Part of helping our clients plan for “Life’s Road Ahead,” means helping our clients plan for their future home. There are many options, such as staying in the family home, downsizing to a smaller place, maintaining multiple homes and others. Today, Joe talks about his experience living in an over 55 community.
Hi, this is Joseph Sachetta of Sachetta Callahan. About a year ago we changed our tagline to “For life’s road ahead” and on life’s road ahead one of the things we often think about is housing both now and down the road. So as we approach retirement, we need to think about do we continue to have the house with everybody that’s moved out of the house? We keep the big house? Do we downsize? Do we rent? Do we buy, do we have multiple houses? Uh, what do we do? So today I wanted to quickly talk to you about the concept of over 55 communities cause that’s where I live. I’m not an expert at it. We only looked at two. We ended up going to the second one that we looked at up in Topsfield. Where we live, there are 49 units. And as I go through this discussion discussion, we’re going to be talking about they, they being the homeowners association. In reality, they is us. We are the homeowners association. We have a small group of people that volunteer to serve on the homeowners association representing the entire group. That’s a majority rule type thing. And the homeowners association is there to carry out those rules.
There are a number of pros and cons to over 55 living, over 55 communities today. I want to quickly go through those, keeping in mind that what I might consider to be a con or a pro might be just the opposite for you cause we’re all different. We all have our own personal preferences. So let’s start off with the cons. One of the cons could be the HOA fees, the homeowners association fees. Obviously the homeowners association fees are something we have to pay. Like everything else in life, they keep going up. But there’s a misconception out there that I think that people think that somebody is getting rich off the HOA fees and that’s not the case. The entire amount of the HOA fees goes to pay for the services that we get both now and down the road. So there are reserves that we’re paying into so that when it’s time to paint the house or fix the roof, fix the septic money has been set aside that for that.
So some of the other cons that you might find. There were a lot of rules and regulations to an over 55 community. Many of those rules or regulations are driven by the town to get licensed to put into the development. The developer has to make concessions and some of those concessions are that there’s an age limit. You need to be over a particular age, say 55 or 60 to get into the community community. There may be a limit on how many people can live in the house. Where I live, we’re limited to three people, other communities, there’s no limit to how many people you have, but you can’t have any school age children. One of the things that watching for is they don’t want to have all these developments pop up and then burden the school system with all kinds of extra school aged children where I live.
Some of the rules and regulations prohibit us from basically having a garden. There’s, we can’t have an outside hot tub. We’re not allowed to put up Christmas decorations, things of that nature. And there’s not a lot of services that are provided by the town. We are our own community. We do our own plowing and leaves and what have you. Bbut we still pay a very high real estate tax despite the fact that we pretty much just get trash removal, fire and police protection. There may be parking restrictions where you live in these communities. You might not be allowed to park on the street. It might not be allowed to park in the driveway. You might have to put your car in the garage, may limit how many cars you can have, that type of thing. So be sure to read all the rules and regulations before buying.
Everyone in the community has a voice, which means there are difference of differences of opinion, majority rules, just like the rest of America. So if you can live with the cons, I think there were a lot of pros, let me quickly move on to the pros. To me the biggest pro is that they take care of everything on the outside of the property. For us, this includes snow removal, both plowing and shoveling and the companies that we have doing that, do it in a very timely and do it very well. They cut the grass, they rake the leaves, they mulch, they care for the plants, they spread the subtle fertilize that they take care of the pool and the community center, the painting of the house is never our responsibility. It’s done by the, the homeowners association out of our fees that we pay on a monthly basis.
They take care of the roof, the paving the streets and what have you. So it’s really an ideal situation for people who like to travel, who have seasonal homes. Many people who live there spent a good part of the winter elsewhere. A lot of the people spend a good part of the summer elsewhere, but uh, what I like best about it, there’s a real feeling of community. There are 49 units where I live. We know the names of almost everybody that lives there. We have a relationship with many of these people as well. So like I said, it’s real feeling of community. Lastly, I want to touch on the idea of the homeowner’s association fees. I think there’s a misconception that a lot of people think that somebody is getting rich off the HOA fees and that’s not the case. All of the fee goes for common expenses and services.
I think of it as a wholesale approach. Costco, BJ’s approach to buying, we’re buying everything at wholesale prices instead of each of us individual homeowners negotiating at retail with the landscape or the snow removal company. What have you, the entire community is, is negotiating for one price. Fees in our homeowner’s association include homeowners insurance on the outside of a house. So we saw our dramatic drop in the cost of our homeowners insurance cause we only have to insure the inside of the house and the contents, the security system on our house is paid up for out of the, the homeowners association fee as is all the water, sewer and septic charges. So for us moving into this homeowners association has really saved us money cause the homeowners association fee is still less seven years later than we were paying for a lot of those services, seven years ago before we moved into the home, the over 55 community.
So the only word of caution I would say if you’re really hung up on the homeowners association fee, look for a community that doesn’t have as much space. So there’s not as much to plow. There’s not as much grass to cut. Maybe find a place that doesn’t have a swimming pool or a community house, a fitness center, cause all of those things are things that have costs. But if that’s what you’re looking for, just be realize that you will be paying for it in the homeowner’s association fee. In wrapping up, I would say my wife and I are very satisfied with our decision to go into an over 55 community. It fits for us. It may not fit for everybody, but as you get on life’s road ahead, we hope that some of what I talked about might be helpful for you. Feel free to call or email me. I’d be happy to discuss this further. Don’t want to go on too long. Stay well and talk again soon.