6 tips to evaluating a retirement community
Balance the lower move-in costs
with ongoing costs, such as homeowners association
fees. Ask a lot of questions. "Is there
any deferred maintenance?" If the answer
is yes, this can mean the budget is out of
whack or that an increase in homeowners fees
may be coming. If this is a possibility, a
prudent follow-up would be, "What is
the policy on increases in monthly fees?"
Potential buyers also should be careful
when signing documents (read it all and if
you don't understand the legalese, take it
to your lawyer, financial adviser or trusted
friend for interpretation). Make sure deposits
are fully refundable if you change your mind.
tip: If you're leaning toward a particular
community, check on the amenities and how
well they're kept up. Do people actually use
them? A beautiful pool that's never filled
is useless. What about clubhouses and social
activities? Are the residents active adults
or does the community tilt toward older, less-active retirees? Can you age in place here?
Find out before you commit.
4. Test drive the community
John Howells, a contributing writer for Where
to Retire magazine and author of several books
on retirement, including "Where to Retire,"
says it makes sense to rent a home or apartment
before purchasing. "An amazing number
of people simply check out the golf courses
and begin looking for a place to buy,"
Howells says. Other advice: Before buying
a place, take an adult education or community
college class, attend a city council meeting
and never pass up a chance to talk with area
Former Chicago resident Janice
Vera followed Howells' advice -- by accident.
Vera and her husband sold their home and bought
a recreational vehicle with plans to travel.
A sudden illness with forced recuperation
time found them staying with a relative in
"We saw this little house for sale and the prices (in Brownsburg) compared to Chicago were amazing," Vera says. They bought it.
Now they love the community and spend part of the year in Brownsburg, with its low cost of living, and the rest of the time on the road.
Bankrate tip: Visit in different seasons. Rent a vacation cottage, apartment or hotel room by the week or month. Shop the local economy, test the transportation, restaurants and activities, go to the libraries, get your hair cut and see what's offered to older adults before you plunk down your money.
5. Look ahead
Topsail Beach, N.C., seems an ideal place to retire. A barrier island off the coast of North Carolina, Topsail has beautiful beaches and reasonable home prices, especially in comparison with Myrtle Beach, the Jersey shore and Florida.