The Beach

Today I did something I am ashamed of that I don’t do more of. I went to the beach. I dug out a hole in the sand (no, not 6’ deep), laid my beach towel down, and took a glorious late afternoon Labor Day nap.

Funny though, just before I dozed off, I was thinking of ideas for the September Carolina Dreamin’ lead article. The more I thought about it, I looked around and realized how beautiful my surroundings were and said, “I will write about the beach”.

Growing up in northern NJ, I am glad to say that I took advantage of traveling into Manhattan on a fairly regular basis. My father’s company had season tickets to the Knicks and at age 14, he allowed me and a buddy to travel into the city to see the Knicks, Rangers, Yankees, Mets, Jets or Giants games. I also saw a handful of Broadway shows, WTC’s, Empire State Building, Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park and more. But as close as it was, I never went to see the Statue of Liberty and/or a handful of other great venues near us. Isn’t that just amazing how we can live so near to a wonderful national treasure, state park, mountain range, blue ocean or historic city but rarely take advantage of it!?

So, if you live here or somewhere near a beach and or want to live close to a beach someday, here are some random practical uses for the beach:

  • Buy white shirts and blouses along with khaki pants/shorts and have a family portrait taken
  • Go Shelling!
  • Take a nice walk with your dog or husband. Ok, leave the husband home!
  • Plan a family picnic at the beach
  • Go fishing from the pier (I do this more than golf now because I lose less golf balls fishing!)
  • Learn to paint at the beach. Grab an easel, chair and a bottle of wine!
  • Fly a kite. You don’t have to be a kid to have fun like a kid.
  • Read that book you have been meaning to read for months
  • Bring a bottle of Champagne to the beach and toast to a beautiful sunset, which you can do at Brunswick County beaches for 4-5 months per year
  • Take a nap! The pounding waves put me to sleep within 5 minutes
  • Bring the grandchildren down for a day of fun. Kids LOVE the beach
  • Practice your sand trap shots!! 🙂
  • Go Surf Casting for that big one!
  • Learn to use a Paddle Board
  • Body Surf like you did on the Jersey/NY/MA/MD shore as a kid
  • Swim!!!!!!

So, my new pledge is this: I am grateful to live so close to several beautiful beaches and vow to take advantage of them more often. How about you – got anything near you that you really should take more advantage of??

Breaking Down 55 or Older Communities

Age restrictive communities have been around for years. Some folks have just had their fill of kids and don’t want to share their community with children after 5pm. In general though, children are permitted in age restrictive communities but, there are rules that must be followed.

The below pool policy for visiting grandchildren was taken directly off the website of a large adults only community in the southeast. Go ahead and read it:

What are the rules for visiting grandchildren?
Children under the age of 19 may be a guest a maximum of 90 days in a calendar year. Children must be at least 4 years old and potty-trained to use any of the pools. Children ages 4-16 years of age are welcome at all pools during children’s hours only and must be accompanied by a supervising adult (non-guest). Pool monitors are present and may answer any questions or concerns.

At a glance this really sounds ok however; the whole premise is that kids up to 19 years old must be accompanied by adults in all pools and only during times where young ones are permitted to be in the pools. Well, so much for Grandma & Grandpa headed to the pool after dinner for a quick swim with the grandchildren!

Since it would be an exhaustive search to find the correct answer, my 12+ years of working with people who are looking at Southeastern NC to retire to provides me the luxury of making an educated guess on this question: What percentage of people retiring in the southeast retire in age restrictive communities? Answer: Less than 5%, or perhaps considerably less than that.

So just what is the draw to age restrictive communities? Noise for one is the #1 driving factor, and nuisance is a strong second. To each his own and who is anyone to judge if this is the lifestyle someone chooses, correct? Again, the percentage of adults moving into these types of communities is a fraction of the retiring public.

Everyone knows that Del Webb is a branded name synonymous with age restrictive communities

_______________________________

so I found the age restrictive policies for Sun City Summerlin/Las Vegas:

55 Year Age Restriction Policy per
The FAIR HOUSING AMENDMENTS ACT of 1988 (the “Act”)
HOUSING FOR OLDER PERSONS ACT 1995: FINAL RULE
(Department of Housing and Urban Development: 24 CFR Part 100)

INTRODUCTION
The Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act) exempts “housing for older persons” from the Act’s prohibition against discrimination because of familial status. Section 807(b)(2) ( C ) of the Act exempts housing intended and operated for occupancy by persons 55 years of age or older which satisfies certain criteria HUD has adopted implementing regulations further defining the “housing for older persons” exemption at 24 CFR part 100, subpart E (Housing for Older Persons Act, hereinafter: HOPA).

