New active adult communities also emphasize security and social connectivity, with gated entrances, walking trails, clubhouses and community gardens. That's a key difference for the new crop of 55-plus buyers, says Bill Ness, founder of the Chicago-based 55places.com that tracks new and re-sale active adult options across the country.
“It’s all about the lifestyle. That’s what the majority of people want,” said Ness. “We’re seeing communities that have very carefully crafted lifestyle components, often with an activities director who coordinates everything from water aerobics and pot lucks to billiards and card games. They usually have a clubhouse with a fitness center, an outdoor pool, activity rooms, maybe even a small ballroom. Some have indoor pools and golf courses.”
Ness also notes that many of the recently-built active adult neighborhoods are designed to be just that: sociable, walkable neighborhoods that connect residents. “Go back 15 years, and look at something like Sun City in Arizona. There were 10,000 to 20,000 homes around numerous golf courses. It took years to build and sell out. Now we’re seeing smaller communities that can be built out in six or seven years.”
Buyers are less likely to pack up and move thousands of miles away to live in such communities, Ness notes. “We’re seeing smaller, more location-driven communities pop up because people don’t want to leave family and friends to move across the country. They want that lifestyle closer to home.”
That trend is happening locally in several spots around the metro area, where builders of large developments such as Seven Hills in Paulding County add active-adult sections to the master plan.
“There’s this weird notion that an active-adult community is filled with people who hate children,” said Ness. “In fact, many of those people have grown-up kids and grandchildren and are living in a master-planned community so the generations can live nearby.”
Chapman also sees that interest with his buyers, who want to stay in the Atlanta area to be close to family and friends but who want to trade in the responsibilities of the big, single-family home.
“Today, this type of housing is a lifestyle,” said Chapman. “And there is absolutely a huge demand for it.”