Sunday, July 28, 2013

What to Consider When You Buy a Retirement Home

As a former Realtor, some of the decisions that my buyers made over the years caused me to worry about them.  On several occasions, I tried to talk buyers into purchasing a less expensive home because I was concerned that they were buying something at the extreme upper limit of their budget.  In other cases, I was concerned about the condition of the home they were buying or the neighborhood where they would be living.

Since this blog frequently features different cities, states and retirement communities that may interest those of you who are preparing to retire, this seemed like a good time to discuss some of the issues that buyers need to take to heart before they purchase a home for their retirement years.  As you will see below, no single type of retirement home will be right for everyone.  Some of the items mentioned below will only affect certain people.  However, here are some of the different issues I have noticed over the years.

The Cost of Living in Your Retirement Home

While you may be able to find a low-interest, fixed-rate mortgage or even pay cash for your home, you need to realize that your property taxes, insurance and homeowners dues are going to increase over time.  In addition, your property taxes and dues, in particular, may increase at a faster rate than the cost of living increases on your pension or Social Security benefits.  If you expect to live in your retirement home for ten years or more, the cost of home ownership could become more and more stressful unless you have set aside money or left a little wiggle room in your budget to allow for these expenses.

Maintenance Costs

When my parents left Missouri and purchased a home in Flagler Beach, Florida after they first retired, they loved being across the street from the ocean and enjoyed the wonderful views.  However, they did not count on the extra expenses that residents incur when they live so close to the ocean.  The outside compressor of their air conditioner had to be replaced every few years.  Other items around the house had to be replaced much more frequently than they anticipated, as well.  Eventually, my parents moved to a retirement community that is about 15 miles inland from the coast and they now have much lower maintenance costs.

Maintenance costs can also be high if you buy an older home in a charming historic town.  While you may have always dreamed of living in a gracious old home, it may not be a wise choice for a couple on a fixed income.  While you may plan on doing a lot of the maintenance and repair work yourselves, this can become increasingly more difficult as you age.

Even if you buy a brand new home, you still need to be sure to include home maintenance costs in your budget.  The longer you live there, the more likely there will be issues that will come up.

New Expenses You Never Had Before

If you are moving to a new part of the country, you may discover that you have some large expenses that were either smaller, or non-existent,  in your former location.  For example, if you move to Arizona, your summer air conditioning bill may be quite high.  The reverse is true if you move to a charming mountain community where you need to be prepared for cold winters and high heating bills.  There are also other expenses you should consider. You may want to purchase earthquake insurance if you move to Southern California, or flood insurance if you live in a an area where the rivers occasionally overflow.  Each part of the country has its own unique challenges.

In addition, when you buy special insurance to cover catastrophic events such as floods and earthquakes, you may discover that there are large deductibles.  For example, earthquake insurance usually has a $5000 deductible for your personal property.  If you are concerned about this, you may need to set money aside in a liquid asset account (not your retirement investments) to cover unexpected expenses you may incur in your new location.

Personal Security

I have known of retiring couples who purchased lofts in the downtown area of a major city or purchased homes in eclectic, mixed-used neighborhoods.  Several former retired couples I knew bought townhomes within walking distance of bustling business areas where there were lots of restaurants and bars.  They thought it would be fun to live in such a stimulating area.  Believe it or not, one successful psychiatrist and his wife even bought a townhome in one of these areas despite the fact that a homeless man was sleeping next to the front door when I showed it to them!  They insisted that they looked forward to living in such a "colorful" community.  A few years later, they moved.

While living in these types of neighborhoods may not be a problem while couples are still in the early years of their retirement and they are relatively young and active, this living arrangement could make them much more vulnerable and isolated as they age.  They are also more likely to become the victims of a crime.

Planning Ahead for Health Issues

Are you thinking about buying that two-story home with a basement in a charming old neighborhood?  While this may be your dream home, are the doorways and hallways wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair, should you ever need one?  Can the staircases handle a lift if you eventually have trouble getting up the stairs?  Can you easily add safety features like grab bars to the bathrooms, or does the house have old, plaster walls?

