February 8, 2017 — This article is the 3rd in a series written by Jay Michaels on his pursuit of the perfect retirement community. Now, five years after the second installment, he and his wife Jane have gone a long way (and then again not so far). Here is their update (links to Parts 1 and 2, both highly recommended for their site visit and decision process details, are below).
Jay Michael’s tour bus ran out of gas
Several years ago I wrote about our travels to find a new place to live after my retirement, and these were published on the Top Retirements blog. My wife and I had travelled thousands of miles and visited over 60 communities intermittently over a two year period from 2011-2013. We finally made a decision in 2013 on where to retire, and enough time has passed for me to now summarize our decision and how it has worked out for us.
Where did we end up?
My brother gets a laugh from people when he tells them I travelled for two years investigating the best place to retire and picked Cleveland, Ohio, as my destination. As you will read below, however, Cleveland has some really big and nice surprises, and I feel its reputation is not accurate or justified in many ways.
The place we picked is a golf community in Avon Lake, Ohio which is about 18 miles west of Cleveland. It is located about fifteen minutes from my oldest daughter’s home in Lakewood, Ohio where she lives with her husband and three children.
So how did we make this decision?
One day it dawned upon us that we had seen so many communities seeing more was not going to make the light come on. We needed to make a decision. I knew for my wife that living near our children would make her happy no matter where it was. We have three children and our middle child lived at that time in Reston, Virginia and we felt that was not affordable for us and was too busy to fit our more laid back lifestyle. Our youngest was not at the point where we knew where he would end up. My son in law and daughter were very enthusiastic when we discussed the idea with them and this was critical and sealed the deal. So Cleveland here we come!
How did we select our place to live and the house that we bought?
Once we decided we were going to Cleveland, we went there for three days of house hunting. We wanted to be near but not on top of our daughter’s location, and not in the city, so we knew we wanted to be on the west side of Cleveland. We had previously visited a Del Webb 55+ retirement community called Pioneer Ridge west of Cleveland and wrote about that on this blog. We went there again and both decided we wanted to be around people of all ages and wanted to do our own thing, so that was out. I have been told by a couple of people that this community is well liked by people who live there.
My son in law recommended a real estate agent and he worked out well. The first day of looking though was not fruitful. After spending the evening reviewing materials on the internet, I told the agent that the Legacy Pointe townhouses in Avon Lake appealed to me and he said this was a successful development and a good place to look. The townhouses are a pocket neighborhood of 45 units in a master-planned community.
It is ironic that after being so careful in all of our travels we selected Avon Lake and our townhouse in about an hour. We spent about thirty minutes in the middle of the worst snowstorm of the year at the home we bought. The house was not listed with a realtor and the owners were away so the neighbor opened the house and showed it to us. I told her the other day at lunch she should have been a real estate agent. We had travelled thousands of miles and seen beautiful homes and wonderful communities and yet she showed us this home during a blizzard and we instantly decided it was the place for us. She and her husband are great neighbors.
What was our due diligence process once we found our home?
We had worked too hard to not due our homework before buying. After doing work on comparable sales and talking with our agent, we negotiated a fair price. I made a deposit but the sales agreement gave us an out for a brief period of time if I was not happy with my due diligence on the development’s finances. We had made deposits on two properties previously in our retirement travels that we later backed away from for various reasons. I called the business manager and asked her to send me information including financial statements, articles of governance, and board minutes. These were provided and I saw no issues after reviewing them and followed up with her by phone with questions and she had all the right answers. This due diligence process was pretty quick and easy because of all we had learned from our tour bus travels.
One thing we did not do was investigate the culture of the development where we now live. Our community has some get togethers but for the most part people live their lives and keep to themselves. This is not a drawback for us but I now realize it would be wise to determine the culture in advance rather than finding out later it does not fit your lifestyle.
Also, I think the most important factor when relocating near your children is to make sure you think your relationship with your children and their spouses will make this a good experience as it has been in our case.
How did it turn out ?
