By Geezer Bill
A reader named “Denny” responded to Geezer Bill’s article Why a Retirement Community? This led me to consider the question he asked and write the following column.
“Adult communities are a rip off, and the politics within the HOA board eventually becomes out of control along with spending on pet-peeve projects. Another aspect is the never-ceasing oversight of residents’ lives such as dictating what colors they can repaint their homes, what kind of plants they can have in their yards, etc. The list of identity-stealing actions is almost endless, and most of it makes no sense because the bulk of homeowners never have a say in the outcome.
“If you want to hold onto a shred of your individuality, then do NOT move into an active adult community–they will break you in a variety of ways.
“Of course, if you’re someone who’s struggling with an ego problem, then by all means jump in there and immediately seek a position on the HOA board or a committee that wreaks havoc on other people’s lives.
“Do yourself a favor and skip these places when considering what kind of community you’d like to spend your leisure years because active adult communities are NOT the answer.”
Geezer Bill Responds
Adult communities are not a rip off. They provide neighbors−for better or worse−and amenities and activities to use or to not use. These usually include pools, fitness centers, golf courses, and clubhouses for entertainment and club activities. Which means you can be part owner in a golf course for the price of your Home Owners Association (HOA) dues.
You also become familiar with neighbors like you never did in a typical neighborhood. Most people will say hello when passing you in the street.
Yes, HOA Board members with individual pet projects can be a problem. Just because you’re in an adult community doesn’t mean you can take your eye off who’s in charge of your money (Homeowners dues). But living in any community with a governing body means you have to watch what’s going on. Even mayors and council members of large cities have been known to try and rob their citizens blind.
Another HOA issue can be the management company that some adult communities hire. This is because the HOA management field has discovered that unwary adult communities can become their cash cows.
Predatory management companies can cause real problems because they train board members in order to maintain their grip on their lucrative chokehold. Many states try to regulate abuses (e.g. California’s Davis-Stirling Act). But, in my opinion, California homeowners are outnumbered by companies like Associa, PCM and their storm troops, the CAI. Their dues even pay for lobbyists to lobby state legislators to pass laws favoring management companies over homeowners. This is a serious and nation-wide problem.
So, the thing to do is to research the management company and its owners and professional organizations before you buy. Some are good; the bad ones create the environment you talk about.
One indication is how many websites there are for the adult community. Good HOAs have one website. The troubled HOAs have more than one, as disaffected homeowners create their own to communicate. You can find them by Googling the HOA name, check similar names on Facebook, or asking homeowners who live there.
As to “Identify stealing actions,” the limits on color and other appearance details are so that the over-55 community will continue to have the look that was originally designed, which, as an owner, you hope will maintain the value of your home. The sight of a pink house with neon decoration may be great for declaring one’s identity, but it’s usually not great for the sale of your neighbor’s house.
I will also point out that even if you live in a non-adult community, municipalities, cities and states often have ordinances about the appearance of homes and properties.
And, in most active adult communities, you can petition for a rule change. A neighbor here got the Design Review Committee to agree to artificial turf for his front patio, thereby making it legal for everyone. It can take a while, and most homeowners will have to agree with you, but learn how to petition for a rule change. In many cases, it may feel like teaching an elephant to skip. But the rules do give you constancy in the look you bought.
So, overall, no, I don’t think my identity has been stolen by living in my adult community. And, yes, I must keep my eye on the HOA board. But I still think we made the right decision moving to an active adult community. As with any other major decision in life, do your due diligence beforehand.
P.S. I’d like to thank my wife for helping to clarify my thoughts on this subject. Or else!