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 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.
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.
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