Should you move to one of Atlanta's 55+ communities?

ajc.com

Buying a new home with downsizing in mind doesn't mean living without all the comforts.

Jim Chapman, president at Jim Chapman Communities and Jim Chapman Fine Homes in Atlanta said moving to a 55+ community is a luxury since it offers an opportunity to embrace a 'lock & leave' lifestyle. In other words, flexibility to live without all the baggage.

"Most communities offer landscaping services covering both common areas and individual yards, which means no, or much less, yard work," Chapman explained. "When you move into a brand-new home, there is always much less need for maintenance and many 55+ homes are built with maintenance-free materials. The 55+ communities are also gated and secured."

The Atlanta area is a great place for the 55+ set to live since, as Chapman pointed out, it is a culturally rich environment offering outdoor recreational opportunities, excellent professional sports teams, changing seasons and a large airport.

Atlanta-based Cameron Munro, regional sales manager at 55places.com, said this kind of change is not uncommon. People who hit this age can save quite a bit of money from downsizing, particularly to a 55+ community. However, the change will affect multiple parts of new residents' lives.

"One of the biggest factors for a 55+ resident to consider is the concept of downsizing their lifestyle," Munro said. "This is not exclusive to the size of their home. These residents are looking to simplify their lives in general. They are no longer interested in paying the landscaper and the pool service for the large home where they raised a family."

Adding to that, Kathy Kirby Seger, a 55+ real estate specialist at RE/MAX Around Atlanta said another big draw is inexpensive property tax.

"Property taxes in general are lower here than other parts of the country," Seger said. "And some Georgia counties provide Senior Tax exemptions. The exemption in most cases is the school portion of the property tax and thus a large savings."

Since Atlanta is such an appealing market for residents over the age of 55, the choices of housing runs the gamut from mega communities with single-story detached homes and resort-style amenities like clubhouses, pools and full-time activity directors to smaller community options with around 40 to 70 homes and not as much of a social whirl.

"Not only do these residents have this unique opportunity to socialize in a new and exciting way, but they are doing it with like-minded residents at the same or similar stages in life," Munro said.

As a rule most 55+ communities require residents to buy, not rent. In fact, seldom are there rental opportunities in these communities.

"Developers understand that the stability of the neighborhood and Homeowner's Association is important to senior homeowners and that these residents do not wish to be in a community with multiple investment properties," Seger said.

Chapman said the average age of people who purchase are 62+ year olds who aim to live independently for a long time.

"The most consistent feedback we get from buyers who make the decision to live in a 55+ community is that they wish they had done it sooner," Munro said.

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