When shopping for and purchasing real estate, it’s always a good idea to visualize your perfect home. Homeowners have different needs at different times in their lives, particularly as they age. By the time buyers reach middle to late-middle age, they’ve already lived in a variety of homes. Considering a residence that meets all of their needs — without excess effort and the responsibilities of homeownership — may sound quite appealing to them.
Specialized communities for “active adults” — often referred to as “55-plus” or “over 55” — date back to the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA), which prohibited housing discrimination by race, gender, religion or age.
In 1995, Title VIII of the FHA was amended with an exemption for 55-plus communities, allowing community covenants that restrict the age of residents and allowing communities to market to homebuyers specifically over the age of 55.
Homebuyers in the over-55 profile are attracted to housing options that are ADA compliant, low maintenance and often single-level with no obstacles or stairs at egress points. These communities provide services including lawn care and outdoor maintenance, gardening and snow removal. In short, things homeowners in this age group may wish to avoid or may be unable to perform.
Some communities may provide concierge services included in the homeowner association fees, which offer a sense of security. The majority of these communities are gated and have onsite security staff. The most desirable communities will have a health care facility within the compound, with 24-hour on-call health care.
A sense of belonging with other residents in the same age group prevents isolation. That’s why over-55 communities typically feature clubhouses, recreation centers, gyms, swimming pools (both indoor and outdoor), parks and walking trails.
Upscale communities will offer golf courses, which increase the appeal and the prices of the units. Even if a resident doesn’t play golf, the existence of a golf course typically signifies an upscale community.
Human-made lakes and rolling hills of lush greenery on the golf course also offer a pleasing view and boast a feeling of openness. Units that overlook the golf course are the most desirable and typically first to sell in these communities.
Apart from golf courses, theaters and auditoriums, music rooms, community gardens, meeting rooms, classrooms, woodworking shops, sewing centers, art studios with pottery kilns and classes, there are also gyms and fitness centers offering classes, shuffleboard and bocce courts, tennis and basketball courts, providing options for every type of resident.
Holiday parties and seasonal activities (both indoors and out), weather and seasons permitting, are also attractive offerings for buyers. This resort-like appeal of the community is a draw for residents who are close to retirement, have already retired or are simply looking for a lifestyle that is not as family-oriented as may have been their focus when they were rearing children.
For those unwilling or unable to cook daily meals, some communities even offer more than one restaurant or bar, both casual and more formal dining options. A library is often a part of the over-55 community, and many offer interfaith opportunities for worship or individual faith communities.
The actual living options within the community may be simple, single-floor houses featuring one, two or three bedrooms, with one to two and one-half bathrooms, each with a private outdoor space, terrace or patio, and full kitchen.
Square footage for a one-bedroom unit is typically around 1,000 square feet. Two-bedroom units will range from 1,100 square feet to about 1,150 square feet. Interior finishes that are easy to care for are in demand, as are bathroom handrails, and door and kitchen hardware that are easy to operate.
Individual parking garages, some with storage, or a central parking garage with assigned spaces complete the appeal. Guest parking spaces are available in designated locations for visitors. Golf carts are often used for transportation for both golfers and those who don’t wish to drive within the community. This mode of transportation requires a parking space and source of power, as they have to be electrically charged to work.
Low property taxes are always desirable for over-55 community residents. Schools and after-school activities escalate taxes, so over-55 communities aspire to locations where these amenities are less in demand. Sunbelt areas enhance the resort feeling that buyers in this age group find appealing.
Over-55 communities are designed for independent living — hence the label “active adults.” If health care is an issue, a community that’s near a health care facility or hospital is preferable.
As a Realtor, if you are advising buyers about this specialized type of community, you have to make sure they know that they’re not only purchasing a home but also a lifestyle. Homeowners associations help maintain this lifestyle, and as homeowners themselves, they’ll get to have a voice in how they governed.
One last point to understand is that visitors under the age of 55 are allowed to reside in the homeowners’ residence, they’re usually restricted to the number of consecutive days they may visit. All to say: As a Realtor, explaining these rules and regulations in detail will be prove to be extremely beneficial to your clients.
Gerard Splendore is a licensed associate real estate broker with Warburg Realty in New York. Connect with him on LinkedIn.