If you dismiss these problems by saying, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it" or "We'll just move to a retirement community if it becomes a problem," you may want to go ahead and move to that retirement community now and save yourself a move.  Many modern homes in retirement communities are designed to meet the needs of an aging population, while still providing lots of stimulation and neighborhood charm.

Think About Your Adult Children

Why should your adult children be a concern when you buy a retirement home?  There are several reasons.  First, they will not be able to move in with you and stay for more than 60 days if you live in an age restricted retirement community.  This is the federal law that governs these over-55 communities, although there are exceptions if your adult child is disabled, either mentally or physically.  However, if your able-bodied child wants to move back in with you after a job loss or divorce, sixty days is as long as they can stay.  To be honest, many seniors feel that this is one of the advantages of moving to an over-55, age restricted retirement community.  On the other hand, there are people who may actually want to have one of their children move in with them and they should consider this when deciding where to live.  There are many very nice master planned communities that are not age restricted, and these might be a better option for some families.

Even if you are certain that none of your children will ever want to live with you, you need to consider whether or not your dream retirement home is too far away from your children and grandchildren.  My parents moved from Missouri to Florida when they were in their 50's, and they have owned a couple of different homes there over the years.  Now they are in their 80's and really need to have family nearby.  However, they are resisting the idea of returning to Missouri to be near my sister and their other relatives.  Nor do they want to move to California, where I live.  My mother, in particular, is adamant that she wants to stay where she is, despite the fact that they are both in failing health and my mother has developed severe dementia, which may be fueling her anxiety and fear of moving.  My sister plans to force the issue in a few months and it will be difficult.

Retirees need to carefully consider whether they want to live a long distance from their families.  In the early years, it will make it harder to visit grandchildren.  In later years, it will be more difficult for their children to give them the assistance that they may need.

Don't Forget to Negotiate

There is one more issue to consider if you are moving to a new community.  If you have lived in the home where you raised your family for many years, you may not be used to aggressive negotiating when you purchase a new home from a developer.

While you may not be able to get the developer to come down in price, you can frequently get them to throw in a few "goodies" for free or at a discount ... but only if you ask.  I was an on-site agent for a developer for several years, and I want to pass on some practical advice to help you get the best deal possible. Before meeting with the agent, practice sounding a little hesitant about making the purchase.  Don't express too much enthusiasm for the home when the on-site agent is within hearing distance.  Mention other master planned communities in the area that you are considering.  Say things like, "I like this plan, but at that price I don't think I would be able to ......"  Fill in the blank with whatever you want, such as upgrades to your light fixtures, carpet or granite, a hydrotub, enlargements to the patio, or minor alterations to the design.  In order to make the sale, the on-site agent may be authorized to throw in some amenities or upgrades at a discount, or even for free.  However, they won't offer to do this unless you ask or they think a few extras could make the difference in whether or not they make the sale.  It is certainly worth a try!

To get more ideas about purchasing a retirement home, you may want to order the book "Buying a Second Home: Income, Getaway or Retirement" using this link to Amazon.

While you are planning your retirement, you may also be interested in checking out the index articles below.   Each one contains an introduction, plus links to a number of other articles on that topic:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Home Sharing Arrangements with Senior Roommates

Like many other American women, a friend of mine has a husband with several serious medical issues.  In addition, he is fifteen years older than she is, giving her good reasons to believe that she will probably outlive him.  Among her other concerns, she is worried about how she will be able to afford her house payments, homeowner's association dues, utilities and other expenses if he dies and she is forced to live on just one retirement income.  One possibility that she has seriously explored is having another woman move in with her as a roommate.

House sharing has become a popular option among Baby Boomers and older retirees, particularly women.  According to an article entitled "Home Sweet Home" in the June, 2013 issue of the AARP Bulletin, approximately four million women who are over the age of 50 currently live in a home with at least one other woman in the same age group.

