We’ve all heard the number one rule in real estate: location, location, location. It’s really no different for a residential unit within a continuing care retirement community (CCRC or life plan community). Choosing the residence that is right for you is crucial to your satisfaction with your CCRC decision, and indeed, your happiness. After all, your home should be a place of solace and comfort.
But how can you be sure that a particular unit will meet your needs and expectations? As you consider the various unit styles and locations within the CCRC you plan to move to, here are a few questions you will want to answer to help you choose your ideal residence.
Is the residence in which you are interested located near garbage pick-up sites or delivery areas that might cause a regular disturbance?
Beep! Beep! Beep! It’s the wake-up call no one wants: The large vehicle backing up early in the morning. Consider the unit’s proximity to potentially loud, high-traffic areas if you are sensitive to noise.
Does sound travel through the walls from neighboring rooms or the hallway?
Here again, external noise can be a problem in multi-family-style CCRC residences such as condominiums or apartments, particularly if construction and/or building materials are subpar. Consider sitting in the unit for a bit to experience what it might sound like to live there on a typical day.
Is there outdoor lighting that might shine into your bedroom at night and impair sleep?
While some people can sleep in just about any conditions, others need a more controlled sleeping environment. Be sure to visit the unit after dark to see if there are bright lights that cannot be obscured with blinds or curtains and might interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Are there an adequate number of HVAC vents to keep an even temperature in all rooms?
The heating and air conditioning system configuration for residences can vary, particularly depending on the building’s age and construction quality. Be sure there are enough vents spread throughout the unit so you don’t end up with certain rooms that are always too hot or too cold.
Are there any odors that come in through pipes or vents?
Once again, sharing common walls and mechanicals (like plumbing and air systems) with adjacent units can create issues in certain cases — particularly in older or poorly constructed buildings. Sewer gasses or other pungent odors like cigarette smoke can make for an unpleasant living environment.
Are there any plans for future expansion that could have a negative effect on your residence? (Example, obstructing your view or blocking sunlight.)
CCRC expansion is a good thing, showing the community is doing well financially and successfully attracting more and more residents. But with that growth can come growing pains for existing residents. Be sure to ask management if there are plans for any construction projects on the horizon that could directly impact the residential unit you are considering.
Are you able to decorate your porch or balcony as you choose?
Porches and balconies are a popular feature of many CCRC units, offering an enjoyable outdoor area to relax or socialize. If this is an appealing design feature for you, be sure you understand any constraints around personalizing any outdoor living spaces.
Are you responsible for any refurbishment costs upon moving in or vacating the residence?
You will want to review the contract language on this or ask your sales consultant. In some cases, the CCRC will paint the interior of the unit prior to each new resident’s move-in and will even let you select the colors. Some CCRCs will even help with hanging window treatments and wall art, all included within your contract. Others may not provide such services or may charge an extra fee for them.
Does the morning or afternoon sunlight shine too heavily into any rooms?
This is another case where you will want to visit the specific unit you are considering at different times to experience what it might be like to live there. While this particular issue might not be a deal-breaker, it might inform certain choices about window coverings.
Is there a fee to move to another residence within the community?
This is an important question to answer. Should you move into a certain unit and find it isn’t to your liking — perhaps because of one of the issues above — you need to know what your options are for moving to a different residence within the CCRC.
If you move to a less expensive residence, is there a refund of the difference in entry fees (if applicable)?
Here’s another key question that can impact your wallet. Your CCRC entry fee is based in part on the size of the residence you choose. If after move-in, you decide you don’t actually need that second bedroom, or maybe a condo is just as comfortable as a villa, your monthly fee should decrease, but want about the extra money you invested with your entry fee? In some cases, a portion or percentage of that entry fee may be reimbursable if you move to a smaller residence, but you will want to be sure you understand the terms of your contact on this topic.
>> Related: A Primer on CCRC Residency Contracts
Selecting the CCRC unit that is right for you
When choosing a CCRC residence, most people think of things like floorplan, how many bedrooms/baths it has, and maybe general location within the community. However, there are many other aspects of the living space, such as the ones in this list, that may not always be considered, but are just as important to your satisfaction.
Moving to a CCRC is an investment, both in your future security and care as well as in your current happiness. Choosing the right unit — one that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed when you are there — will help turn your new house into a happy home.
View and download our Ultimate CCRC Checklist to learn more about choosing the CCRC that is right for you.
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