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Ready to Retire?

Posted: 
November 15, 2013

by Vib Reid

If you are retired or planning to retire, if you are thinking about selling your home and wondering what’s next, you may want to take a closer look at a landlease community. “Purchasing a home in a landlease community offers a whole range of benefits that can be very attractive to people as they move into this next phase of life,” says Bill Wells, Senior Vice President, Development, Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities Inc. Parkbridge is Canada’s largest owner, operator and developer of residential landlease communities.

“Many purchasers in our Retirement Lifestyle Communities are people whose kids have moved out. They find themselves rattling around a family home that is getting too big and takes too much time and often too much money to keep up. Also, their old neighbourhood has often changed as well; it may be built up, new people have moved in—the street is not like it used to be.” “Living in a professionally managed landlease community is for many the best of all worlds. For one thing, the financial benefits can be significant, as people don’t have to buy their lot. Also, you still own your home, but are free from some of the responsibilities that go along with homeownership. And you are a member of a real community!”

Lifestyle

According to Bill, lifestyle is a big factor in the appeal of landlease communities. Privately owned and managed, landlease communities are designed to have a different “feel” and pace of life. Homes have front porches and smaller front yards that encourage social interaction—a wave, a ‘good morning’, a friendly chat—and traffic is limited to your neighbours. Dale Ball, President of the Canadian Manufactured Housing Institute and a community owner in Langley, British Columbia, agrees: “A landlease community fosters a culture of care and looking after our own, even for those who may not be socially inclined. If someone doesn’t open their curtains one day, neighbours will notice and they will call, knock on the door to check that everything is okay, or call security. If someone gets injured, for instance, neighbours will mow the lawn or bring dinner.” This sense of community is important as people grow older. “The longer you can stay in your home, the better for you and for society,” Dale notes. “Landlease communities can help keep people out of seniors’ homes longer.” The range of health and social activities in a retirement or adult lifestyle community varies according to the community and its residents. Newer communities usually have walking trails, and other outdoor/indoor sports amenities. A recreational centre is the meeting point for residents for potluck suppers, classes, book clubs, and more—these are typically coordinated by the residents themselves. Each community fosters its own personality,” says Bill. Residents often comment that they have made more friends in their first year living in the community than in the previous 30 years. However, Bill is quick to point out “you don’t have to be gregarious to live in our communities, but the opportunity is there to get involved if you wish.” Many of the people in retirement lifestyle communities are still working full-time or part-time.

Economics

Downsizing into a landlease community can put you ahead of the game financially. Your purchase price will be substantially reduced since the cost of the land is not part of the equation, and you may be able to use some of the equity from the sale of your previous home for travel or other purposes. Or you may want to splurge a bit and get the extra, luxurious features you have always wanted in a home but were not able to afford before. Either way, it means greater choice at a time when you really want to enjoy your life. True, you have to pay a home-site fee for as long as you own the home. However, fee increases are governed by provincial regulations, so you can plan ahead and budget for the long term with confidence. Whether you buy an existing home or have one built, keep in mind that newer homes are energy efficient, further allowing you to control your costs and manage possible rising energy costs in the future. As a rule, the homes are factory-built offsite and most often installed by the community owner. In addition, the vast majority of homes in a landlease community are single storey with open layouts and easy movement through the house. If someone in your household ends up with mobility challenges, you don’t have to undertake expensive renovations to make the house accessible.

Thoughts for the future

There is little doubt about the growing interest in landlease communities and their ability to offer an affordable, enjoyable lifestyle option—not only for older Canadians as they retire, but for Canadian families, singles and couples at all ages and stages of life. Significant investments in developing and re-developing communities bear witness to this. Yet, municipalities often “don’t get it”, according to Dale Ball. “Municipalities are scared off by outdated, but ingrained ideas about landlease communities,” he notes. “In Langley, for instance, no new landlease community has been approved since the early 1980s. Yet, when looking at the figures, municipalities tend to do well financially with landlease communities, even ahead of conventional land development, due to such factors as taxation and community owners’ responsibility for road services.” Rules, regulations and practices vary across the country, but as more and more baby boomers retire—and the last of them will turn 65 a little after 2030—the need for a variety of housing options is growing. Landlease community living is clearly one of those options.

