When Amenity Rich Is Not the Answer

Category: Active adult communities

This excellent suggestion came in from Pamela: “Please consider writing an article for people who don’t want to live in an amenity-rich community, and how frustrating it is trying to buy a home because that’s all that is being built? I’d love your perspective on this dilemma and any suggestions you may have. It would also be interesting to see the type of comments you get from your subscribers”. We hope her request will generate the usual amount of great comments from our Members. Here is her request, along with some of our thoughts.

May 9, 2018 — I’m an active adult baby boomer, but I can find my own fun. I don’t want to live in a 24-hour resort with a full-time lifestyle director, lavish clubhouses, fitness centers, numerous pools, tennis courts, bocce ball, playgrounds, basketball courts, soccer fields, etc. I’ve been paying for a manned gate and other amenities that mainly cater to families for a long time, and I’m sick of it. I’d love to find a simple, small and quaint community in Southwest Florida without all that stuff. It would be nice to find something maintenance free so I don’t have to deal with yard work, but I’d be happy to just find something without all the amenities.

I truly feel this is an expensive fad that baby boomers are going to regret because of the extremely high fees and those fees will be even higher when the builder is done building, which is difficult to budget for. I don’t feel people will use the amenities like they anticipate, and they’ll use them less as they age. My guess is that’s why I see so many homes being listed that are only two years old in these types of communities. I’d rather go to a senior center, library or pay minimal fees for a gym or other activities outside my neighborhood when I want to use them, versus being forced via an HOA fee. My preference is to buy a new construction home in a simple community, but even resale homes are a challenge in or around Venice, Florida, unless you buy an older home that was built before builders started exclusively concentrating on these resort-style communities.

The only thing that has kept me from selling my house in Orlando and moving to Venice or possibly Sarasota or nearby is because I can’t find a new construction community with low HOA fees and without all the amenities like they used to build. I’ve even looked at other small towns on the Gulf Coast of Florida only to become even more frustrated.

One community that almost worked
I’ve only been able to find ONE community that would fit my needs that was being built by a larger builder, but I didn’t buy there because I unfortunately heard road noise. Otherwise, the neighborhood is almost exactly what I’m looking for. It has only has a simple gated entrance (not manned), three ponds, a walking trail and 70 homes for a more intimate feel. It also has a very small heated community pool and cabana, which I’d rather not have either, but it’s the closest thing I could find to what I’m looking for. There are no CDD fees, and the monthly HOA dues in 2016 were $186, which included the yards being completely maintained and irrigated by the community. It’s not age restricted, but it’s all single family one-story floor plans from 1420 to 1760 square feet. The majority of people who live there are retirees or empty nesters. The models started from the low $200’s and are lovely, including some that were two bedrooms and a den, two bathrooms and shingle versus tile roof which is what I want. I’d love to find a community like that one, but it’s virtually impossible today. I’ve also looked at small builders, but it seems they build on scattered lots in flood zones or they have other undesirable traits like the houses have well water and septic tanks, etc.!

Thank you in advance considering such an article because I’m hoping it will help me figure out what to do. I’m almost at the point of selling my house and just renting because the alternative is to buy something that I truly don’t want and have been resisting for a few years.
—-
From your Editor: Thanks Pamela for this interesting article suggestion. We are sure that there are many other folks in your situation. We look forward to suggestions on it from our Members. But first, here are a few brief thoughts.

We know that there are some communities out there with minimal amenities. Normally these are going to be smaller developments, less than 100 homes. They often categorize themselves as Independent Living facilities, a category that usually doesn’t have individual homes – rather they have apartments. In many cases a place that says it offers Independent Living skews to an older population than baby boomers consider themselves now.

Finding “amenity-skinny”
Finding them can be tricky. We used Advanced Search at Topretirements to try to find some. Obviously we didn’t select by Amenity, since Search allows you to select by over 100 different types of amenities. If you selected on what are typically the most common amenities (swimming pool, clubhouse, walking trails, fitness room), you would get almost every community in our database. We did try selecting “Independent Living” for Florida, and came up with 57 results. Most of those were CCRCs or offered Assisted Living as well. Only a few were what Pamela is looking for.

Then we used Advanced Search to look for smaller communities (less than 100 homes), figuring they would be less likely to offer an array of amenities. Furthermore, we chose “Lower” and “Intermediate” priced communities for the same reason. That search turned up about 60 communities in Florida. Most were not the object of Pamela’s desire – they were RV/Manufactured Homes, Independent, or Assisted Living facilities. But there were some that fit. One possible example is Tidewater in Fort Myers, which still has the basic amenities (Amenities include a two-story clubhouse, outdoor barefoot bar, swimming pool, community garden and dog park) and prices starting in the high $200s. Another example, this one in New Jersey but of which there are probably many more, is Atlantic Hills in Manahawkin, NJ. It offers town homes and the only amenities are a swimming pool, small clubhouse, fitness room, and some walking trails. Homes sell from the mid $100s.

