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Know what you’re looking for
“It’s a matter of what it is that you’re looking for and where do you want to be,” Friedman said. “First, they have to decide what their budget is.”
Are you looking for a community that’s close to your kids and grandkids? Would you like to live near certain entertainment options? Perhaps downsizing, enjoying amenities or aging in place are options that are at the top of your wish list.
You may also prefer either a detached home or one that’s attached to other units. Deciding exactly what you’re looking for will help narrow your options, Friedman said.
Understand what amenities you’ll be able to access
You may have dreams of tennis courts and walking trails, but don’t assume that every active adult community offers a plethora of amenities.
”Not every active adult community has amenities other than a clubhouse,” she said. And in addition, if you’re living in a section of a master planned community, you may need to pay extra to access all the amenities.
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Think about the future
If you’re close to age 55, you may not have mobility issues. But typically, buyers want an active adult community home to be the last home they buy, Friedman said, so you should consider what it would be like to age in the community.
“You’re not necessarily thinking about 10 to 20 years down the road. Understanding aging in place technology is important,” she said. You should consider whether you want a one-story home or at least a master-on-main floorplan. Also consider whether the doorways are wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair and whether the home has a zero-entry shower, levered door handles and other universal design features.
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See if you can ‘try before you buy’
If you're buying a home in an area you're not very familiar with, visit the community and its surrounding area, Kiplinger.com suggested. In some communities, you can pay a fee and stay for a night or two to get a better feel for how you'll like it.
Do some on-site research while you’re there and talk to residents about what they like and dislike about the community. Also, check out the clubhouse and any other amenities that may be offered.
Research the community’s financial stability
Ask for detailed financial information for a community if you're considering buying there, Kiplinger.com recommended. You'll want to see current financial statements as well as the operating budget.
The community should also have a reserve plan to maintain and replace its major components. Funds for the reserve plan should ideally be placed in a separate account.