Back when people actually retired and decided to lounge on the beach or stroll the golf course, Florida was the place to go. Now that “retirees” are “active adults” and many of them are still working part-time or full-time, age-restricted and age-targeted communities are springing up in unexpected places near Atlanta, Charleston, Charlotte, Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head.
While there are several factors influencing this trend, for many, the choice of where to live out their retired years is driven by their families, says Jaymie Dimbath, vice president of sales for Pulte Group for the coastal Carolinas area. Del Webb opened additional active adult communities in this area in recent years at Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, N.C.
“People like the Carolinas because it can be convenient to travel to see family and friends,” says Dimbath. “A lot of people also like the fact that there are seasons here, but we also have a mild winter, so they don’t need to think about shoveling snow.”
A lower cost of living and potential tax advantages are additional reasons the Carolinas have increasingly become a mecca for pre-retirees and retirees, says Jay Seymoure, general manager for Trilogy by Shea Homes at Lake Norman near Charlotte. Taxes are lower in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, especially when compared to Northeastern states.
“Charlotte has the advantage of being a major population center but it’s not among the top 10 largest cities, so that keeps the cost of living lower,” Seymoure says.
Whether friends and family are within driving distance or a plane flight away, the existence of big airport is a plus for buyers in Atlanta, Charlotte and Charleston.
“People want to stay active and to be able to travel and have friends and family visit them easily,” says John Manrique, vice president of marketing for Kolter Homes, developer of Cresswind communities in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. “Buyers look at a five to 10-mile radius for convenience and access to day-to-day fun, then they look at a 20-to-30-mile radius for cultural activities, continuing education, entertainment and access to an airport.”
“Half-backs” Migrating North
Many buyers in the Carolinas are what Dimbath calls “half-backs.” Half-backs are people from the Northeast and Midwest who moved to Florida, loved the lifestyle, but found it too far from their families and moved halfway back home.
“In the Carolinas, they can drive one day to see their families instead of two days,” says Dimbath. “Plus, some of them miss the seasons, so they can get a taste of that by going a little bit North.”
At the same time, these buyers can find similar amenities, lifestyles, and the low cost of living that they liked in Florida, she says.
Buyers from Florida are consistently the second or third largest group of buyers from one state at all of the Kolter Homes communities in the Carolinas and Georgia, usually right behind the number of in-state buyers, says Manrique.
Appealing Amenities for Active Adults
Each of these new hubs for active adults has a slightly different appeal because of their location, such as:
Most of the buyers at Cresswind Peachtree City or Cresswind Lake Lanier in Atlanta want to stay connected to their families in the area, says Manrique. Others are still working and like the ability to live an active adult lifestyle within commuting distance of their office. Some have migrated to the area from the Carolinas for a new job or to be close to family members working in Atlanta, Manrique added.
A number of buyers at Cresswind Charleston are from the Mid-Atlantic, attracted by the city’s cultural and historical amenities along with the waterfront, great restaurants and golf. “Charleston is a very walkable city, which appeals to a lot of buyers,” says Manrique. “We see more nonlocal buyers here because they’ve visited as tourists first.”
At Del Webb Charleston at Nexton, Dimbath says many of their buyers have family in the area or are locals who want to stay nearby. The thriving Charleston economy draws a lot of people to the area, too, she says.
As the second largest financial hub in the country, Seymoure says, many people move to Charlotte for their careers. He says Charlotte’s variety of outdoor activities appeals to younger baby boomers, plus, he says, “75 percent of major cities in the U.S. are about a two-hour flight from Charlotte.” When Trilogy at Lake Norman first opened, about half the buyers were from the Charlotte area or recent transplants. Now, about 65 percent are from out-of-state. “Some people are moving here because they like the area in general and a lot are moving here because their kids and grandkids live here,” says Seymoure.
Numerous active adult communities have opened or are under construction in South Carolina near Hilton Head. This is partially because the area has always attracted visitors. “Most of our buyers have vacationed there or even own a second home there that they sell in order to move into an active adult community,” says Dimbath about Sun City Hilton Head.
The Cresswind Myrtle Beach community is one mile from the beach and is close to numerous shopping centers and golf courses. Buyers here tend to have vacationed in the area before buying, says Manrique.
Wilmington buyers are vacationers and also people living in the area, says Dimbath. A lot of people want to live close to a beach and know their families will want to visit there, too, she says. “Our most recent communities in Sun City Hilton Head and Del Webb Wilmington are built in areas that are convenient to restaurants, shops and health care facilities, because we know buyers are looking for convenience,” says Dimbath.
Regardless of location, buyers in active adult and age-targeted communities will find similar floor plans and community amenities that meet their desire for fun in the sun.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.