6 tips to evaluating a retirement community
2. Check the impact on your checkbook
Dr. Neal Cutler, associate director of the
University of North Carolina Gerontology Program
in Greensboro, says retirement is a much more
complicated process for baby boomers than it was
for their parents and previous generations.
They also tend to take a different approach
to their homes. "Boomers are more likely
to move around and use their homes as capital,
whereas their parents couldn't wait to tear
up the mortgage," Cutler says. Because
pulling up life-long stakes and moving into
a new community is such a big decision, financial
considerations should go well beyond housing.
For example, a survey conducted
in 2006 by Mercer Human Resources Consulting
ranking the cost of living in major international
cities lists New York City as the most expensive
in the country. No big surprise there, but
would you have guessed that Winston-Salem,
N.C., was rated cheapest among U.S. cities
You may have checked out property taxes and average home prices in places you're considering. But what about sales tax on necessities like food or the cost of homeowner's insurance and transportation expenses? How much is bread or coffee compared to where you live now?
Remember, too, that some necessities
don't remain static. Heating and cooling bills
fluctuate in places with extreme seasons.
Residing in resort areas often mean that prices
rise and fall with the tourist season, and
services covered by taxes in your present
community, such as trash pick-up, may be billed
Don't forget to look at college towns. It's one place where you're sure to find good, but reasonably-priced entertainment and lots of bargains. Places that cater to student budgets can be a bonanza for retirees.
tip: Find out how much it will cost to live in a desired place by using Bankrate's
cost of living calculator and let us do
the math for you. Follow it up by subscribing
to the local newspapers (or read the online
editions). Pay special attention to the advertising.
Talk to the utility companies -- they're usually
glad to answer your questions -- and ask local
residents for their take.
Choose the home that best fits your lifestyle
What do baby boomers consider important? Some 79
percent of survey respondents cited medical
services as a top priority, followed by access
to public transportation (74 percent) and
proximity to shopping (68 percent). The survey
results appear in the book "The Maturing
Marketplace: Buying Habits of Baby Boomers
and their Parents."
Well-planned and well-operated retirement
communities offer all of these.
"Homes in retirement communities are a
better value now than regular communities,"
says Carol Fena, whose Web site, BestGuide-RetirementCommunities.com,
is devoted to retirement real estate choices.
"Right now in most areas they are (priced)
a little under the regular market."