Very few people can claim that a single episode of “Wheel of Fortune” changed their lives.

Susan and Mike Pappas were planning their retirement. They had plans to soon leave Santa Cruz, California. The couple settled in to watch Wheel of Fortune, and then they saw Jimmy Buffett promoting his retirement communities at Latitude Margaritaville. Susan was fascinated by the fun of it all, and it reminded Susan of her days spent traveling to hear live music.

She said to her husband “Oh my god, does that not look like our lives?”

Susan and Mike brought up the Margaritaville-inspired communities with friends, who flew out to the Hilton Head, South Carolina location and fell in love with the island vibe. Their friends bought a lot the same weekend.

They advised Susan and Mike to be quick and decide if they were interested. The Pappases called the office in May 2021 and reserved their spot. They had never been to South Carolina.

Susan says that she spent an hour on the phone and it changed her life.

What is 55+ communities?

“Independent Living,” “55+,” and “Active Senior Living” are all different terms for this type of housing. The list of benefits for seniors such as the Pappases is endless.

These communities are different from assisted living or other medically-focused facilities. Residents over 55 may be able to own their homes, which is a big difference from assisted living. Residents of over-55 communities can join a group of people at the same stage in life. They often have access to shared amenities such as pools, dining, theaters, and other activities. These responsibilities, which can be physically demanding, such as yardwork or upkeep, are now being transferred to homeowners associations.

If you are considering your next chapter, and whether you wish to age in one place or explore other options, this can be a great option. It is possible to evaluate the advantages and drawbacks associated with 55+ community living. You might have to be patient if it is.

Find out what the community has to offer and what you might be missing

You might find rules in senior living communities that are not compatible with your lifestyle. For example, you may be unable to have children under 18, or pets. Make sure you are familiar with the rules and whether they work for your household.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines, at least 80% of other units will be occupied only by people 55 years or older. This may seem like a huge sacrifice if you value diversity in your community. This isn’t the only place where diversity can feel restricted — communities can also be largely dominated by whites.

The Villages, a large retirement community in central Florida with more than 138,000 residents, is one example. According to 2020 Census data 98% of their residents were white and the next largest group of Asian Americans was just 1%.

It can be a great way to make connections with people your age. It’s crucial to consider if you feel at home in an age-restricted area.

Determine if HOA fees cost you enough to be worthwhile

There are many different HOA fees. They range from $250 to $317 per month at the Pappas’ community, South Carolina. This includes lawn care and landscaping, access to amenities such as pools, dining, and fitness centers, and insurance and maintenance of common areas.

Traditional homeownership isn’t always free, even after you’ve paid your mortgage. You can calculate the monthly cost of upkeep for a new 55+ home versus your current property by comparing your expenses to the HOA fees.

Take into consideration the inheritance and resale implications

There are many deed restrictions in place that limit who and what can live in your home. This can make it difficult to sell your home later on, since the new buyers might have to follow the age restrictions of the community. If there are restrictions on pets or children, this could make selling the home even more difficult.

When drafting your will, it is important to read the HOA rules and consult management. If at least 80% of other units are occupied, you may be allowed to leave the home to someone younger than 55. However, this is only possible if the bylaws of the community allow it. Your beneficiaries might have to sell the house if they don’t agree.


Many buyers can finance their 55+ home with the proceeds of selling their home or other assets. If you require financing from a lender to finance your new home, it may be a concern. It may take more time to find a lender willing to lend money on an older property.

Fannie Mae offers senior housing financing and a partner lender database.

Be prepared — there is a lot of demand

Senior communities aren’t only selling units at an incredible pace in glitzy resorts like Latitude Margaritaville. Era Living, an operator in several 55-and over communities in Washington, says that a potential resident might have to wait several months, or even years. Era Living suggests joining a waiting list.

There can be fierce competition among buyers.

Hailey Kate Chatlin was born to a grandmother who owned a home in Kaysville, Utah. In 2021, her grandmother died. There were many inquiries.

Chatlin remembers that “one older gentleman came into the room and said, ‘I understand that this is a very difficult time and all, but I have an older brother who would love the opportunity to purchase this house as soon it’s available for sale.'”

Ask about the benefits available to buyers who are on a waiting list. Be patient. Era Living offers a variety of perks for future homeowners such as on-site dining or community events. This will help you decide if it is a place where you could live comfortably over the long-term.

There are many trade-offs involved in moving to a 55+ community. However, these benefits continue to be attractive to seniors who want to live an active lifestyle. Susan Pappas says that the risk her husband and she took when they reserved a lot unseen has paid off enormously. From their first visit, the place felt like home.

Susan says, “It’s exactly what we wanted.” It’s a community .”