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"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." ~Henry James

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Today's Community Review:

Orchards of Habersham Grove, Cumming, Georgia

About an hour outside of Atlanta and close to sparkling Lake Lanier in northern Georgia, Cumming is the site of Orchards of Habersham Grove, a cozy 55+ community with attractive duplexes and condominiums. Amenities include a compact clubhouse, a swimming pool, planned events and more.

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Previous Reviews:

Victorian Estates, Prescott Valley, Arizona

Nestled in the Bradshaw Mountains of central Arizona, Prescott Valley is the site of Victorian Estates, an established, gated 55+ single family home community with a Victorian theme. Residents enjoy an attractive clubhouse, a swimming pool, a park and pretty views.

NatureWalk at Seven Hills, Dallas, Georgia

Outside of Atlanta in northwestern Georgia, Dallas is the setting for NatureWalk at Seven Hills, a community built for nature lovers. It also has a 55+ neighborhood, a garden, walking pathways, a dog park, a wellness center and more.

The Academy Village/Altura, Tucson, Arizona

Tucson is in southern Arizona and is the site of The Academy Village, a 55+ community with Southwestern-style single family homes and town homes amid an abundance of open space. Amenities include The Arizona Senior Academy, a life long learning organization with a bounty of trips, classes, symposiums and lectures. A dog park, free wifi and nearby golf are here, too.

Overture, Austin, Texas

On the edges of the Texas Hill Country, lively Austin is the setting for Overture, three age-restricted apartment communities, each with elegant units, complimentary breakfasts, a market, a fitness center, a dog park, a community garden, a movie theater, potlucks, classes, trips and more.

The Powder Horn, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the shadow of the Big Horn Mountains in northern Wyoming, Sheridan is the location of The Powder Horn, a handsome single family home and patio home community popular with baby boomers. Amenities include a beautiful clubhouse, 27 holes of golf, tennis courts, a swimming pool and more.

Four Season at the Lakes of Cane Bay, Summerfield, South Carolina

Summerville is near the mid-coast of South Carolina and is the location of Four Season at the Lakes of Cane Bay, a 55+ lakefront community within a larger development. Single family homes are for sale, and amenities include a large clubhouse, tennis courts, swimming pools, water 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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