4 Smart Questions to Ask When Looking for a Retirement Community (2017)

4 2017 Highpointe event ad

Making the move to a retirement community is a huge decision in any retiree’s life. It often involves the complicated tasks of researching to determine your needs, downsizing, preparing and selling your house, getting finances in order, packing, moving… but it’s a decision very few people regret making. Once someone experiences the worry-free lifestyle of a retirement living community, it’s hard to imagine going back to the burdens of maintaining a house and property.

When you visit a retirement community, most of the basic questions will be addressed by the admissions representative: age requirement, pet policy, what is included in your monthly fee, activities offered, parking and storage options, transportation services, payment options, etc. And while all that information is essential, it only gives a partial picture.

Below are four questions you should ask that don’t tend to come up as often and give you a clearer picture of some of the costs. These questions assume you have already visited or are scheduled to visit the community, because that is a MUST. As a matter of fact, visit a couple times. Talk to staff and residents. Ask to visit during lunch to try the food. This is going to possibly be your home – don’t ever feel uncomfortable making a request like that!

1) What does the community do with the refundable portion of my entrance fee?
Most retirement communities will apply your entrance fee to operational costs or paying off debt, which can present a problem. If the resident vacates the apartment (decides to move elsewhere, needs a higher level of care, passes away), the resident or his/her estate typically won’t receive the refundable portion of the entrance fee until the apartment is resold – which can take a long time under certain circumstances. Unfortunately, we have seen many people get burned by this practice. At Concordia, we put your entrance fee into essentially a savings account. This way, you carry no risk of losing it, and we can refund your money within 60 days. At one community that Concordia acquired, resident estates had been waiting over four years for the refundable portion of their loved one’s entrance fee. This is uncommon, but can happen at some communities.

2) What is the average annual increase in monthly fees?
Monthly fees do typically increase annually, to keep up with inflation. Most retirement communities increase monthly fees 3-5 percent each year. The Concordia standard has been only 1-3 percent annually over the last decade.

3) How many meals am I required to purchase per month, and what happens if I have a prolonged absence from my apartment?
Most retirement communities require you to purchase 25-30 meals per month in the dining room, and often at a cost of $20-25 each. Additionally, the meal requirement typically continues if you decide to spend a couple months in Florida, or need a prolonged stay in the health center for medical reasons. At most Concordia retirement communities, residents are only required to purchase 15 meals per month and are typically not required to purchase the meals if they are away from their apartment for a considerable length of time. Our meal prices vary from $9 – $16.

4) What happens if my house doesn’t sell in time for when I want to move to the community?
Many people rely on the income raised from selling their house to pay for their entrance fee. Most communities require that money up front, no questions asked. But this can present a problem for people who want to move into their retirement apartment before someone else takes it. The reality at most places is that you simply have to wait and pray – and hopefully have the patience to keep a fair asking price so you don’t lose money. At Concordia, we give residents one year, interest free, to sell their house and use the proceeds to pay their entrance fee. Certain restrictions apply, so ask the admissions counselor for details.

These are just a few of the questions to ask when looking for a retirement community. On March 18 – 19, Concordia hosted a seminar titled “Smart Questions to Ask When Looking for a Retirement Community,” led by Concordia President & CEO Keith Frndak. The events also included an update on Highpointe at Rebecca, a Concordia retirement community set to open later this year. Events are held monthly for this project. Those interested are encouraged to visit the website and sign up to become a V.I.P. to gain access to invitation-only events, priority apartment selection, pre-sale promotions and more. Click here to learn more.

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