Pleasant scene at Atlantic Hills

What to do?
There are several possible approaches. One is to find a real estate agent in an area you like that you like and trust, and explain your requirements. They know the market best. Another way, and maybe the best way to start, is to zero in on the states and towns you are most interested in. Then use the State Directories at Topretirements and click on each community listed under those towns. In just a short time you will have a list of prospective communities to check out further.

Bottom line
Pamela is on the right track by trying to narrow down what she is looking for in a community. Once you have done that, the search for the right place to retire gets easier. We look forward to suggestions about communities and what you are looking for in the Comments section below!

Comments? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

For further reading:
Active Adult Communities Blog at Topretirements




Posted by Admin on May 9th, 2018

55 Comments »

  1. have you tried looking at any developments by Mattemy? I don’t know if they are in the area you are looking at, but in my area they are building a very small development with only a pool/clubhouse and it is not gated so the city will maintain the roads. the only drawbacks I see are that the homes are more expensive and I am not sure they would be “walker” friendly if you needed that. I agree with you it is frustrating- you do not want to pay for a golf course, pickle ball courts, tennis courts, ballrooms, etc. if you never use them. It doesn’t matter if the community has thousands of clubs if you only are interested in two or three. I understand these are big selling points to bring in lots of folks, but more important is access to grocery stores, medical care, and other things.

    by nancy — May 9, 2018

  2. My wife and I want to live in a planned community but not a “resort” community. We’ve found a great option in Penn National, Fayetteville PA, a “Top 50” retirement community. It’s a golf community plain and simple – just a smallish club house and an outdoor pool. All fees are completely a la carte. Find your own fun in the several “boutique” towns within a half hour drive, or in NYC, Baltimore or DC within 2-3 hours drive, or by train from the state capitol of Harrisburg (time incl hour drive to capitol).

    by Fred S — May 9, 2018

  3. I think Pamela raises a good point. We’re not ready to retire yet, but my wife and I are moving our family to Texas for her new job. When looking for a house it bothered me to no end to potentially have to pay HOA fees for the neighborhoods we were looking in. We were lucky enough to find the house we wanted in an older neighborhood that doesn’t have HOA.

    My thoughts are why not treat this as a normal home, not necessarily a retirement home? One could find an older established neighborhood (maybe it will skew older in demographics?) and then just pay a lawn service for your maintenance? If new construction is really desired you might need to pay a small HOA just for management services but could still pay your own lawn maintenance for probably less than an HOA that includes it would cost. It might be a little young in terms of buyers so that could be the downside.

    Anyway, just some random initial thoughts after reading the article.

    by Gary H — May 9, 2018

  4. Check out Lakewood Ranch, a new community called Indigo. Gated with just a few amenities, no cdd and reasonable HOA fee.

    by Nancy — May 9, 2018

  5. I think Pamela is on to something. I am tired of paying high property tax and also high HOA fees for amenities that I do not use and are expensive to maitain. I would like to find an over 55 community with no amenities to maintain.

    by Maimi — May 9, 2018

  6. Why not just live in a regular neighborhood?

    by ella — May 9, 2018

  7. I currently live in a community with high property taxes and HOA fees for amenities I don’t use. Looking for something similar for my retirement except that I’m interested in coastal SC because it’s closer to my family. This should be interesting!

    by Shelia — May 9, 2018

  8. This article is right on! We currently live in a low amenity community with very low fees (more below). But things are changing. Our fees mostly pay for our private roads and costs for that maintenance (trucking gas, gravel delivery, asphalt, repaving, all road maintenance) has sky-rocketed well beyond our ability to manage so fees need to double or more. Keep that in mind when looking at these places. State or country managed roads make taxes worthwhile.

    As for amenities, we have a beautiful forest, quiet (road noise is minimal), a community pond, wildlife, walking trails, community picnic area and little else except good neighbors on large lots. (Large lots make better neighbors than fences!) Home costs vary by size, but restrictions are few — no one cares about your property when they can’t see it. It’s a bit of a drive to get to shopping or hospitals (20 min) and a car is needed. My house, for example, can be bought — for a price.
    :<)

    Ideally what Pamela describes is much the same as what we want though more in northern Florida. Thanks, Admin, for the tips — just may help us out directly.

    by RichPB — May 9, 2018

  9. I don’t believe Pamela mentioned a price range, but look at coralcaye.net in Placida (Englewood) Fl. It fits her needs to a tee. I am not associated with Coral Caye and would be there if it weren’t out of our budget, but fell in love with everything the minute I saw the development.

    by Dan McMahon — May 9, 2018

  10. Pamela, would you mind sharing the ONE community you did find that met your specifications? I also am seeking a simple but quality lifestyle..

    by Carol — May 9, 2018

  11. We are looking in the Gainesville area. There are many new developments, Tioga, Haile Plantation, Finley Woods, to name a few, with minimal amenities. The days of 55 and older only communities seem to be over with the exception of The Villages. A university town has much to offer but contending with the student population is a unique dynamic.

