Master Planned Communities versus Retirement Communities: A Comparison

By Elaine VonCannon, ABR, SRES, Associate Broker, Notary, Team Leader, Property Manager, Award Winning Agent

In the year 2012 and beyond, retirees who are 50+ are seeking a certain type of lifestyle. Retired adults are not just seeking a home in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida or Arizona, where there is a warmer climate most of the year and property taxes are lower than Northern states. For many, full enjoyment of retirement includes continued good health. Excellent health is dependent upon activity: physical, social and intellectual.

Retirement Communities are a Lifestyle Choice for Those With Health Issues
In the recent past, retirement communities have been a popular choice for those in their 60s, 70s, and 80s -- because many offer easy transitions into assisted living and skilled care, should the health of one or both partners fall into decline. This option is still popular and a wise choice for many – especially those without long-term care insurance or children nearby who have time and space to tend to their parents' health.

Master Planned Communities are a Choice for Many Who Retire Early
Plenty of professionals are finding themselves retired at an earlier age than 65. Adults aged 50+ are either retiring early by choice or because organizations offer them sweet financial deals with an early out. For many in this category, and even some well into their 60s and 70s who remain active, the most desirable lifestyle is an active retirement in an elegant, well-appointed home in surroundings which make it easy to engage in physical and social activities.

Many have been postponing retirement due to uncertain economic times. Some are being told to retire early, as organizations and companies cut back. With recovery from the recession a reality retirement is already on the increase and so is the popularity of living in a master planned community.

Those Who Enter Master Planned Communities Retain Equity in Their Homes
One major advantage in selecting a master planned community over a retirement community is that the homeowner continues to retain equity in a property they have spent a lifetime financing. A home in a master planned community is purchased through a REALTOR and a mortgage or deed of ownership is obtained. Monthly or annual fees usually apply for lawn maintenance, use of golf course, fitness area, clubhouse and other facilities, and additional usage fees may also be added.

Retirement Communities Often Require Large Up-Front Sums to Enter
In most retirement communities, the homeowner must first sell their home in order to meet the financial qualifications to enter the community. A large sum of anywhere from $150,000 and up, is required, and is not usually refunded upon death. The individual must pay the retirement community additional monthly fees for dining, health care, access to fitness facilities and other services. This monthly fee is usually set at one rate, and if health declines, the person may enter assisted living or skilled nursing care. Retirees who have lost their spouse, or whose children live out of state or country, often select a retirement community over a master planned community to ensure they have health care, transportation, and other services, when it becomes necessary.

Master Planned Communities in Williamsburg, Virginia
In Williamsburg, Virginia, there are some excellent master planned communities. Two examples include: Colonial Heritage and Ford's Colony. These are gated golf communities where luxury homes may be purchased with yard care included, access to restaurants on site, contemporary fitness centers with a full calendar of activities, walking paths that wind through wooded and natural areas, and more. There may be age restrictions for residents of the community (usually 50 or 55+ are only allowed to reside there) and houses can be expensive -- ranging from $250,000-500,000 or more.

Many adults who conclude their professional careers find master planned communities to be their retirement destination of choice. Others see retirement communities as a wiser option, especially if they are aging with health issues. Whatever the choice is for living in retirement – individuals and couples will find the perfect match for their own lifestyle.

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