November 9, 2016 — Many, many thanks to the 756 Topretirements Members who took the the time to fill out our most recent survey on retirement community preferences. You are good people – thanks!
Your input confirms some of our hypotheses and offers fresh perspective on others. One surprise was your favorite amenity – walking trails! You made hundreds of excellent comments to several of the questions – we just wish we had room to highlight every comment because they all offer a unique perspective. Here is one, describing the type of community someone is looking for, that is fairly representative: “Large, walkable, active community with urban area nearby for culture, restaurants etc. A Clubhouse with social clubs will make it easy to make new friends.”
Everyone has their own unique take on retirement, that much is obvious from these results. That is particularly true if you look at the 327 comments made to Question 10, “Please describe your ideal retirement community”. Here are some of the top takeaways from the survey:
– The vast majority of people who took this survey are much more interested in an active adult or 55+ community than a traditional neighborhood
– Size of community is not a big factor in making a decision
– The top desired amenities are walking trails, fitness centers, and clubhouse/community center. Golf, pickleball, tennis, and shuffleboard are at the bottom of the list.
– Single family homes with one level living are the runaway favorite type of housing
– Social interaction and amenities are top reasons for choosing a private community over a regular neighborhood
– Fees and restrictions top the list of negatives for private communities
– About half of respondents have a neutral view of Home Owners Associations (HOAs) – and more of the second half have negative views than positive.
1. Retirement Status
A majority of our members and visitors are retired or partially retired – 49% retired vs. 39% not, and 12% partially retired.
2. How likely is it that you will live in an active adult, 55+, or private community in retirement?
The vast majority of respondents intend to retire to one of these communities (71% are somewhat or very likely). More than that, your minds are made up – only 7% are undecided.
3. Ideal size of community.
We asked how many homes would be the ideal size if you intended to retire to one of these communities. It turns out size of community probably isn’t at the top of people’s minds. Some 70% seemed to think the ideal number is between 51 and 500 homes. But no one range seems ideal – quite a few folks thought less than 50 or over 1000 were OK too. As one respondent who chose “Other” said: “Size isn’t as important as the make-up of the community”.
Less than 50
4. Type of private communities
55+ and active adult communities are strongly preferred over all ages communities. There was negligible interest for Other choices like Independent living, CCRCs, and Assisted Living facilities. Quite a few folks added comments to this question, which were interesting. Some are confused by the difference between 55+ and active adult communities, a fair question. Others are looking for communities that are close to health care and other infrastructure. Many more would like to find a community that has a CCRC or assisted living component built in, so only one retirement move would be required. Some don’t want children around, others would prefer having them.
5. Ranking of amenities
We asked survey takers to rank 13 different amenities, plus “Other” The rankings of the top 6 are shown below. The highest ranked amenity was, somewhat surprisingly, walking trails, closely followed by fitness center and clubhouse. The lowest ranked amenities were (in descending order): golf course, pickleball, tennis, and shuffleboard.
Outdoor Swimming Pool
Indoor Swimming Pool
6. Preferred type of housing
Builders take notice: the runaway favorite type of retirement housing is a single family house on a single level. That choice was selected twice as most often as the next option, traditional single family. Manufactured homes, apartments, and RV/Mobile Homes were ranked lowest. Editorial comment: we were glad to see single floor living preferred, as in our opinion this is a much better option for retirees.
Single family on 1 level
Traditional single family
7. Most important reason for choosing a private community (such as a 55+ community).
We find it interesting that the social aspect of living in a private community was the highest rated option, above amenities and being with fellow retirees (which also has a social component). Particularly for people moving away from a neighborhood where they have lived a long time, the ease of meeting and interacting with new friends sure seems like a good reason. Comments added here suggest that gates, security, and maintenance are important benefits with private communities.