    by Mark — May 9, 2018

  12. We live in such a community. We call it a “gated community without the gates”.
    We do have a clubhouse, pool and walking trail. None manned (or womanned). Average maintenance fees are $250/mo. Mostly less. Homes are $200K-$250K. All have 2 car garages. Located in Summerville, SC. 20 minutes from downtown Charleston and 30 minutes from 2 wonderful beaches. We love it. Also 10 minutes from International Airport.
    Great museums, restaurants, golf courses, etcetcetc. These units are houses attached at the garage. So you have 4 spaces between you and your neighbors. A plus is none of the garages are in the front of the home. All are behind the units.
    Really, really quiet. All neighbors will babysit your cats and fishbowls if you go on vacation. You have to provide for your dog however.
    Also a plus is it is an educated community.

    by Jack — May 9, 2018

  13. Like, Pamela, I am on the hunt for the same kind of community. There are a few in my area but one has to wait until something comes open and then there is a lot of competition. I also do not want to pay for amenities I would not use and don’t mind paying HOA fees that will also include yard upkeep.

    Jack, you didn’t mention the name of your community. Would you share what that is?

    Sharon

    by Sharon Alexander — May 9, 2018

  14. The Villas at Charleston Park.

    by Jack — May 9, 2018

  15. This won’t help Pamela as this builder doesn’t operate in Florida but EPCON Communities is worth checking out. They have communities in many states. No two are alike as they franchise their ideas and plans to local builders. There was one built in the next city over from mine. It is a small community of less than 100 units. They are single level units that are attached to another unit so there are some common walls. Outside maintenance is performed by the community and there is a small clubhouse and pool. Here is a link to their website: https://www.epconcommunities.com/

    by LS — May 9, 2018

  16. I looked at two of Robson’s “over amenitied “ projects in southern Arizona, and Pamala is on to something. All amenities should be “pay as you use” but then the developer would not rake in huge profits. Plus 65% of residents are snowbirds, but the $200+ per month fee continues year round. Rip off.

    by Chuck — May 9, 2018

  17. Keep this thread going. Pamela is looking for exactly what we are looking for. We are presently in an RV resort (and I use the term loosely) in Sarasota. Same old stuff. People in your business, because they have nothing better to do. Management company who thinks they own the park.
    We need gated, safe and maybe a pool and a small clubhouse. Low HOA’s. Less is more. And an attitude, that the owners are in charge of their lives, not management nor a BOD etc.

    Mike

    by Michael Miller — May 9, 2018

  18. Just a request…when some of you mention names of cities, can you please include the state as well. Not all of us are familiar with areas you are talking about. Thank you.

    by Louise — May 10, 2018

  19. There are many such neighborhoods in Beaufort SC – all ages, non-gated, no amenities or additional costs – of course without security other than the town police and county sheriff dept. Also in Maine where we lived prior to retirement. There were 0 gated communities. Just find a local realtor.

    by SandyZ — May 10, 2018

  20. Pamela, THANK YOU for posting this. It is exactly how my husband and I feel. Having lived in an amenity rich community for a year, all I can say is No Thanks. All very sterile and programmed – YUK. Who wants that stuff and the high HOA fees that go with it? I hope some developers see this thread. My ideal 55+ community would have houses with enough space between them that you dont hear the neighbors talking on the phone, no fancy amenities, not too many rules in the HOA, and if possible, the streets set up as a grid rather than those curvy loops they all seem to have. In place of an amenity center, maybe put in a little retail area outside but accessible right outside the community.

    by jean — May 10, 2018

  21. I agree , I would love to find a community like Pam is looking for! Thanks Pam

    by Virginia — May 10, 2018

  22. New River Lakes in Wesley Chapel , Fla. No CDD and HOA of $94/mo

    by Jim — May 10, 2018

  23. I think the only way she is going to find something is to move to a single-family home and pay to have her yard, pool, etc. taken care of. I HATE gated communities. Fees are astronomical. The local one here, Sandoval, requires you to insert your drivers license into a machine at the gate in order to visit someone. If I didn’t like my friend who lives there so much, I’d never go there.

    I wanted exactly what she wants, without the gates. Couldn’t find anything I cared for. Settled on a small condo association. We have a pool. Period. You have to have a pool in Florida. All the other stuff I find in the city.

    by Linda — May 10, 2018

  24. There is another thread on this website entitled “The Invisible Retirement Wrecker”. When I first saw the title, I thought it was going to be about HOA fees (it’s about loneliness). I think that’s an appropriate way to describe the financial burden high cost HOA fees put on retirees paying for amenities they don’t use or care about.

    by Jan — May 10, 2018

  25. If the fees are manageable, I do not mind paying. I do not want to do my own lawn work anymore and I love feeling secure, since I am single. Next week Management is installing a new smoke alarm/carbon monoxide unit in our apartments. I live in a co-op now and my fees for a one bedroom are over $900.00 a month, which include everything but Internet and phone fees. I will look for a place where they are less in the future when I decide to sell and cash in for my equity. I just have not yet found the ideal place. I have lived here 21 years. It is mixed ages, but most people are over 40.