Facts about landlease communities

Definition: A landlease community is a development where residents own their home and rent the lot or “home site” where it is located from the landowner, who often provides community infrastructure, amenities and services.

Size

Landlease communities vary in size, from less than 50 home sites to several hundred sites. They are generally found in suburban areas.

Types

Different types of landlease communities may appeal to different age groups and lifestyles with a range of health, sports or social amenities aimed at retirees, pre-retirees, or young families, for instance.

Residents

Landlease communities attract a very broad cross-section of people of varying age, background, employment and income.

Development standards

Because they are privately owned and not designed for “drive-through” traffic by non-residents, landlease communities may differ from typical developments with regard to density, layout and road design. The result is a calm, pedestrian friendly, neighbourly environment.

Mobility of homes

In theory, all homes in a landlease community may be moveable. In practice, however, many homes are never moved, and may include a full basement.

Cost of site rental

Rental fees may vary in accordance with the services and amenities offered, or the geographic location—when comparing different communities, check what’s included in the fees.

Number of communities in Canada

Canadian Manufactured Housing Institute (CMHI) data shows there were more than 1,400 landlease communities across Canada in 2009, with approximately 350 in British Columbia, 275 in Alberta and 250 in Ontario.

Number of homes in Canada

More than 150,000 homes are located in Canada’s landlease communities, with approximately 33,000 in each of British Columbia and Alberta, and 29,000 in Ontario. (Source: CMHI, 2009.)

ASK AND COMPARE – FINDING THE RIGHT COMMUNITY

Before you begin your search

What type of community do you want to live in—e.g. adult lifestyle or a mixture of residents?

  • What amenities would you like: green areas, bike paths, clubhouse, etc.?
  • Proximity to services—hospitals, shopping, entertainment, etc.?
  • How much space do you need—inside and out, e.g. size of living areas, number of bedrooms?

Once you have narrowed it down, look at specific communities

What sizes of lot are available, and will those accommodate your needs (house, deck, possibly a shed)?

  • Who are the residents living in the community? What do they say about it? (Walk around and talk with people.)
  •  In detail, what amenities and activities does the community offer? (Take a tour, read bulletin boards and newsletters.)
  • Is the community well maintained—roads, lawns, flowerbeds, buildings, and so on?

Community guidelines

First of all, does the community have a set of guidelines for residents? (Get a copy and read it through, before making any decisions about buying into a community.)

  • Are there restrictions on who can live in the community? On pets?
  • What are the restrictions regarding size, height, type, colours and materials used in homes?
  • Can you make modifications to your home, such as a wheelchair ramp, if needed?
  • Are there restrictions on what can be parked in the driveway? Is there visitor parking onsite? Or street parking offsite?
  • Restrictions on fencing? Noise?

The lease

How long is the lease term?

  • What’s the cost of leasing, and what’s included in the payment?
  • Specifically, who pays for water and sewer, property taxes, and so on?
  • Are there additional associated costs: e.g. garbage or snow removal surcharges?
  • What can you expect regarding rent increases—frequency, process, and so on? (You can also check local or provincial rent control regulations.)
  •  Will the landowner sign an Assignment of Lease Consent Agreement with your lender, if needed?
  • Will the community permit you to sublet your home? What happens if you want sell your home—i.e. can anyone list and sell it? How are potential purchasers approved for taking over your lease?

Community management

Does the community owner have a designated manager? Onsite? Offsite? How do you reach them in case of emergencies?

  • What are the owner’s responsibilities—e.g. does the owner maintain all common areas—mowing, snow removal, etc.?
  • Are they involved in residents’ activities? Organize community events?

Living assistance

Does the community provide assistance to residents if needed—lawn care, snow and garbage removal, and so on—or must residents make private arrangements?