Reasons To Consider Sharing a House

There are many reasons why older women who haven't lived with another woman in decades are now beginning to accept the idea of having roommates once again.  Here are some of the more common reasons:

At least one in three women will live a substantial part of their senior years without a spouse.

In addition to becoming widowed, the divorce rate for couples over the age of 50 has increased significantly, actually doubling in the past two decades.

A substantial number of women retirees, in particular, will receive only a small amount of Social Security benefits, often $1200 a month or less.

Many women want to maintain some privacy as they get older, but they also want companionship and friends nearby.   Having a private room in shared housing is a satisfactory compromise.

Safety is another consideration.  Women living alone are more vulnerable to being victimized than women living in groups.  In addition, should one of them fall or become injured, it is reassuring to know that help is nearby.

House Sharing Agreements

If you are considering this option, you and your housemates will need to have a written agreement that covers many of the potential problems that can arise.  What you put in the agreement will vary depending on the specific home sharing arrangement you have ... co-renters, co-owners or landlord/tenant.  Among the issues that need to be clarified in writing are:

The portion of the rent or house payment, as well as utilities, each person will pay.  Everyone needs to be aware that these amounts are likely to increase in the future as rents, property taxes and utilities rise.

The private room or rooms that each person will occupy.

Who is responsible for the various chores, such as cleaning the common areas, taking out the trash, paying the common bills, handling the yard work, etc.

Clearly defined limitations on overnight guests.  If you or your housemates have grandchildren nearby, you may also want to limit daytime visits, as well.  You may think your grandchildren can do no wrong; your roommates may disagree.

Rules that designate "quiet times" in the home, such as after 10:00 p.m. and before 8:00 a.m. Televisions, radios, etc. may only be heard by using earphones during those hours.

Rules regarding other issues such as smoking, having pets, setting up an escrow account for repairs (if you are co-owners), kitchen messes, or noisy hobbies such as playing an instrument need to be worked out and put in writing.

Decisions need to be made in advance regarding what will happen if one of the housemates becomes too ill or weak to continue to participate in an independent living arrangement.  If you are co-owners and one of the parties must enter a nursing home, what will happen? What is everyone's "Plan B?"

Finally, you may want to speak with  attorneys, financial planners and similar advisers, particularly if you and your housemates are purchasing a home together.  There are a lot of legal issues to consider.

House Sharing Websites

If you are interested in senior shared housing, you will want to do additional research.  Here are a few websites which can help you locate roommates.  I have not used any of them myself in order to find a roommate, but these are the sites that were specifically mentioned in the AARP article:

In addition, if you are considering a home sharing arrangement with strangers, I strongly suggest that you proceed cautiously, ask for personal references and get a background check.  You want to have as much information as possible about the people with whom you will be sharing a home.

Books to Give You Additional Information

Several people who have gone through the ups and downs of shared housing have written books on the topic.   You may be interested in picking up one or two of them to get additional insight into the things you need to consider before entering into an agreement.  Here are two from Amazon that looked particularly interesting:

"My House, Our House:  Living Far Better for Far Less in a Cooperative Household."

"Sharing Housing:  A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates"

If you are in the process of planning your retirement, or you are already retired, you may also be interested in checking out the index articles listed below.  Each one contains an introduction plus links to other articles in this blog.

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Soleil Laurel Canyon Active Adult Community in Georgia

If Georgia is your dream retirement location, one of the best master planned communities in the state, according to Where to Retire magazine, is Soleil Laurel Canyon in Canton, Georgia.  Residents in this age restricted, over-55 community can fish in their community's own lake while gazing out at the gorgeous Blue Ridge mountains.

Within five miles of the community, retirees can find restaurants, department stores, dry cleaners and other helpful businesses in and around the town of Canton.  The town also has a weekly Farmer's Market from spring to fall, live performances in the Canton Theatre, and fun festivals.  You'll love the charming town square, shown in the photo at the top of this article.