There are 4 factors required for a facility to claim the 55 and older exemption:
(1) that the housing be intended and operated for persons age 55 and older; (24 CFR 100.304)
(2) that at least 80 percent of the occupied units be occupied by at least one person who is 55 years of age or older; (24 CFR 100.305)
(3) the housing facility or community must publish and adhere to policies and procedures that
demonstrate its intent to operate as housing for persons fifty-five (55) years of age or older. (24 CFR 100.306)
(4) the housing facility or community must also comply with rules issued by HUD for the
verification of occupancy. (24 CFR 100.307).

Sun City Summerlin is qualified for the exemption as a community for 55 year or older persons. The intent is stated in the Sun City Summerlin Community Association, Inc. CC&R’s (Article 4.2 (a)) and By-laws (Article 2.1) as well as by the age restriction rules adopted and enforced by the
Association. This document’s purpose… READ MORE

So does that mean that 95% of those retiring are living in communities without age restrictions? Yes, the answer is Yes however, there is an however. Since I know Brunswick County quite well, let’s do some exploring on how we have so many retirement communities here without any legal age restrictions yet, most everyone seems to be perfectly happy with the lack of policies.

There are over 20 Plantations in Brunswick County – and in case you are not aware of the marketing lingo by developers, a “plantation” is a community that has very nice amenities such as pools, tennis courts, golf course, fitness center, activities, etc. The draw to Brunswick County is weather, beaches and affordability – along with the myriad of plantations to select from.

Brunswick County historically has served various service industries, such as golf, beach, restaurants, hotels and general tourism. If you break that down, the overwhelming majority of workers in our area are hourly, and that means that their price range for a home hovers around $100,000 with both parents working (combined annual income would range from $30,000 – $50,000). We have a true absence of white collar jobs here, as there are virtually little to only a few “Class A” office buildings within the county.

The average single family home starting price in the 20+ plantations is over $200,000, and that knocks out an incredibly high percentage of young families. Therefore, since plantations are not economically feasible for so many young couples, the population of retirees dominates the landscape. And therefore the number of young children living inside these plantations is often almost zilch.

So, while we do not have official documents banning children from our public areas, streets, sidewalks and community amenities, we really don’t need them. Sure there might be a sprinkling of children in all plantations but it seems that the higher the price is of the average home, the less children you see.

As a general rule, our plantations here are grandchildren/children friendly plus, let’s unfortunately not forget about how many kids are moving back home and often with their children! And remember, you can only keep kids locked up in the house for so long! 🙂

Age restrictive communities have their place in the food chain of places to possibly retire to, so if you are averse to sharing your community with young ones, then you have some options up and down the east coast. WC Fields once said when asked “How do you like children”, to which he replied “Medium Rare, Medium Rare”. In Brunswick County, we welcome grandchildren yet we do always recommend to build your guest rooms to be comfortable BUT, not TOO comfortable! 🙂

The Humorous Side of Retiring to Florida

A Few years ago, my wife and I moved into a retirement development on Florida’s southeast coast. We are living in the “Delray/Boca/Boynton Golf, Spa, Bath and Tennis Club on Lake Fake-a-Hachee”. There are 3,000 lakes in Florida; only three are real.

Our biggest retirement concern was time management. What were we going to do all day? Let me assure you, passing the time is not a problem. Our days are eaten up by simple, daily activities. Just getting out of our car takes 15 minutes. Trying to find where we parked takes 20 minutes. It takes a half-hour in the check-out line in Wal-Mart, and 1 hour to return the item the next day.

Let me take you through a typical day: We get up at 5:00 am, have a quick breakfast and join the early morning Walk-and-Fart Club. There are about 30 of us, and rain or shine, we walk around the streets, all talking at once. Every development has some late risers who stay in bed until 6:00 am. After a nimble walk, avoiding irate drivers out to make us road kill, we go back home, shower and change for the next activity.

My wife goes directly to the pool for her underwater Pilates class, followed by gasping for breath and CPR. I put on my ‘Ask me about my Grandchildren’ T-shirt, my plaid mid-calf shorts, my black socks and sandals and go to the clubhouse lobby for a nice nap.

Before we know it, it’s time for lunch. We go to Costco to partake of the many tasty samples dispensed by ladies in white hair nets. All free! After a filling lunch, if we don’t have any doctor appointments, we might go to the flea market to see if any new white belts have come in or to buy a Rolex watch for $2.00.

