September 16, 2011 — The good news is that you have been out looking at active adult or 55+ communities. Scoping out different communities, their homes, and the amenities is an important step in the process of finding your best place to retire. But the bad news is that unless you have a good system for evaluating what you are seeing and learning, or if you don’t rate the communities when they are fresh in your mind, they are all going to blend together as time goes on. Which leads us to today’s article, how to develop an easy-to-use and reliable system for evaluating active adult communities. Note that the same system can be used for rating towns and cities, should you not be interested in a private development. To give you a head start on the process, here is an Excel based community rating spreadsheet developed by our correspondent Jay Michaels, which you can download and customize. >And here is a Google Docs version of the Rating Spreadsheet which can be viewed but not modified, in the event you can’t open Excel files.
The first task in developing a rating system is to identify your priorities. They will differ by person, but the most common priorities in selecting a 55+ community are:
– Activities and Lifestyle. Does the community have the amenities and things you would enjoy?
– Homes. Do the homes have the style, size, and functionality you want?
– Neighbors. You are going to spend a lot of time with your new neighbors. Are they the kind of folks you enjoy?
– Financial. In addition to initial cost, what will your ongoing expenses be? What kind of risk factors are there in the community?
– Location and Environment. How does each community’s location stack up in terms of your preferences, the distance from friends and family, and from the nearest stores and medical care? Would your children look forward to visiting you here? Is the community walkable – how about livability?
– Climate. Is it warm enough in winter, not too hot in summer? If you have 2 homes, will the climate meet your needs in the times you will be there?
– Access. How easy is it for you to get there? How about your family – is there a convenient and competitive airport?
How to use this spreadsheet
You will probably have different criteria from our sample, and you will certainly want to weight them differently. The idea behind our checklist is that once you agree on the criteria you are going to rate against, then you can assign a rating for each attribute. You can either total the points you’ve awarded to each community, or get fancier and assign a weighting scheme which allows you to give greater weight to certain attributes. In the end you will get numbers that you can use to compare and rank your choices. One of the most helpful features of a rating spreadsheet is that you will know right away if a really important attribute is lacking, which will help you to avoid a big mistake. You might also find after rating several communities that your attributes or weighting system might need to be adjusted, and that’s OK too.
For Further Reference:
Sandy’s New Home Rating Sheet
What Makes a Great Active Adult Community
What Sandy Lived in 8 Years of Visiting Active Adult Communities
Jump on Jay Michael’s Retirement Tour Bus
9 Things Betty and Jim Learned When Looking at Best Places to Retire
10 Questions to Ask Before You Buy in an Active Adult Community
Jay Michaels Community Rating Sheet
What do you think? Please provide your comments about the attributes that you think are most important. Do you have your own rating system you would like to share? Please use the Comments section below.