Since Canton is only located about 40 miles north of Atlanta, you have all the advantages of living near that major metropolitan area, as well.  Whether you want shopping, entertainment, sporting events or fine dining, Atlanta has it all.  In addition, Canton is only about a one hour drive from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which makes it easy for people who love to travel.

There are tax advantages for people who choose to retire in the state of Georgia.  Retirement income for residents over the age of 62 is exempt from state income taxes up to $35,000 per person.  Social security income is also exempt from state income taxes.  Property taxes are quite reasonable compared to many other states.  For an average home priced at $340,000 in Soleil Laurel Canyon, the property taxes for residents over the age of 62 would currently be less than $1000 a year (in 2013).

The weather in this region of Georgia is also very pleasant.  The temperate climate has an average high temperature of 87 degrees in July and 49 degrees in January.

If Georgia is your top choice for retirement, there are numerous reasons why you may want to consider living in Soleil Laurel Canyon:


This beautiful retirement community boasts a number of appealing amenities that are centered around the beautiful 28,000 sq. ft. Craftsman-style clubhouse.  Here are some of the opportunities that await you:

Arts and Crafts Center
Gourmet Teaching Kitchen
Theatre and Performing Arts Center
Fitness Center
Walking trails
An amphitheater
Tennis and pickle ball courts
Bocce Ball
Billiards room
Fitness center
Heated indoor saline lap pool
Heated Lagoon-style outdoor pool
Community garden and greenhouse
3.5 acre fishing lake (this lake is, perhaps, one of the most appealing features of this charming community)

There are also two lifestyle directors on staff who plan a wide variety of opportunities for residents to attend special activities such as social events, trips to area attractions, and movie nights.

Golfers need to be aware that this is not a golf community, which many retirees have come to expect in other master planned retirement neighborhoods.  However, golf is available nearby at the Fairways of Canton golf course that is adjacent to the community.  There are also several additional golf courses in the town of Canton, so there is no reason to give up golf or to ever be bored with your golf choices.

If you are interested in taking classes, including in subjects like art or computers, nearby Kennesaw State University has a Lifelong Learning Institute for adults age 50 and over.

Another amenity that is very appealing to many retirees are all the services that are included in your HOA dues, including complete lawn maintenance, a sprinkler system, home security systems with monitoring and Comcast cable television.  It is important to consider these included services when you are comparing the dues of various master planned communities.

Housing Prices in Soleil Laurel Canyon

The well designed homes in this community are energy efficient and have a number of special features that make it easy to age-in-place, including wide doorways, stepless entries and wheelchair accessible showers.

Home prices range from the low $200,000 range to the upper $400,000's for single family homes in this new home community.  As of mid 2013, less than 350 of the 728 planned homes have been built.

Homeowner's Association Fees in mid-2013 are $265 a month.  This is much less expensive than some other retirement communities, and may be partially explained by the fact that there is not a golf course on the premises.

Contact Information

Soleil Laurel Canyon
102  High Mountain Trace
Canton, Georgia 30114

(678) 880-3071

If you are considering retiring to Georgia, you may also want to use this link to order books from Amazon about Georgia retirement.

For readers who are busy with their retirement planning, check out the index articles listed below.  Each one contains an introduction as well as links to a number of articles on that topic.  You should find the information very helpful:

Gifts, Travel and Family Relationships

Great Places for Boomers to Retire Overseas

Great Places to Retire in the United States

Health and Medical Topics for Baby Boomers

Money and Financial Planning for Retirement

You are reading from the blog:

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fighting Elder Abuse Around the World

When I opened the weekly paper for my retirement village this morning, I was interested to see an article about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.  Until I read the article, I didn't know there was a special day set aside to bring this sad reality to our attention.  Unfortunately, there is no question that it is necessary.  The day has been recognized since June 15, 2006 and is intended to help social workers, police, adult protective service workers, nursing home staff, family members and others who come in contact with the elderly to be better educated and able to recognize the signs of elder abuse.  The program was launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.  Obviously, this is a problem around the world, as Japan recently passed a law allowing elderly parents to sue their adult children if the children neglect or fail to visit them.