We’re usually back home by 2:00 pm to get ready for dinner. People start lining up for the early bird about 3:00 pm, but we get there by 3:45 because we’re late eaters. The dinners are very popular because of the large portions they serve. We can take home enough food for the next day’s lunch and dinner, including extra bread, crackers, packets of mustard, relish, ketchup and Splenda, along with mints.

At 5:30 pm we’re home, ready to watch the 6 o’clock news. By 6:30 pm we’re fast asleep. Then we get up and make five or six trips to the bathroom during the night, and it’s time to get up and start a new day all over again.

Doctor-related activities eat up most of our retirement time. I enjoy reading old magazines in sub-zero temperatures in the waiting room, so I don’t mind. Calling for test results also helps the days fly by. It takes at least a half-hour just getting through the doctor’s phone menu. Then there’s the hold time until we’re connected to the right party. Sometimes they forget we’re holding, and the whole office goes off to lunch.

Should we find we still have time on our hands, volunteering provides a rewarding opportunity to help the less fortunate. Florida has the largest concentration of seniors under five feet and they need our help. I myself am a volunteer for ‘The Vertically Challenged Over 80.’ I coach their basketball team, The Arthritic Avengers. The hoop is only 4-1/2 feet from the floor. You should see the look of confidence on their faces when they make a slam dunk.

Food shopping is a problem for short seniors, or ‘bottom feeders’ as we call them, because they can’t reach the items on the upper shelves. There are many foods they’ve never tasted. After shopping, most seniors can’t remember where they parked their cars and wander the parking lot for hours while their food defrosts.

Lastly, it’s important to choose a development with an impressive name. Italian names are very popular in Florida. They convey world travelers, uppity sophistication and wealth. Where would you rather live: Murray’s Condos or the Lakes of Venice? There’s no difference — they’re both owned by Murray, who happens to be a cheap bastard.

I hope this material has been of help to you future retirees. If I can be of any further assistance, please look me up when you’re in Florida. I live in the Leaning Condos of Pisa in Boynton Beach.

Money: Here Today…

retirement

Money. We work hard for it and tend to spend it quickly, so when/if you retire, will you be able to control/manage your spending?

Fixed expenses are critical to understand as you head off into the land of retirement – regardless if you decide to stay home, shovel now and babysit your grandchildren or, head to the land of sun & fun. Historically, the largest part of your fixed expenses are the possibility of still having a mortgage. It’s safe to say that a good portion of the folks we work with are working hard to either eliminate and or seriously reduce their current mortgage so that they can be in a position to be debt free, thereby increasing their disposable income.

However, that scenario unfortunately isn’t in the cards for everyone.

Therefore, let’s take a look at a few major fixed expenses that you will more than likely face as you set sail for your Golden Years. In particular, we will be looking at average fixed costs if/when you live in North Carolina.

Property Taxes
This author wishes not to get into the debate about moving to a State that has a State income tax vs a State that does not have one. Uncle Sam is not biased and will get what is due him from each of us, whether it is in no state income tax and higher property taxes or vice versa. Nobody is escaping the government.

In Brunswick County, which hosts Leland, Southport, Shallotte, Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach and Calabash, everyone pays the county rate of .4425, which equates to $442.50 per $100,000 in value of your home. If you also live within one of our handful of towns that have their own tax, you could add on an additional .08 – .28 to your mil rate of .4425. For example, Shallotte town taxes are .28, so add that to .4425 and you have .7225, or $722.50 per $100,000 in assessed value. So if you owned a home in Shallotte with an assessed value of $300,000, your taxes would be approximately $2,167/year.

Insurance
With the advent of storms like Katrina and Sandy, all coastal regions on the east coast have had to increase their insurance rates so as to stuff the coffers with sufficient funds just in case. Our insurance rates have had healthy jumps over the past few years however, unless you live on the beach, our rates are still quite fair. And please remember that 95% of the homes here in Brunswick County do not require flood insurance, as you typically have to be within sight of salt water or live  near a fresh water creek that has the propensity to overflow during storms. If you do need and or opt for flood insurance here on the mainland, your annual cost is approximately $400.

A home with an assessed value of $300,000 on the mainland will pay approximately $1,600 – $2,500/year. If your home is on the beach, don’t be surprised if your total insurance costs are three times that of what folks on shore pay for their annual insurance. Please keep in mind that the majority of insurance claims after a coastal storms are from water damage due to flooding, and the overwhelming majority of Plantations to retire to are plenty far enough from the shorelines to have to worry about that type of damage.