It turned out great!
Our grandchildren have become an important part of our life and I cannot express how fulfilling this has been for us.
Bonus – Cleveland has some nice surprises
Cleveland was at one time a large center of concentrated wealth and this is reflected in the arts.
The Cleveland Museum of Art was voted the second best museum in the country in 2016 by Business Insider magazine. I was taken aback by the collection of famous art works contained in the museum when I first visited it and was unaware of its reputation.
Cleveland has a theatre district and we have an annual subscription and attend a series of top national productions. Tom Hanks travelled from California to Cleveland for three summers in the 70’s to perform as a college intern with the Great lakes Theatre Production Company. He last came back to the city in 2008 to help raise money to renovate the Hannah Theatre in the Theatre District.
The Cleveland Orchestra, founded in 1918, has long been identified as one of the “Big Five” best orchestras in the United States. In fairness, as other cities have developed tremendous orchestras, this classification may be outdated, but this does not diminish the quality of the Cleveland orchestra.
More about Cleveland
Cleveland’s transit system was voted the best large city rapid transit system in North America in 2016 by the American Pubic Transportation System. We frequently take the train from where our daughter lives to downtown where a covered walkway connects the basketball arena, baseball stadium and casino.
The Cleveland Metro Parks System was selected in 2016 as the number one gold medal winner in the country for large populated areas (Class 1) by the National Recreation and Parks Association. The system has 23,000 acres and has activities of all types too numerous to mention. I have played three of the eight golf courses in the system and they are of championship caliber. We have cross country skied in the park as well as hiked there, and have also gone to the public beach on Lake Erie.
The Cavaliers are World Champions in basketball and the Indians are a great team that came as close as you can to a world championship in 2016. Stay tuned for 2017 Indian fans.
There is a local flair to many things in Cleveland as well. The inside public market at Ohio City near the city is unlike any I have ever seen. There is also a Little Italy and there are many local restaurants that are cool. When you ask for a Christmas Ale brewed by Great Lakes Brewery, a world class brewery, be sure to know how you want it because I guarantee that after ordering one you will hear the word “rimmed?”.
Bonus – Avon Lake, our town
Avon Lake is a prosperous and pleasant community with a good library and infrastructure. The Cleveland Clinic has just completed a large medical center and hospital in Avon,Ohio to help serve West Cleveland and this is located ten minutes from our house.
Bonus-our son is in graduate school at Wright State University in Dayton
This has been great since he can easily visit us and the rest of our family when they visit Cleveland. The grandchildren love their uncle.
Interestingly, Tom Hanks visited Wright State University near Dayton, Ohio in 2016 to launch a $150 million fund raising effort. He had performed there as a college intern with the Great Lakes Theatre Company. After college, he was recognized and selected for a leading role in a New York Shakespearean play by an individual who later became a Wright State University faculty member. So we learned in our travels that California native Tom Hanks is a grateful and generous man who has not forgotten the people and institutions who helped him on his journey to fame and success.
It is cold and windy in Cleveland in the winter. We escape south for a month or two but winters are still tough.
The Browns are the worst team in football.
Cleveland, like all major cities in our country, has poverty and depressed areas. It is sad but important to remember that life is not very good for many members of our society.
Better gas up the bus. Our daughter and her husband who live in Virginia now have a one year old and are moving to Denver. We plan on spending some time there too.
I want to thank all of you for reading about our journey and providing informative and helpful comments.
Last but not least, the resources and information provided by Top Retirements.com were a tremendous help to us and we used the website information each day of our travels. Thank you John.
Au contraire, Jay – the pleasure was ours. Thanks for sharing your story in so much useful and entertaining detail. I know it is much appreciated by our Members!
For further reading
Part 1: Destination Williamsburg, Jay Michaels Retirement Tour Bus.
Part 2: Jay Michaels Pursuit of the Perfect Active Adult Community
Sandy’s Active Adult Adventures: Part I
Sandy’s Adventures: Part II