    by Jennifer — May 11, 2018

  26. We pay in the mid-$300s for condo fees. These have been stable for quite some time because we have have an incredibly efficient and honest Board of Directors. We live in a condo in a gated golf course community. Our Condo HOA is part of a Community Association that also includes the golf course. Community Association fees maintain the road and security for the gate. Condo fees DO NOT include upkeep for the golf course. The golf course pays into rather than receiving funding from the Community Association, which may be somewhat unusual. Our golf course lost money (most do) for many years and declared bankruptcy ten years ago. It was frequently unable to pay its fees, leaving condo owners to pick up the tab for the road and security. Finally, about three years ago, the golf course sold itself to a committed owner who now pays his share. The Take Home Point: Ask a lot of questions before you buy. Ask what amenities the fees support. Who are the managers? Who is on the Board? Who decides issues regarding maintenance? We once had a dishonest, incompetent manager working for a very weak Board and it cost us in really bad contracts. During his time our fees rose every year and conditions deteriorated.

    by Lynn — May 11, 2018

  27. Thanks so much to everyone for giving such helpful suggestions and feedback about this dilemma. I’m very grateful to John Brady for publishing my article and adding his great tips. I love this site and have learned so much over the years from John’s informative posts and the responses to them.

    Yes, I have looked at Mattamy and every other large builder in and around Venice and Sarasota, as well as other areas in Southwest Florida to the point of exhaustion. Even though Wesley Chapel isn’t in the vicinity of where I really want to move, Jim has me curious about New River Lakes so I’m going to check it out.

    Coral Caye looks adorable online, but it’s also out of my budget because I’m looking for a price in the low $300k’s max. Even if it was in my price range, I wouldn’t consider it because it’s in a flood zone. I think it’s great that the amenities aren’t as extensive as other communities, but it still has more than I want. The fees are also higher than I want to spend ($298 monthly before build out) although it is maintenance free. It’s in the same area that I researched recently (Rotonda), where they’re also building new construction smaller homes. It’s supposedly very safe, there isn’t a gate or any amenities, and the fees are less than $200 a year. I was so excited at first that I could barely contain myself until I learned that nearly all of the Cape Haze Peninsula (which includes the Rotonda area) is in a flood zone. I’m staying away from Charlotte County period because of its low elevation and it’s surrounded by water. One realtor in Rotonda said I shouldn’t rule out an area or home just because it’s in a flood zone. I’d be interested to know what others think about this and maybe that’s the subject of another important topic John would be willing to post some day. Perhaps I should be more open minded, but I’ve lived in Florida my entire life, and I have no desire to pay for expensive flood insurance or expose myself to that risk.

    Indigo’s HOA fee may be reasonable now, but you can expect that to go up when the community is at full build-out and the builder is no longer subsidizing the upkeep. What that will be is anybody’s guess. I think the lack of full disclosure in all of these communities should be against the law because people have budgets, and many will have to eventually move when they realize what the fees will ultimately be. Indigo is in Lakewood Ranch, which could eventually have more than 30,000 households at build out. There are always other fees associated with these large master-planned communities in addition to just the individual neighborhoods themselves.

    The ONE community I found that was as close as I could find to what I wanted was Keyway Place in Englewood, Florida, but they’re built out now. I currently own my own pool that I never use, which is one of the main reasons I’m going to sell my house, so I really didn’t want the small community pool or cabana either. However, I would have compromised considering the circumstances, but I just couldn’t live with the road noise so this was yet another disappointment.

    I felt so desperate at one point that I called one of the County Planners to find out why they only approve amenity-rich communities. My guess is it’s because amenities generate a lot of additional tax revenue. I’ve also complained to every new construction community I’ve been to and even called some corporate offices of national builders that build where I want to live to ask why they’re not building simple and regular neighborhoods like they used to build. Everyone claims that all other baby boomers on the planet don’t want to live where there isn’t a gate and endless amenities, and that my requirements are rare. Obviously, the comments on this article show otherwise. One of the builder’s reps even admitted that they plan on at least 50% of the homeowners not using the amenities. There have been times that I almost gave in and purchased in one of these newer communities thinking that I must be missing something. I’m glad I always force myself back to reality, but here I sit in my house that I’ve wanted to sell for a few years.

    Like Jennifer, I’m single and want to feel secure. However, I currently live in a gated community with 24-hour guards at two gates. While I’ve always felt safe here, living in this type of environment doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have security issues. In fact, someone’s car window was recently smashed and her purse was taken from her back seat at the country club, and another person’s briefcase was stolen from his car. The police officer stated that there have been several break-ins in our area over the last two weeks. Countless residents have complained that they’ve often seen many cars just tailgate in behind residents and that it’s not a secure system. This is exactly why I no longer want to pay for a gate. If people want to get in, they’ll find a way. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it can and does happen.

    Having my lawn maintained as part of the HOA fee would be nice, but it isn’t my top priority. There are very few new construction communities that include lawn maintenance so you’re paying to have your yard maintained in addition to the thousands of dollars a year for amenities. I’d be very happy if I could find a new home in a regular neighborhood where I pay a small annual HOA fee for management services to make sure I don’t have a hot mess living next to me, and I’ll pay someone to maintain my lawn.