Statistics on Elder Abuse in the US

According to representatives from the Ageless Alliance of Orange County, California, one in ten senior citizens is abused.  This amounts to approximately five million people nationwide.  Studies by the National Center on Elder Abuse have found that between 7.6% and 10% of seniors who were part of a study were willing to admit that they had experienced abuse in the prior year.  Sadly, there are indications that many seniors are reluctant to report it, although Adult Protective Services does believe there is a trend towards better reporting.

Financial abuse alone was reported in one study by 41 out of 1000 seniors who were surveyed.

The problem may even be much more serious than these numbers indicate, since the New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study discovered that for every one abused elderly person who comes to the attention of authorities, approximately twenty-four cases go unreported.

This seemed almost impossible for me to believe until I read about the different ways that seniors can be mistreated, often by the people they most trust.

Types of Elder Abuse

Seniors can be abused in a number of ways. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse website, it appears that more elderly women are abused than men and that the older a person is, the more likely that person is to be abused.  In approximately 90% of cases, family members, such as adult children or spouses, are most likely to be the abusers.  Researchers have also discovered that people with dementia are far more likely to be victims of elder abuse than those without.  Here are some common types of elder abuse:

Neglect:  This includes incidents in which either a paid caregiver or a member of the family fails to meet an elderly person's basic needs or protect them from harm.  This can happen whether the person is living in their own home or in a nursing home.  In fact, in one study done in the year 2000, 95% of nursing home residents said that either they had personally been neglected or they had seen another resident neglected.  Since so many of us may eventually need to spend our last few months or years in a skilled nursing facility, I found this statistic particularly alarming.

Emotional Abuse:  Emotional abuse can include berating, threatening or demeaning an elderly person.  Emotional abuse may cause significant psychological distress and lower self-esteem.

Physical Abuse:  Physical violence against the elderly can increase other health problems and bring on depression or anxiety.  The victims also have a 300% higher risk of death when they are compared to people who have not been physically abused.

Financial Abuse:  Many seniors are especially reluctant to let their family members know when they have been taken advantage of financially, because they don't want to appear to be incapable of handling their own money.  They are often afraid they will lose their financial and personal freedom if their children learn what happened to them.  As a result, they may be the victim of a scam and never say anything to anyone.  As I have reported before in this blog, I have known two different intelligent, well-educated people who were victimized by scammers pretending to be relatives and asking that money be wired to them.  Both of my friends were horrified that they could be so gullible.

Sexual Abuse: Believe it or not, even bed-ridden elderly women have been raped.  To make matters worse, they are often not believed when they report it, which allows the perpetrator freedom to continue to abuse that person or another elderly person in their care.

Examples of Elder Abuse

There are undoubtedly millions of examples of Elder Abuse that have occurred in this country.  One case which was reported in my local newspaper occurred when an 85 year old woman allowed her only son to come stay with her.  He was actively using drugs and alcohol, his wife had left him and he had lost his job.

Before long, her son was growing marijuana on the patio of her retirement condo and threatening that he would report her for being incompetent to handle her own finances so that he could be appointed her conservator.  She was terrified of her son and his threats, although she eventually turned to social services for help.

In another case, our local newspaper reported on the case of a 76 year old man who remarried.  Within four years, his wife had sold everything of value that he owned and left him with $100,000 in credit card debt.   This may not be an unusual situation, since the father of a friend of mine had a similar experience when he remarried late in life.  My friend eventually had to assist her father in filing for both divorce and bankruptcy.

As you can see, elder abuse is something we all need to know about.  It can happen in anyone's family.


National Center on Elder Abuse website:

You may also want to read:  The Ultimate Internet Safety Guide for Seniors

Another good option is:  "Elder Abuse Prevention Resource Guide"
"Village Recognizes World Elder Abuse Awareness Day" Laguna Woods Globe, Thursday, July 11, 2013.

If you are interested in information on retirement planning for yourself or your parents, or want to learn about Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.  Each ones contains an introduction and links to a number of articles on that topic.

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