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retirement communities retire

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"Life is too short to sleep on low thread-count sheets." ~Leah Stussy

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Today's Community Review:

Wellington at Seven Hills, Spring Hill, Florida

North of Tampa in west central Florida, Wellington at Seven Hills is an established, lushly landscaped 55+ community with single family homes, attached homes, a beautiful clubhouse, an arts studio, a fitness center, an outdoor swimming pool, miles of trails, an active activity calendar and more

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Previous Reviews:

Villas at Five Forks, Williamsburg, Virginia

Charming Williamsburg is in southeastern Virginia and is the site of Villas at Five Forks, an intimate 55+ town home community with a lovely clubhouse and a park-like setting.

Colonial Village, Lebanon, Tennessee

In leafy central Tennessee, Lebanon is the setting for Colonial Village, a snug 55+ community with attached homes, single family homes, gardening plots, a clubhouse, a swimming pool and more.

Centennial Station, Warminster, Pennsylvania

Warminster is in scenic Bucks County, Pennsylvania and is the setting for Centennial Station, an established 55+ condominium community with an indoor swimming pool, two amenity centers, a restaurant and more.

Highland Lakes, Palm Harbor, Florida

Palm Harbor sits on Florida's mid-Gulf Coast and is the location of Highland Lakes, a large, settled 55+ community with single family homes, town homes, lakes, a waterfront lodge, 27 holes of golf, three clubhouses, a good menu of activities and more.

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Age Restricted Communities 101

The kids have moved out. They have launched themselves into a career, parenthood, home ownership. You decide it's time to downsize. But how? Into where? You're still healthy, active. You're not ready for a continuing care community. The decision can be daunting.

A 55-plus or active-adult community is one option. The only legal exception to non-discriminatory fair housing laws, an age restricted community is run by a homeowners association that offers some exterior maintenance and amenities to its members. Amenities could include a private golf course, sizable clubhouse, 24/7 security, or transportation to and from local hospitals or shopping malls. Housing in such a community can range from modest condominiums to attached homes to luxury estates.

How will you decide? Are you ready for the time it might take? Demand for homes in active-adult communities is on the rise. You'll be competing against other baby boomers, maybe even some Gen-Xers. Start your research a few years before your retirement date. Find a real estate agent that specializes in master-planned communities or senior home purchases. The National Association of Realtors does offer training and certification for senior specialists.

Look at the location. Does it have the right weather? Is it close enough to family? Is downtown too far away or not far away enough? Will you have acclimate? What are local taxes like? Check out the neighbors. Are these the people you want to age with? Make sure you know what services might be available for you as you age. Is your 55-plus community near a hospital, a grocery store, a bank, a pharmacy? Can they get you to the hospital and grocery store once you decide you no longer want to drive? Maybe the community offers grocery delivery? Are there senior fitness classes, personal trainers?

Be sure you understand what amenities you are paying for. Some communities require that you buy an equity membership or hide the cost of that lap pool and golf course in high HOA fees. Inspect your prospective community's activity calendar. Does it have the right mix of leisure and lecture? Are there too many card tournaments and not enough day trips? Do you hate golf, need 39 shuffleboard courts? Is there an activities director?

Understand your prospective HOA. How long is the list of restrictions? Do the board politics give you pause? Will they force you through a long approval process? Will they ask you for bank records and references?

Investigate the community's financials. Are they solvent? How well did they weather the crisis when the housing bubble burst in 2008? And what about the builder? How long have they worked for seniors? Do they understand aging in place? Do they understand the need for zero step entries, wider hallways? Or have they just gotten into the game? Del Webb is credited with inventing the age-restricted community. Keep your eye on what they're building. Other companies to watch are Lennar, Shea, and Taylor Morrison.

Remember, you're not just buying a new house. You're buying a new way of life.

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