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6 tips to evaluating a retirement community

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Many Topsail residents bought or built their homes specifically with retirement in mind. However, hurricanes and the normal north-to-south sand migration common to barrier islands has eroded much of the beach and endangered a number of homes. And a steep property-tax hike raised some bills more than 300 percent over the previous year.

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Retirees lured to the area by low property taxes suffered a nasty double-whammy. The rise in taxes meant many could no longer afford their homes, and the erosion problems sent multiple homes to market with fewer and fewer takers. To add to the problems, insurance rates shot up. A lot of retirees even had their insurance canceled.

Bankrate tip: You expect inflation and occasional up-ticks in your cost of living, but you need to think worst-case scenario, such as skyrocketing property taxes and disasters like hurricanes, mud slides and floods.

6. Don't be afraid to move on
Here's good news -- baby boomers aren't afraid to change their minds. They get their motors running and head out onto the highways of life knowing that where there's a left turn, there's bound to be a right one, too. So if you do make a move and decide it's not for you, or you've had enough of the mountains and cold weather and want to sample the sea or live "la vida loca" Big Apple style, then what's stopping you? The best thing about retirement is that you don't have to punch anyone else's time clock.

Bankrate tip: Turning around and reselling a home within two years could have nasty effects tax-wise. Talk to a qualified financial adviser so you don't put yourself in a pickle.

Born to be wild
Don't forget other alternatives to simply packing up and moving. If you can afford it, you might go ahead and purchase a home in your target community during pre-retirement. Rent it out in the meantime and you can take advantage of prices that will most likely appreciate. To minimize your debt load, take a 30-year-mortgage. You can pay that off when you sell your present home. The objective isn't so much to build equity, but to keep the price of your future home lower. It's a good idea to talk to your financial adviser first.

Another idea: Warren says you might quell the wanderlust and need for change without losing the security of your present friends, family and community by purchasing a second home. (If you can't afford to do that, consider selling your present home and buying two smaller places -- one in your new community and one in the present). You can often rent the vacant property for the part of the year when you're absent.

And last, but certainly not least -- there are hundreds of thousands of retirees who make their homes wherever they park. If you want the ultimate in new experiences and don't mind not having a yard to mow, consider buying an RV and hum some Steppenwolf as you motor off into the future.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Updated: Oct. 1, 2007
 
 
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