Is a Retirement Community the Right Option for You?

Here are some things to keep in mind if you're considering an over-55 development.


Published:

Members of the Noble’s Pond Garden Club really dig their community in Dover.

 

On a pleasant evening, Kay and Joe Biondi went for a stroll in their 55-plus community in Millsboro.

An hour later, they had walked past only three houses. It wasn’t because the Biondis have trouble getting around.

“So many people came out to chat and we have the freedom to enjoy that,” says Kay, 68. “We are on vacation for the rest of our lives. It’s like being in college without the stress of exams.”

Active retirees like the Biondis are swelling the ranks of communities focused on empty nesters who have time, income and good health. And their numbers are growing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, at least 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, an event that is expected to occur each day for the next 15 years.

That’s reflected in the National Association of Home Builders’ 55+ Housing Market Index released earlier this year. Builder confidence was at its highest reading since the index was launched in 2008.

The Biondis live in Independence, where they relax with $3 drinks on Friday evenings at a posh 25,000-square-foot clubhouse. It’s nine miles from the beach where Joe, 71, enjoys surf fishing.

“There’s a ballroom, an indoor-outdoor pool, saunas, walking paths, bike trails, billiards and pickle ball, which I think of as tennis for old bones,” Kay says. “I love to work out, and we have every kind of fitness class you can imagine.”

They entertained frequently at their home in Newark when they were still working, Kay as a math teacher, Joe in automotive sales. That hasn’t changed. Their retirement home is slightly larger than their previous house, the better to accommodate gatherings of old and new friends.

“I wanted a big, screened porch,” Kay says. “And Joe wanted a nice bar.”

Low taxes, low maintenance

With low property taxes and tax breaks on retirement income, Delaware’s 55-plus communities are fast becoming a mecca for buyers from other states, says Debbie Shearer, a senior real estate specialist at Active Adults Realty in Lewes.

“Compared to New Jersey, Delaware’s taxes are very low,” she says. “When I tell someone from New Jersey that the taxes are $1,500, they think it’s $1,500 a month. I say, no, it’s $1,500 a year, and they are shocked.”

Shearer, 63, lives in Heritage Shores, a 55-plus golf community in Bridgeville. She and her husband moved to the First State from Maryland five years ago. She says Sussex County’s easygoing vibe and leisurely pace often surprise retirees from other states.

“One client from New York wanted to know why people were waving to him,” she recalls. “I told him to get used to it because people are friendly in Delaware.”

A growing concept

The concept of communities that cater to active adults has grown as the population grays. Sun City, Arizona, was the first age-restricted community in the United States. The first of its 27,492 residences were built in 1960. The largest 55-plus development in America is The Villages in Florida, which spans three counties with 56,000 homes, 17 recreation centers and 25 neighborhood centers.

Shearer says today’s 55-plus buyers are looking for an open-concept design with a first-floor master suite and a high-end kitchen. Instead of lots of bedrooms, they are looking for spaces that can be shared with friends and neighbors.

She moved from an 1,800-square-foot, four-bedroom colonial to a 2,200-square-foot home with three bedrooms and lots of room for socializing.

“People say they want to downsize but the majority of them really don’t,” she says.

Living in a development made up of older residents isn’t for everybody, Shearer notes. Someone occasionally decides to sell and move back to a traditional community. Others miss having lots of children in the neighborhood.

Each development has its own distinct personality and it’s her job to match the community with the homebuyer.

Among the amenities at Heritage Shores are a saltwater indoor/outdoor pool, a putting green, ceramics studio, state-of-the-art woodworking shop and full-service restaurant.

“Senators in Lewes is minutes from the beach and in the middle of the action,” she says. “Independence and Heritage Shores are further out, and it can be a bit of culture shock for people who are moving from a more urban area.”

A recent buyer with vision problems was looking for something within walking distance of a drug store. Shearer suggested Fieldstone Village, a small community off U.S. 13 in Dover.

Four Seasons at Silver Maples in Middletown offers energy-efficient homes with two-car garages, a clubhouse, a bocce court, a fire pit and a pool with a tiki hut.

Noble’s Pond in Dover is inspired by neighborhoods of the 1960s. Each home has a porch or courtyard. The Point, a 28,000-square-foot clubhouse, has a billiards room, a poker room and is the site of such community activities as Hawaiian luaus.

The Courtyards at Brandywine in Wilmington offers carriage homes with full basements and attached two-car garages. A restored farmhouse on the property serves as the clubhouse.

Read the fine print

In choosing a destination, it’s essential to get a thorough understanding of the fees involved in living in a community.

Christophe Emmert, a lawyer with Tunnell & Raysor in Georgetown, previously worked as a real estate agent. She now counsels a number of clients at 55-plus communities.

“Exterior maintenance is a big draw for people who are older and retired,” she says. “But there are sizable ongoing fees that can go along with that. A lot of these communities are amenity rich, with wine tastings and trips to Europe, and they come with a price tag.”

She recommends focusing on extras that are meaningful to the homeowner. If you don’t play golf, it might not make sense to invest in a community centered on the links.

Be mindful of estate planning, especially if you have heirs under age 55 who might want to use the house as a second home until they reach retirement age. If that is the case, choose a development that designates a percentage of homes for younger owners.

A community’s rules also may stipulate that only one member of the household meets the age requirement.

