Luxury Real Estate

By Carol Tisch Photography by Matt McCourtney March 1, 2011

Retire Your Way

Everyone knows that retirees are younger, healthier and more active than ever before. But consider the 80 million baby boomers who’ll be retiring in the next decade to the tune of 300 per hour, 8,000 per day! The most independent, self-reliant (and most active) generation in recent history won’t be ready for retirement communities for at least 10 years after they exit the workforce. Yet they’re already impacting an industry that is wooing their aging parents with independent living models that mimic five-star resorts, completely obliterating the stereotypical notion of old folks’ homes.

Boomers are surfing the net, analyzing housing and healthcare options, scheduling visitor tours with Mom and Pop, and finding that Sarasota offers some of the nation’s most attractive living opportunities for older retirees.

“The field has evolved: We’re already providing the social connectivity, active lifestyle and stimulating environment baby boomers are going to want. But they’re even more into health and fitness than their parents are. And they’re more casual. They won’t be wearing jackets to dinner,” says Gordon Okawa, vice president of marketing and community affairs at Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay.

Typical newcomers to Plymouth Harbor and other CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities) in Sarasota are affluent couples, in good health, and ranging from their mid 70s to early 80s. Indeed, CCRCs are beefing up their resort-style amenities to attract more 70-somethings and thereby bring down the average resident’s age, which is now 82 (including independent living through nursing care). That average holds true nationally as well as throughout Sarasota. “It’s always better to come in while you can enjoy the independent living aspects of a retirement community,” Okawa says. 

Unfortunately, old stereotypes die hard, and many seniors still fear leaving their homes, according to Steve DuToit of Keller Williams. A credentialed SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) realtor, DuToit has focused on helping seniors sell their homes and move into retirement communities in the Sarasota area for 35 years. In his experience, elderly clients continue to confuse today’s independent living communities with old-style nursing homes.

“People don’t recognize that these [CCRCs] are like being in a country club for the rest of your life. I tell them the last chapter of your life really can be one of the best, but if you procrastinate you won’t have the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful recreational and educational opportunities of independent living. By the time many of them are ready emotionally, they may physically be in need of assisted living,” DuToit says.

 And there’s the rub. Though CCRCs generally include a life continuum of specialized care, only residents who are capable of living independently are accepted. That’s why Lisa Snyder, director of life planning at The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch, cautions, “If you don’t plan ahead, you end up managing a crisis. Start early.” Actuarial data as well as health and financial assessments of each client determine the type of contract(s) the couple will be offered at CCRCs. Those in good health obviously have more flexibility and contract choices available to them.

Florida law defines CCRCs as “facili-ties that furnish shelter and either nursing care or personal services upon payment of an entrance fee pursuant to a contract.” They are 501C (3) not-for-profits, so if you outlive your assets through no fault of your own, you will never be forced to leave. The Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) authorizes and monitors CCRCs’ operations and determines their financial status and management capabilities. The Agency for Health Care Administration licenses the facilities in the communities that provide healthcare to residents.

Our state has some of the most extensive consumer protections in the country for CCRCs, and Florida law is often used as a model for other states that regulate such communities. Still, the fee structures are difficult to grasp. It may take three or four appointments, sometimes with grown children involved, before everything clicks. Prospective residents can also contact the Florida Department of Financial Services for a handbook designed to guide them on how to select a community and what questions to ask when reviewing contracts.

In a nutshell, most CCRCs require one-time entry fees and charge a monthly fee that covers rent, maintenance services, meals and future nursing care expenses. There are three types of CCRC entrance-fee contracts: extensive care contracts (Full Life), modified continuing care contracts (Modified Life Care), and fee-for-service contracts. Fees and monthly charges are also determined by square footage of the home or apartment and the fee refund plan chosen by the resident. 