    While I’d love a 55+ community, I’m not even necessarily thinking of this as a retirement home although that’s what it would end up being. I’m just simply trying to find a home in a community I truly want to buy in period.

    My biggest issue is that I have a strong aversion to paying thousands of dollars a year in HOA dues for fancy amenities that I feel aren’t necessary. I’m in my late 50’s, but I’d feel the same way regardless of my age. There are so many free festivals and fun events going on all the time across every county in Florida, and there are other ways of meeting people who have the same interests as you like on Meetup.com, etc.

    Unless there are other ideas that pop up or something doesn’t change in the very near future, I guess I’ll finally have to concede and be forced to decide which option I hate the least between the two evils I’m faced with! I think I hate buying an older resale home that doesn’t have any amenities or a gate less than I hate paying outrageous sums of money every year in HOA fees for amenities. Obviously a third option would be to rent, which I’m also opposed to and haven’t done in a couple decades.

    I truly am grateful to the members who took the time to provide their feedback. My hope is that there will be even more people who will respond and the executives who work for these national builders will see this. Maybe then they’ll start making some changes to accommodate everyone’s needs.

    by Pamela — May 11, 2018

  28. Pamela,
    Great discussion! Thanks for bringing the topic up.

    In the end people buy what is available in the place they live. If planned communities are the only available option then buying them encourages more to be built (“see people must like them”) With the circular logic that employs I expect it won’t stop until we see a financial down swing of the sort some of the golfing communities are experiencing.

    by C — May 12, 2018

  29. I was so glad to see Pamela’s question and this thread. From time to time I have done a Google search for “non-active 55+ communities” with no luck. I would like to find one in Texas (where I live) so if anyone knows of one I would appreciate the info.

    by Judy — May 12, 2018

  30. I have a friend who lives in Rotunda West and she loves it. The homes look nice–I have not visited her there yet, she has been there for at least seven years. They have canals but she never mentioned any flooding issues to me. Next time we speak, I will ask her. I have a snake phobia and she says she has only seen a black snake once and it raced off. My Aunt in Lee county–she just moved to Bonita Springs from Naples says they got issued a notice that the Burmese pythons have moved into Lee County and they were told what to look for, small birds and animals suddenly disappear for one. She is three miles from the beach and not in a flood zone, it is a gated community with a golf course which they do not pay for, unless they use it..

    by Jennifer — May 12, 2018

  31. Jennifer – Thank you! I’d be forever grateful if you’d talk to your friend about being in a flood zone and any other concerns she has about Rotonda. My friend on Venice Island is also not in a flood zone, and she’s within walking distance to the beach. She’s been waiting for me to let her know if I’m going down before she leaves for Europe on 5/26/18. I thought I was going to have to tell her again that there still isn’t anything for me to look at because I crossed Rotonda off my list, but maybe I’ll go now. At least online, it looks like they’re building quality homes, and I think (and hope) all of Rotonda has other important things to me like public water/sewer and underground utilities, etc.

    What C states is exactly why I’ve refused to buy in one of these planned communities again. I agree that it encourages more to be built. I wish everyone would boycott them like I have. Sadly, people will buy in one and later regret it when they see how much they’re paying for amenities they don’t use. As badly as I want to move, I don’t want to make the same mistake again.

    It’s also expensive to move out of one of these communities. Fees have to be paid to my HOA for the document and transfer fees when I sell my house (one to the master association and one to my neighborhood association). I need to confirm this, but it’s my understanding it’s the equivalent of my HOA dues (currently around $2k annually). I wasn’t aware of this when I moved here 26 years ago so I’m not a happy camper to say the least. The good news is it’s a seller’s market, and my home purchase contract will clearly specify that the buyer will be responsible for paying these fees. This is yet another example of why people can’t take it lightly when buying into one of these places.

    by Pamela — May 12, 2018

  32. Pamela, I hate to break it to you, but ALL of Florida is a flood zone. Will it happen in our lifetime? Probably not. The current flood zone maps are not accurate. That being said, I carefully purchased in a zone which doesn’t require that I have flood insurance. And I didn’t want to be in a gated community or pay a fortune for golf courses, community centers, etc. We have one amenity in my association, a pool. Can’t live without a pool in a Florida.

    by Linda — May 12, 2018

  33. A great resource website is https://www.greatretirementcommunities.com so use it in combo with this website to zero in on a community you may like.

    by Danno — May 13, 2018

  34. Linda,
    What is the name of your community? It could be what we are looking for!
    Thanks,
    Deb

    by Deborah Mcmahon — May 13, 2018

  35. Pamela, your comment above, ” One of the builder’s reps even admitted that they plan on at least 50% of the homeowners not using the amenities.” really struck home because ‘d be in that 50%.

