100 Best Master-Planned Communities

IMAGE_1_07122009101223 Where to Retire Magazine – July/August 2009 – As baby boomers retire and relocate, they are discovering homes and lifestyles they previously associated with exclusive vacation properties. As we prepared our biennial list of 100 Best Master-Planned Communities, we can across retiree after retiree who was surprised and delighted to find their dreams came at prices they could afford. A common refried: “It’s more like a resort. Our friends can’t believe it.”

Bill and Honey Wilcox discovered that at Albemarle Plantation in North Carolina, they could get almost four times the water frontage they had at their beach house in Connecticut for the money, and at a tax rate that saved them thousands of dollars a year. “It’s incredible,” Bill says of their new home. And as they economy recovers, he believes their purchase will be a prudent investment.

Almost everyone we contacted had a special reason for the choices they made. “We were going to be snowbirds,” laughs Jane McCabe, who moved to On Top of the World Communities in Florida with husband Jim. When they left for their summer home, they missed the amenities and activities. So they decided to live at On Top of the World full time, building a larger house that was more conducive to a permanent lifestyle. In their neighborhood, a 10-minute walk can turn into an hour as they stop to chat with new friends. “They keep you young here because there is so much to do,” she says.

As we talked to retirees and pre-retirees about their relocation decisions in moving to the 100 master-planned communities, these were among trends we noticed.

More pre-retirees are moving to mater-planned communities to get a jump on the retirement lifestyle while working. Some found they could telecommute for the last few years of their careers. Others were eligible in terms of age to move into active-adult communities and discovered opportunities close to home, with the proliferation of such communities outside traditional retirement states. Thus, they could live where they wanted to retire eventually and still drive to work.

Moving near children and grandchildren remains a major temptation. Many retirees said that they would like to be in the same general area but far enough away to maintain separate lives. Mike and pat Sabo, for example, moved to Robson Ranch in Texas about 25 minutes from their town daughters and four grandchildren. “We’re close enough to see them all the time but not next door,” Mike says.

Some retirees commented that prices of homes in their neighborhoods had dropped significantly in the declining economy, but none expressed regret that they moved when home prices were higher. Some said that while they paid more for their homes than they would if buying now, they also sold previous homes for more than they would if they were selling now. In fact, many said they wished they had moved sooner rather than later. A few did indicate, however, that they economy had somewhat affected retirement plans. Some had put off buying a second home, gone back to work to pad nest eggs or delayed full retirement.

Most communities now recognize that many potential buyers are interested in the environment and want greener homes. It is up to buyers, of course, to determine how green they want their homes. But most developments now at least tout energy-saving features of homes and eco-friendly attributes of neighborhoods, if not outright adherence to strict guidelines of green-building standards. For example, John and Pat Greanias feel good about “doing something for the ecology,” he says. They moved into the first solar home at Trilogy central coast in California, and John checks daily to see if his home is taking from or giving back to the power grid. They save significantly on utility bills, too.

Almost to a person, residents we interview said fabulous neighbors and contributed immeasurably to their happiness at the communities they chose. All said it had been easy to make friends, and that indicates retirees and pre-retirees are doing a good job of matching themselves with the right community. Many noted that by moving to a new community, it was more likely their neighbors also were looking to make friends. “We’re all in the same boat,” retirees said.

Our 200- list has many repeat communities, but there are also new ones, as some previous 100 best designees have sold out. We do have a few caveats. Home prices are subject to constant change, especially in these economic times. We give the range of base housing prices; but these may rise as the economy improves, and some lots command premiums. In considering any community, it’s a good idea to check the financial status of the developer and confirm that common-area amenities such as clubhouse have been completed.

nc master planned communitiesThe Lure: Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains just east of the Great Smoky Mountains, Cummings Cove is a tranquil hideaway, yet close to cultural attractions, restaurants and other amenities. Residents enjoy stunning views from a hilltop clubhouse with restaurant and lounge, an 18-hole golf course and a sports complex, which includes fitness facilities and classes, tennis courts, and outdoor pool and space for massage therapy. A social center adds a setting for activities.

What residents say: “We wanted nice surroundings that were well-maintained, someplace that was serene, and Cummings Cove fits that,” says Lynn Johnson. He and his wife, Erika, both 61, have lived in Hendersonville for three decades but for his retirement this year, they wanted a change in lifestyle and moved last December. “We love it. It’s an extremely friendly community, and we like the location – it’s convenient to Hendersonville, Asheville, Brevard and the (Asheville) airport.”

Price: High $300,000s-$1.2 million for single-family villas and homes.
Status: 300 Homes sold of 700 planned on 650 acres.
Age-restricted: No
Information: Cummings Cove Golf & Country Club, 20 Cummings Cove Parkway, Hendersonville, NC 28739, (800) 958-2905 or www.cummingscove.com.

Posted in press coverage.