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6 tips to evaluating a retirement community

By virtue of its size, the baby boom generation has always been the target of marketers pitching countless products and services. That won't change as boomers head into their retirement years.

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According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, as baby boomers get older, the over-65 population will roughly double by 2030, representing 20 percent of the total population. It's expected to remain above the 20 percent level for several decades. By comparison, in 2000, this demographic segment represented just 13 percent of the population.

No wonder local government agencies and real estate firms want boomers to head their way and settle in their communities. An influx of retirees creates jobs, tax revenues and demand for real estate. The challenge that baby boomers who want to relocate are facing is how to separate fact from hype.

Communities
Bankrate's tips will help you look beyond the brochures to find your own personal nirvana.
 
Tips to evaluating prospective retirement communities:
1. Balance the hype
2. Check the impact on your checkbook
3. Choose the home that best fits your lifestyle
4. Test-drive the community
5. Look ahead
6. Don't be afraid to move on

1. Balance the hype
Former university professor Gene Warren is president of Thomas, Warren & Associates, a company in Phoenix that helps communities position themselves as the ideal place to retire.

Warren conducts seminars assisting clients in developing marketing strategies. Like any business, cities and towns play up the positives -- proximity to the beaches or mountains, for instance -- and play down the negatives -- such as a lack of public transportation or high property taxes.

"Communities don't need to change to attract retirees, they just need to figure out what makes the community a good place to live," says Warren of his marketing strategy. The ideal target group is ages 55 to 61, he says, and most reach a decision about post-retirement location by the time they're 65.

A study released in October 2006 by the National Association of Realtors says eight out of 10 boomers own their homes. The average boomer household income, the study claims, is $64,700 -- 31 percent higher than the median of other households.

Boomers make it clear they like homeownership, but differ from the previous generation in that most don't plan to downsize once the kids are gone. Instead, they look for the climate and lifestyle they prefer and often buy up -- nailing that dream home they've always wanted.

Bankrate tip: Car salesmen don't emphasize a gas-guzzler's mileage. Instead, they talk about the luxurious interior or state-of-the-art GPS. Buy into a retirement community the same way you'd buy a car. Explore the negatives. What's not being said is as valuable as what is.

 
 
Next: " ... Financial considerations should go well beyond housing."
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