), be sure you ask for the name/contact info of the President and ask him or her about the number of people paying dues – or not paying dues (ask to see the community’s financial statements). Just Googling the name of a place you are interested in can yield a lot of interesting information. And, be sure to talk to the residents and ask them about the solvency of the place. If there is trouble, you’ll hear about it – when people are unhappy about something, they like to vent!

    Jan Cullinane, co-author, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane, co-author The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your LIfe (Rodale 2007) — June 23, 2011

  5. I’m seeking to relocate from OH to FL. Presume to rent in several locations/cities for enough time at each to get a good “feel” for the community and lifestyle. Once narrowed down to top 2 or 3, will rent longer at each of these while searching for a more permanent housing situation. Not particularly interested in a gated community setting. Don’t want to go broke paying vacation rates. Any suggestions on finding short term rentals at reasonable prices? THANKS!

    by Barb — June 23, 2011

  6. […] further reference: Part I: What Sandy Learned Finding the Best Active Communities Can Be Fun! What Makes a Great Active […]

    by » Sandy’s Adventures Part II: How Anyone Can Find An Affordable Warm Winter Retirement Topretirements — July 8, 2013

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