Use Vacation Time to Find the Right Place to Retire
By Burt Carey
If you’re reading beyond the headline, chances are good that you’re of the Baby Boom generation, born sometime between the end of World War II and 1964. Baby Boomers make up about 25 percent of the United States population, and they’re heading into retirement by the millions every year.
What awaits are shockingly high housing prices, virtually no inventory, months- or years-long waiting lists and maybe even a lottery drawing or two that picks who gets to buy and move in. The housing bubble didn’t totally burst for seniors, and it won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
Places such as Nevada, Arizona, Florida, California and Texas having thriving communities built just for seniors. But not every retiree wants to move away from family and lifelong friends. They prefer to stay closer to home but would like the amenities a retirement community brings, such as daily activities, golf courses, shooting ranges, shopping excursions, manicured lawns and landscaping, low crime rates, and lots of handicapped parking.
Amenities — and the big homes that usually go with them — come at a price. National builders who set prices in the $1 million and higher range, can’t seem to build houses fast enough for the number of retirees looking to buy. That’s puts an even bigger squeeze on retirees whose nest eggs aren’t that big; housing is in extremely short supply for them.
How do you sort it all out? If you’re planning to retire within the next five years, now’s the time to look at your options and find the best place for you. Why not use some of your vacation time and spend it in locales and communities where you think you might want to live out your golden years?
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Go visit during the off-season
We know when the snowbirds flock to places like Arizona, Florida, Southern California and South Texas. From November to early April, they’re enjoying the warmth of those southern climes. You should plan a visit early in the season or late in the season, and have part of it overlap with off-peak weeks.
Why go through all of that bother? Two huge reasons: The first is that you’re get to know what the neighborhood/community is like during both peak and off-peak times. Prices for golf are significantly lower during off-peak months, lines at the gas station, grocery stores and restaurants are also shorter. The second reason is that weather. August in Florida or South Texas can be brutal. If you’re looking for a year-round retirement community, make sure you are going to be able to live there year-round.
- Shop toward the end of peak season
Snowbirds aren’t year-round residents. They stay for four to six months, then head back to their primary residence somewhere up north. After they’ve made that trek back and forth for 15 or 20 years, they’ve put more miles on their aging bodies, and staying up north where family and friends can help provide healthcare becomes more attractive. That’s a motivated seller.
Sure, it’s not a new home you’ll be looking at, but it’s a steal considering the way new-home sales work in retirement communities these days.
- Study all amenities and memberships
You get what you pay for — or do you? This isn’t like any vacation you ever took, where if something wrong happens, well, it’s just a week or so and you’ll be going back home. Different retirement communities have different membership packages for activities such as golf, tennis, softball, bowling, pickleball and others. Check out all of the social activities and amenities in detail. If you aren’t completely satisfied when you’re checking them out, you’ll never be satisfied when they’re yours by membership.
- Covenants: Friend or Foe?
Homeowner associations can be one of the biggest blessings or the biggest curses you’ve known, depending on how they operate and to whose benefit that are focused. This is probably the most crucial test of buying a home in a retirement community. Yes, it’s your house, but rental and resale restrictions are common. Some communities disallow outdoor grills or cigar smoking. The more you know before you buy, the better off you’ll be.