Contributing Editor

Susan Bady has been writing about the housing industry for 25 years. She most recently served as senior editor of design for Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines, and is now a contributing editor to those publications as well as the portal Web site HousingZone.com. Bady has also written for such consumer magazines as Cabin Life and Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Plan Ideas. You can reach her at susanbady@sbcglobal.net.

Retirement rocks, if you can afford it

Active-adult communities sure have come a long way. We all know that the massive numbers of baby boomers hitting retirement age want to remain active in their golden years, and they’re very demanding about home and community design. But some of the newer projects coming online are over the top. Think four-star-quality cuisine and state-of-the-art gyms with personal trainers and Zumba classes.

Take, for example, Vivante on the Coast in Newport Beach, Fla. When completed, Vivante will offer residents a hydro-massage room, an indoor saltwater pool, wine from Napa Valley’s finest vineyards, and a sushi chef on standby. The units, which will include Caesarstone countertops and Grohe faucets and fixtures, rent from $3,990 for a studio to $11,000 a month for a two bedroom. Granted, that includes meals, Internet access, and local transportation.

For those who can afford a significant upfront investment, there are options like The Vi at Silverstone in Scottsdale, Ariz., a continuing-care retirement community (CCRC). The upfront fees run in the high six figures, which covers the cost of a home and care until the resident’s death (there are also monthly fees). The Vi offers a variety of housing types to serve residents as their needs change, from traditional single-family homes to assisted-living residences and a skilled nursing facility.

Traditional active-adult communities like Sun City don’t require large upfront payments to cover a lifetime of care. There’s typically a mix of detached homes, condominiums, and townhomes. Exterior maintenance is included, but it’s unlikely you’ll find on-site medical services. Home designs focus on providing plenty of storage to accommodate furniture and mementos accumulated over a lifetime. The highlight is amenity-filled clubhouses with fitness centers, billiards rooms, arts-and-crafts rooms, and industrial-size kitchens for parties. It’s an expensive proposition for developers, but one that buyers apparently insist on having.

According to the NAHB, builder confidence in the 55-plus housing market for single-family homes showed continued improvement in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to the same period a year ago. It’s encouraging that boomers are getting off the fence and back into the market, but what price will they pay to keep on rockin’ as long as they can? 

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