Availability of amenities
55+/be with fellow retirees
Not interested in a private community
8. Most important reason you would NOT be interested in a private community
The results show that the perceived negatives of living in a private community center around fees, rules, and home owners associations. We see that in many of the Comments posted elsewhere at Topretirements among many folks who apparently don’t think that the benefits of living in a private community are worth the expense and extra restrictions.
Fees and dues
Rules and restrictions
Home owners associations
Lack of diversity
9. What is your attitude toward home owner associations (community associations)?
Somewhat encouragingly for HOAs, about half of respondents are neutral towards home owners associations. Of the half who have an opinion, about twice as many view them unfavorably (31%) than favorably (16%).
10. Do you think developers of private communities are producing the type of communities you want to live in during retirement? And, part 2, please describe your ideal community.
The vast majority of survey takers this question with a maybe or a yes, another positive vote for builders of retirement homes.
Part 2: The 327 comments we received to the second part of this question – “describe your ideal community” – were much more insightful. While we wish we had room for more, here is just a random sample of comments. The comments are a good example of how everyone has their own unique preferences and reasons for selecting an active or 55+ community:
– A place where I can find young (mid 50’s), single men and women that are active and social.
– Walking trails, heated outdoor pool, low HOA, lots of sunshine and Christian club
– A large variety of amenities, for those preferring a more sedentary lifestyle, and those who still can be active, but it would not cater to golfers. Would also prefer a newer community, as I will be a younger retiree, and would prefer to be with people who are mostly equally active and capable.
– Stand alone single story homes in wooded area in New England, with smaller yards, but at least 30 feet between homes. Prices between $200-300k, fees less than $150/month. Indoor pool and exercise are a plus (could be a membership
charge – no kids in pool!). In other words nirvana!
– Close proximity to medium size city to take advantage of medical, restaurants, shopping, etc.
– Community friendliness but with privacy to mingle when I want but not to be pressured into living someone elses ideas of how to live life and manage my personal property.
– I am looking for a townhome, with separate entrance and garage. I do not want to pay for all the amenities listed above. I do not want a HOA that is tyrannical.
– I love the focus on physical activities, but would also like to find communities with an equally strong focus on
creative/arts activities and continuous learning activities. Joy and growth come in many forms
– I like the look of the developments that are being built but I would like developers to build for a broader range of retirees. We are a HUGE group and we need a range of pricing choices in order to enjoy a quality retirement. We shouldn’t have to choose between the half million dollar house or the mobile home park. Thank you for asking!
– A place with a view of the water.
– Too many communities are Golf communities. There are so many other activities that are important to 55+. HOA fee should reflect what you want to do not pay for activities that you would never do.
– Street lights, sidewalks, allow fences for people with pets.
Activities and clubs for people interested.
– A community where residents can gather on a daily basis (club house) for social interaction such as dances, happy
hours, games, events, food, etc., and ample outdoor activities such as bocce, pickleball, tennis and swimming.
– Community with large lots that are fenced and gardens are allowed (and in fact would be a major attraction to garden
addicts)and the houses are modest (in size and price).
– A 55+ section of a larger master planned community but with its own amenities. But a 55+ community that has larger than postage sized lots and one whose builder knows and incorporated universal design. Amazing how many 55+ developers keep the steps going into the home and have step in showers. Should be walk in or roll in shower. And very few of them offer an elevator option. More storage space and slightly larger garages would be nice as well as a courtyard entry.
Here is a pdf document with all 327 “Ideal Community comments -interesting reading if you have a little time. Thank you Topretirements members! Your input was so rich. We know your fellow members will find it useful.
Comments Please! Did this survey capture your thoughts about the attractions and negatives for private communities? Please share your reactions and other thoughts in the Comments section below!
Links to Previous Surveys
Florida and Southeast Top Retirement Destinations
Members Tend to Retire Out of State – 2016
Our Members Getting Ready for Big Retirement Moves
Topretirements Members Report High Degrees of Spousal Compatibility- 2013
Best and Worst Things About Your Retirement
Your Bucket Lists Are Amazing
Top Concerns about Retirement
Plans for Retirement