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"The only way of catching a train I ever discovered is to miss the train before." ~G.K. Chesterton

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Today's Community Review:

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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Previous Reviews:

England Oaks, Alexandria, Louisiana

In central Louisiana, Alexandria is the setting for England Oaks, a quiet, inviting 55+ community with rental duplexes, shaded grounds, a swimming pool, planned activities and more.

Lauderdale West, Plantation, Florida

Plantation is in southeastern Florida and is the site of Lauderdale West, an established 55+ community with single family homes, attached homes, tropical landscaping, two clubhouses, a shuttle service and more.

Mountain Meadows, Ashland, Oregon

Picturesque Ashland, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is in southwestern Oregon and is the setting for Mountain Meadows, an established, leafy 55+ community with a variety of housing options. Residents enjoy pretty views, plenty of social events, a neighborhood garden and more.

Village at Tuscan Lakes, League City, Texas

Outside of Houston in southern Texas, League City is the site of the Village at Tuscan Lakes, a stylish 55+ single family home neighborhood within a larger development. Residents enjoy a sumptuous clubhouse, a swimming pool, an extensive activities menu, a European flair and more.

Virginia Heritage at Lee's Parke, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Fredericksburg is outside of Washington, D.C. and is the location of Virginia Heritage, a beautiful 55+ enclave within the larger development of Lee's Parke. Single family homes are for sale and amenities include a large clubhouse, two swimming pools, walking trails, a woodworking shop, lighted tennis courts and more.

King City, Portland, Oregon

In lush northwestern Oregon, Portland is the site of King City, an established, wooded 55+ community with condos, town homes, single family homes, a clubhouse, two swimming pools, a putting green and a long menu of activities and groups.

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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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