    My husband and I are not looking at a retirement community for exactly the reasons that you’ve enumerated. By the time people reach their sixties they should know who they are. For instance, it won’t matter if there’s a gym in the complex, we’re not going to use it because we’re not gym people. it’s as simple as that. We’ll walk a flat neighborhood – and do so often – but the gym scene isn’t our thing, despite a couple of ill-fated attempts at it Why would we want to pay for that amenity? We’re not golfers or tennis players either and are highly unlikely to start now. (For the record, we’re in good physical shape despite our lack of interest in the aforementioned activities.)

    Other than rare use of a community pool, maybe some pickle ball or bocce, we would take advantage of few amenities, which is probably why we’re not seriously considering one of these communities for our next move. Installing a security system, employing a gardener, and searching out parks with bocce ball and pickle ball courts will be far cheaper than the HOA fees being charged by amenity-rich retirement community.

    We plan to downsize in the next five years and will likely be looking for a small, single story house in a traditional neighborhood that’s within walking distance of grocery stores and not too far from a well appointed park.

    by JCarol — May 13, 2018

  36. JCarol–Keep us informed as to what you find in your search. I am interested only in communities that allow me not to be car dependent. I want to be able to walk to the grocery, church, my bank, and restaurants.

    by Jennifer — May 13, 2018

  37. It seems to me, and I’d love feedback on this, that communities most likely to be walkable are ones developed before the car came along. That eliminates a lot of the West for possibilities. Combine the influence of the car with developers’ preference for cheap land (usually found on the outskirts of town) and you get what we’ve seen so much of: large, car dependent communities. Perhaps developers thought that offering lots of amenities would overcome peoples’ reluctance to move out to “the boonies.” I lived in Sun City Lincoln, in Lincoln, CA. It was surely one of those developments but over the years, stores and services came to it. It was encircled by just about every store and service and doctor/dentist one could wish for. So it might be worth checking to see if that’s happened with other, older active adult communities.
    Laney

    by Laney Humphrey — May 14, 2018

  38. Laney, that’s a good point. I’m open to the idea of moving to a retirement community but I really don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere. And unfortunately, that seems to be where most are located. Like Jennifer, I want to live somewhere that’s not totally car dependent.

    Great thread – I also don’t want to pay for amenities I’d never use, like golfing.

    by Carol — May 14, 2018

  39. JCarol made me realize something that I need to clarify. I am an active adult and have always regularly exercised, but that doesn’t mean I want to pay for these activities in my HOA dues. You can cancel or not renew your reasonable gym membership when you feel like it, but you can’t cancel that expensive state-of-the-art fitness facility that you’re paying for in your HOA dues. I also power walk and ride my bike all the time for free. A friend just informed me that he pays $2.00 to play pickleball for a couple of hours at an air-conditioned sports center. My exercise routine has also changed over the years. I used to do high-impact aerobics at least five nights a week. Racquetball used to be very popular, but I don’t know anyone who does that now. I don’t recall even hearing about bocce ball or pickleball until the past few years so what’s going to happen to those courts in these new communities when a different exercise is invented and no one has interest in those anymore? Things change not only with activities that are popular at the moment, but obviously our age and health will dictate what we can or can’t do too. And I certainly don’t want to pay a 20-something Lifestyle Director to schedule my daily activities or subsidize young families so they can have playgrounds, splash parks, water slides, etc., which is also prevalent down here. I’ve also learned that a lot of these classes and events in the new home communities cost fees that are in addition to the outrageous HOA dues. They also do the same stuff over and over again, and it’s not like there’s anything new and exciting that I can’t do outside of those communities.

    As several of you mentioned, I’d also prefer a walkable community. However, my priority is not paying for amenities I don’t want, but finding that alone has proven to be impossible. There was pretty much nothing nearby when I bought my current house in 1992, but I now have everything I could possibly need or want within walking distance.

    Thanks again, Jennifer, for being willing to talk to your friend about Rotonda. I’m just wondering how she was able to justify buying in a flood-prone area and why she loves it so much. I always check the maps, but it’s more the risk of living in a designated flood zone as much as paying for the insurance. I’ve been trying to rationalize the whole issue again out of desperation, but I’m also asking why I’d expose myself to that potential risk and stress. I guess I still have images in my mind of all those poor people in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Like Ron, I’m concerned about the global warming rising seas. My goal is to have a stress-free life when I move, but I’d hate to continue to rule Rotonda out if maybe I’m being overly paranoid. I’ve never been concerned that my house could be destroyed by a flood because I live in Zone X. My guess is I’d feel differently in Rotonda since I believe it’s all in Zone AE. As to Linda’s point, it makes no sense to me why there are flood zone maps if they’re not accurate. I think it’s a confusing topic and system, which is why I’d love to see an article devoted to it and the additional insight comments would offer.

    by Pamela — May 14, 2018

  40. Hi Pamela:

    My friend is still out of town. I will have an answer for you by the end of the week. I know that she has never had a flood and she has lived there nearly 20 years, in Rotunda West. She really loves it. I checked out the neighborhood online and it looks very nice. She is trying to convince me that I would love Florida. They play golf, but they do not pay for unnecessary amenities there, from what I have heard. Again I urge you to call the county engineers, do not use a map alone, and see what they have to say. They would have all up to date information.