Carolyn deBernard, an attorney at the Law Offices of Bonnie M. Benson in Camden, notes that some communities own the land, though the buyer purchases the house.

“Your home is personal property because you don’t own the land it’s on,” she says. “It’s similar to buying a car in that you get a title but not a deed.”

That is an important consideration in Delaware because there is no probate fee on real estate. But personal property is subject to a fee.

Also ask if an increase in land rent is built into the contract to avoid unwelcome surprises, deBernard says. Ask specifically what you can do with the land since you don’t own it.

“Can I have a flower garden? What are the restrictions on what type of house I can build? If I want to sell my house, what kind of assistance can you give me?”

When the Biondis started looking for a place to retire, they did not target 55-plus communities. But when they analyzed their lifestyle, the concept became appealing.

“Knowing that someone else was going to take care of the exterior maintenance gave us the freedom to come and go as we please,” Joe says. “We worked hard all our lives. Now, it’s time to have fun.”

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Telephone: 130-265-66466

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More information

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Cost: FREE

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200 South Madison Street
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View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
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2301 Kentmere Parkway
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View map »

More information

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Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
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View map »


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Website »

More information

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View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

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Cost: 0.00

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410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
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View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

Winter Group Show  A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including paintings, drawings, ceramics, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift Certificates are always...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
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View map »

More information

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Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466

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Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Delve deep into the watercolors and biography of Barbara Bodichon on a tour with Curator Margaretta Frederick. 

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

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The Connected Series engages local creative community members to produce art-based programs at the Museum. Join us for appetizers, cash bar, and short introduction to the Connected Series followed...

Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

More information

Three times James Beard Best Chef Semi-Finalist to cook at The Whist! LIMITED seating. Owner of a(MUSE) and Grampa(MAC) in Rehoboth, DE. Five to six courses with chef-selected wine pairings. The...

Cost: $200/person

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N. Broom St.
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

By Michael Gotch Directed by Mark Lamos Stung by personal, political, and economic setbacks, a young, urban couple build an off-the-grid, tiny house in an isolated mountain paradise…or so they...

Cost: 15-32

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Telephone: 302-831-2204
Website »

More information

Show More...
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More than 50,000 books for sale!  Thurs., 1/24 from 5 PM to 9 PM Friends Members Only (membership available at the door for $10)  Fri., 1/25 from 9 AM to 9 PM  Sat.,...

Cost: $10 on Thursday night; free the rest of the weekend

Where:
Hockessin Memorial Hall
610 Yorklyn Road
Hockessin, DE
View map »


Sponsor: Friends of the Hockessin Library
Website »

More information

Winter Group Show  A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including paintings, drawings, ceramics, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift Certificates are always...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

THE FAR IS NEAR Graham Dougherty & Ruth Ansel January 5 - 31, 2019 Opening reception: January 11  | 7 - 9 PM Graham Dougherty  ”We give shape...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Pre-Raphaelite painter and women’s rights campaigner Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827–1891) was an early female participant in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Landscape was Bodichon’s...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

For more than 90 years, the Delaware Art Museum has showcased contemporary craft by artists working locally and throughout the region. The Museum’s first juried Contemporary Crafts Show was...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through discovery, exploration, and hands-on experiences.Ages 2 and up. Visit delart.org for list of books. ...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

By Michael Gotch Directed by Mark Lamos Stung by personal, political, and economic setbacks, a young, urban couple build an off-the-grid, tiny house in an isolated mountain paradise…or so they...

Cost: 15-32

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Telephone: 302-831-2204
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

More than 50,000 books for sale!  Thurs., 1/24 from 5 PM to 9 PM Friends Members Only (membership available at the door for $10)  Fri., 1/25 from 9 AM to 9 PM  Sat.,...

Cost: $10 on Thursday night; free the rest of the weekend

Where:
Hockessin Memorial Hall
610 Yorklyn Road
Hockessin, DE
View map »


Sponsor: Friends of the Hockessin Library
Website »

More information

Winter Group Show  A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including paintings, drawings, ceramics, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift Certificates are always...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

THE FAR IS NEAR Graham Dougherty & Ruth Ansel January 5 - 31, 2019 Opening reception: January 11  | 7 - 9 PM Graham Dougherty  ”We give shape...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Pre-Raphaelite painter and women’s rights campaigner Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827–1891) was an early female participant in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Landscape was Bodichon’s...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

For more than 90 years, the Delaware Art Museum has showcased contemporary craft by artists working locally and throughout the region. The Museum’s first juried Contemporary Crafts Show was...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Mr. Nathan Avakian from New York City will be performing on the 4th Largest Theatre Pipe Organ in the world  selections of comtemporary popular music along with Broadway and...

Cost: $20 Adults, $12.00 Students under 21

Where:
The Dickinson Theatre at John Dickinson High Schoo
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE, DE  19808
View map »


Sponsor: The Dickinson Theatre Organ Society
Telephone: 302-995-5630
Contact Name: Bob Dilworth
Website »

More information

By Michael Gotch Directed by Mark Lamos Stung by personal, political, and economic setbacks, a young, urban couple build an off-the-grid, tiny house in an isolated mountain paradise…or so they...

Cost: 15-32

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Telephone: 302-831-2204
Website »

More information

This workshop will explore using pieces to create a larger whole. Using multiple small and simple objects, students will stack, hang, layer, or weave them into a larger sculptural...

Cost: $55 Members, $70 Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

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