POA/HOA Fees

Planned communities in the US typically have abundant amenities such as pools, fitness centers, walking trails, clubhouses, etc. Therefore, to pay for these on an annual basis, along with the maintenance on common grounds such as the entrance and along the roads, property owners form a Property Owners Association. The average costs here range from $800 – $1,200/year per home/property/condo. Basically, consider this your health club fee, for if you take advantage of it, you will never need to sign up to Gold’s Gym ever again!

If you live in a home here where you enjoy any of the following, these would be considering HOA (Home Owners Association) fees: Landscaping and grass cutting, group insurance rates on all the homes and exterior building maintenance.

So while you need to add these to your future fixed expenses, most of these fees are already probably part of your daily expenses, as many of you belong to health clubs, pay someone to cut the grass, pay insurance, etc.

Health Insurance
If there ever was a wild card to this group, it would be health insurance. Many of you are currently working and at least one of you have coverage offered by your employer. But what is your plan once those benefits run out?

Recently I worked with a couple that did some ballpark calculations to the cost savings of moving south. What they said is that they will be losing their current insurance when they move and will have new expenses in order to maintain the level of medical coverage they have now however, with a property tax savings of nearly $7,000/year, that savings will more than cover their health insurance premiums and the additional home insurance plus, still have enough left over to take a 7 day Caribbean Cruise.

All told, there are financial advantages to moving south, so just be sure to spend time researching all your anticipated expenses against your income. Above are four major expenses to be concerned about but please keep in mind that moving south also means no more snow removal fees, no school board assessments, cheaper gas, way fewer potholes for your car to dodge, no need to purchase winter clothes, seriously reduced dry cleaning bills and, travel expenses to the beach will be drastically less since you live here!

55 and Over?

W.C. Fields

W.C. Fields, one of America’s best one liner treasures, had some rather tasty comments on children:

  1. Children should neither be seen or heard from – ever again
  2. I like children – if the are properly cooked
  3. They are also very good with mustard

At Carolina Plantations Real Estate, we often are asked if we have any 55 and older retirement communities along the Carolina Coast. To my knowledge we have zero on the North Carolina coast. I have heard there are one or two small 55+ communities in Myrtle Beach and Del Webb has a joint down in Hilton Head.  That is all I know of – officially that is.

55 And Older Living

The majority of 55+ communities appear to be in Arizona and Florida – which makes sense because traditionally, these two locations draw a mature audience. The Carolina’s on the other hand appear to be targeting a more youthful and active group of retirees. If you are in your 50’s and 60’s, many still have a whole lot of gas remaining in their tanks including rounds of golf in their bags, morning power walks in their new sneakers, games of tennis with their rackets, trips up the river in your kayaks and many, many more neighborhood parties to attend!

To best understand if Brunswick County has any 55+ communities, one really needs to do a quick study of the economy here along the Southeastern Coast of NC. When you drive south from the Cape Fear River and downtown Wilmington towards Little River, SC, you will not see the never ending array of huge Class A office building one finds in the suburbs of DC, Atlanta, NY, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore and so on. You will though see lots and lots of Loblolly Pine trees.

Brunswick County historically is a service oriented economy. Beach hotels, rentals, golf courses, restaurants and grocery stores dot our sparse landscape. Therefore, the average person in their 20’s & 30’s seeking employment here will more than likely max out at a salary of $35,000. So, even if you have two young adults working here full-time, the best they will bring home is $70,000.

The reason why this analogy is important is because with a combined (top) income in this range, purchasing a home and living in one of the many plantations in our area is less likely – which equates to less Big Wheels on the sidewalk and babies in the pool.  Therefore, our plantations here are predominantly filled with retirees. Of course it is not to say that there are not young children in some of the higher end golf plantations, but if there are, the yellow bus has a very quick route to follow.

Our neighborhoods here love children and we don’t insist that they be removed from sight after 5 PM. However, if you were a young couple with young children, would it make a lot of sense to move into a community with mostly retirees? The many plantations here in Brunswick County only have a handful of younger children living in them. Right, wrong, good, bad, we don’t have signs at the entrance to our communities that say children not welcome or tolerated at certain times of the day or night.

The one exception to this rule of thumb in our area is Landfall – which is arguably the premiere private golf course community in Southeastern North Carolina. Landfall is located on the east side of Wilmington and is within walking distance to Wrightsville Beach. Of the 1,600 homes already built in the gated community, there are numerous young professionals who have been rather busy, as the community boasts a population of over 700 children.

If you are in need of a community with strict rules governing children, your best bet is to stay on I-95 through the Tar Heel state and don’t stop till you see orange groves or cactus fields!!