    by Jennifer — May 15, 2018

  41. This has been very interesting to me, since I weighed the same issues. I ultimately decided against a 55+ community (widow) since I thought I wouldn’t use the amenities and didn’t want to get locked into a high HOA for them. There were other reasons too, such as not being very social and not wanting to be far from family. After struggling with the decision for about 5 years, I am very excited about my decision. I know it’s NOT going to be for most others, because I’m heading North to Cleveland. Yes, it’s going to be more expensive than my current home near Charlotte and will have miserable weather. I’ll be living in a non-age restricted cluster home, and my HOA covers snow removal and yard work. Most of my neighbors appear to be retirees, but the houses are pretty far apart. The suburb has a large community center with senior programs, as well as having a gym, indoor pool and multiple other programs. The public library is huge, with even more programs. There are several universities with programs for seniors, gorgeous parks for walking and people-watching (including Lake Erie lakefront parks), and world-class medical facilities. Yes, my taxes will be high and my budget will be about $600 more than in South Carolina, but I can clearly see those tax dollars on being spent on things I will actually use. I’m happy to have a good newspaper again. I have been astonished by all of the activities in the area, as well as finding all of my favorite stores located nearby. Having lived with a city with a younger population, I also feel very comfortable so far with the age demographics I’ve encountered here. My home has 2 fireplaces, so I optimistically anticipate cozily reading by a fire during the months of cold weather. And did I mention — I’m near family?

    As I visited 55+ communities in FL and the Carolinas, I NEVER anticipated that I’d end up retiring someplace like Ohio. I was sure I’d find the perfect place near the coast, in a fun world created for especially retirees. Slowly each reaction, decision and discovery led me to a completely different place than I ever anticipated! I learned a lot about myself in this process. It was a frustrating but exciting process, but I’m certainly happy now!

    by Kate — May 15, 2018

  42. Kate – I loved your post! It sure sounds like you followed your heart instead of moving where we’ve been told retirees would love. Such in-depth soul searching as you did can lead to amazing truths. My latest move (coming on 3 years ago) was to be near family but I should have listened to my heart which was telling me I really wouldn’t like the Pacific Northwest weather. I also realized that I didn’t know the family members here all that well since we hadn’t lived near each other since childhood. Turns out we really don’t have that much in common. So I’m now searching for someplace that suits me even tho’ it might a place where I know no one. Laney

    by Laney Humphrey — May 15, 2018

  43. Thank you for this discussion. I have been looking at the Towne Shores Condo minium‘s in Gulfport Florida. I like Gulfport because it has walk ability. I live in a condo in upstate NY-It’s for sale if anybody wants it and there are no big ticket amenities to go along with it and find it wonderful for when I want to go away for a month and I feel I have a built-in safety network. I do not like the idea of paying for amenities I will not use, however as people have mentioned that seems standard operating procedure for much of Florida. Walk ability is my number one factor in looking for housing, along with sunshine and warm weather. My budget is $200,000 which doesn’t buy a lot in today’s market. Would love to hear feedback from anyone who has more information about Towne Shores Condos Or other affordable option in the Gulf coast area. Thanks for making me think of other questions to ask. I realize I may have to rent for a while to get to know the area better, however rents equal whatever I will be paying for a mortgage payment. I still believe buying a house is the best investment you’ll ever make

    by Brenda — May 15, 2018

  44. As someone who has recently started to seriously think about retiring, and knowing we will definitely be leaving CT for somewhere less costly (which will be almost anywhere!) and with a moderate climate, this website and the conversations are wonderful, as there is so much to think about. I was especially drawn to this topic as it contains information that is not only relevant, but also things I never would have thought of as a “newbie” to the research. I know for sure that my husband and I would not be interested in an “amenity rich” community, so I will be adding this requirement to my list for research.

    by Pat — May 17, 2018

  45. I too do not want or need many amenities and wish the developers would pay attention to websites of this type to see what we really want. I’ve been looking for quite some time and it is the way the home is built that matters to me (us). We have requirements that are quite simple: 1 level living, no more than 1 step to enter the unit from either the front entrance or garage, garage for both storage and parking, allow fences as many older retired cannot walk their dogs and would need the ability to open a door and let them out. Yard maintenance and snow removal and with a fence, what is so difficult about a worker opening a gate to cut/trim and then leave? Though this has been used by many facilities as an excuse for not allowing fences. Good firewalls between villa type units as older folks have been known to have kitchen fires. I know, not too picky LOL but many of these things are necessary for an easy and relaxed retirement.

    by Dave C — May 18, 2018

  46. Kate, I hope you’ll continue to post after your move is complete. Your posts have good insights and I thank you for sharing them.

    by Tess — May 18, 2018

  47. Dave C, your post made so much sense, those are the type of things that are important to me, too. I have lived in northeast Philadelphia for 20 years and my current home is three stories, so I want to have a place with no more than 1 step. Plus a good firewall is important, fires can race between units very easily. If I retire to a villa-type unit (which I may have to as a cost-saving measure), another thing that will be important is noise from attached units. I myself am a very quiet person and won’t be happy having boisterous neighbors.

    by Linda Dougherty — May 19, 2018

  48. Linda D & Dave C, Agree completely I have seen in this area that some older buildings that the firewall doesn’t go all the way to the roof, and fires can spread across to other units through the attic even though there is a firewall between the units. So check this too.
    I’m looking for a similar thing , too. I just haven’t decided on where .

    by Ruth — May 19, 2018

  49. I stumbled on this interesting article from 2013 which is even more appropriate today. As with other threads, this “amenity” topic has had references to the “better to own than rent” concern. You may get a different perspective here: renting vs buying.

    by RichPB — May 19, 2018

  50. Thank you Linda D and Ruth, it is nice to have someone validate an opinion to assure oneself that they aren’t too picky or “anal”. I also would point out that I agree with others about avoiding amenity rich communities for so many reasons, to include: we’re all going to get too old to use them, the developers are someday going to put the entire community into the residents hands and their deep pockets are going to be replaced by our constantly rising HOA fees, kinda hard to maintain a golf course, pool and glamorous club house without breaking our seldom growing banks. Regarding the step issue. I also do look at the lay of the land and drainage issues and find RichPB to be right on with his assessment of possible problem areas. The 4” rise steps are a very good idea. Also note that most communities have NO rails goin up the steps and to add them will of course take a review from their “architectural committee” to even allow them. Crazy thinking and planning in a community meant for the older resident.

    by Dave C — May 20, 2018

  51. Jennifer – I went to a Hurricane Expo yesterday and talked to them about Charlotte County. They basically said the entire county is in a flood zone, and Rotonda is pretty much all an evacuation zone. I’m glad your friend has never had a flood, but I’m back to my original decision that Rotonda isn’t for me. I guess I was burying my head in the sand because I want new construction without amenities and high HOA dues. In talking to other people, I also learned that there isn’t a lot there. Someone said it has a Publix about 20 minutes away, Palmetto bushes and that’s about it. I think you should listen to your friend and consider Florida. I love it, but I’m biased because I’ve always lived here and hate cold weather with a passion.

    Thanks again to everyone who has commented on this article so far. All the wonderful feedback has made me realize I can’t give in and buy in an amenity-rich community just because that’s the only option for new construction now. I think I’ve finally accepted that I need to get over it and focus my efforts on buying in an older, established neighborhood that was built before this ridiculous amenity-rich craze began! However, that’s also a major challenge now due to the lack of inventory.

    by Pamela — May 20, 2018

  52. Good comments about stairs, but lets not forget that this thread is for people who are looking for communities with no or minimal amenities. We agree, stairs are great for your health and try to take them instead of elevators. But if you suddenly have a health issue and can’t climb stairs and live in a house where the only bedroom is upstairs, you will probably be moving. In the interest of keeping this post focused on amenities, we moved all of the stairs comment to a more relevant post about what people are looking for in a community. https://www.topretirements.com/blog/active-adult-communities/if-you-could-break-the-mold-what-would-your-ideal-retirement-community-look-like.html/#comment-308615

    Now, back to amenities!

    by Admin — May 20, 2018

  53. Pamela, Another good reason to stay away from new construction communities was mentioned on the site a couple of years ago – you cant assess ho well the HOA is run until it is not being run by the builder. The community we lived in prior to heading back north was just in the process of being built out and transferring the HOA. What a nightmare the homeowners are going through and it will cost them a lot. They had to hire a lawyer, go to court several time, the builder filed paperwork to delay turnover a year, what papers they did see showed builder failed to make required annual contributions to the reserve fund sine 2011, HOA “promisary notes” owed to builder signed by the builder selected homeowners who no longer live there that will cost EACH homeowner at least $500 and no specific reason for the notes), not to mention uncompleted work on the infrastructure.

    by jean — May 21, 2018

  54. I can understand all of the comments above and not wanting to pay for amenities that you’re not going to use but it is just the opposite for me. I used to tell my wife that I couldn’t see retiring, I felt I would go crazy without a job to go to and not having anything to do. That wasn’t something that she wanted to hear as she can’t wait until we retire so she can work on her stained glass (or other craft) everyday. Then one day when we were out in Phoenix for our son’s wedding and having some time to kill we stopped in at one of the big 55 plus communities there. What an eye opener for me, pools, golf, softball, wood working shop, gyms, and on and on. Finally, I could see myself retired living in a place like that. I would have enough activities to keep from getting bored and to keep me moving which translates for me to being happy. So for me, I am more than willing to pay for the amenities because they are what I need to have to be happy in retirement.

    by gssmithusn — May 23, 2018

  55. I agree with gssmithusn…I want to enjoy all I can and do what I can while I still can… I love making new friends, enjoying new and old hobbies, on my own time. I will be moving from NY to Arizona in the next 2 years to Sun City where they have everything there including lots of medical care. Plus having a ball with my golf cart.

    by chris — May 24, 2018

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