Sarasota also has rental CCRCs and a number of other options, including the Sarasota Bay Club, a retirement community where ownership is structured as a condominium purchase. Residents choose from a variety of purchase plans and club services. Roskamp & Patterson, the management company, buys back the condo in all cases and resells it. Owners or their estates are guaranteed anywhere from 50 percent of their investment to 100 percent plus appreciation, depending on the plan they choose. All healthcare is purchased separately, and the campus includes the Inn at Sarasota Bay Club, a healthcare and nursing facility specializing in rehabilitative, restorative and respite services.

Once the affordability of an over-62 community is determined, the choice invariably comes down to lifestyle. “Most couples want a continuation of their current lifestyle. If they love the arts, they want to continue going to the theater and concerts and be close to downtown. If they’re active in golf or tennis, they want that. The stages at Plymouth Harbor go from an active lifestyle where they continue their arts and civic involvement to a more home-based social life with a tighter circle of friends,” Okawa explains.

Kathryn Cooper, director of sales at Sarasota Bay Club, says owners there are heavily focused on the arts. “A lot of the attraction is being right downtown near all the cultural events. They tell us easy living and security are key. But our residents also want great food. That’s a really big piece: Everything is organic and locally grown. We fly in fresh fish every day,” she says.

Both Plymouth Harbor and Sarasota Bay Club feature condo-style living with water views. At Plymouth Harbor, independent living apartments can be customized to the owner’s needs and wants. Plans are under way to add more casual dining (baby boomers, take note), including patio service. The resort-style heated outdoor swimming pool visually merges with the bay, and there are even a couple of boat slips at the edge of the property overlooking the Sarasota Yacht Club.

The Smith Care Center, Plymouth Harbor’s skilled nursing and rehabilitation center, was recently awarded the Governor’s Gold Seal of Excellence, one of just 18 of the 700 nursing homes in the state of Florida to receive this distinction. (Sarasota’s Sunnyside Village and Bay Village also received the prestigious award.)

The Glenridge has its own performing arts center, separate tennis courts and a fitness pavilion with swimming pool. Here the walking trails, lakes and landscaping are reminiscent of luxury country club communities, and members have privileges at nearby Prestancia’s tournament-quality golf course. Named Best Retirement Community in Sarasota for 2010 by the readers of Sarasota Magazine, The Glenridge also received two marketing awards this year from NARA (National Active Retirement Association).

“When considering a move to a retirement community, more and more prospective members say the warmth and friendliness of the environment are just as important as the residences, the amenities and the healthcare,” says Snyder. Sarasota’s communities offer open houses and face time with resident ambassadors to help ensure the best decision in this active new chapter of life.


What’s on the Horizon?

Baby boomers will be retiring in stages, according to local realtors, and many show signs that they will want to age in place. “We’re seeing a trend to smaller homes with great accommodations for parents, like the courtyard homes in Lakewood Ranch and University Park,” says DuToit, who recently listed another multiple-generation option, a Shilo Road home with completely separate guest house at $389,500. “A number of seniors who refinanced homes they owned free and clear during the real estate boom did so either to help buy their kids a home, or because they got caught up in the excitement of investing in real estate. There are a lot of 75- to 80-year-olds with sad stories about losing their homes. Since the entrance fees at CCRCs usually come from the proceeds of the sale of a home, they now have to live with their adult children,” DuToit says. 

One new option capturing the attention of Sarasota’s senior living industry as well as consumers is Villa Grande,

an independent living over-62 rental community. Scheduled to open this month (in March), it’s the first in Sarasota and the second in the state. According to Connie Belmont, retirement living leasing specialist, a 940-square-foot unit will rent for $1,995 a month for a one-year lease. “It’s not assisted living, but it’s not a simple apartment either,” she says.

A multimillion-dollar clubhouse features a full-time fitness and wellness director and social programs. Continental breakfast will be served daily, and brunch on Sundays.

“People now live independently until their 90s, and our philosophy is there’s no need to spend the money on an entrance fee—or on healthcare until you need it. We’ve had a great response from people who want to invest their money and pass it on to their heirs,” Belmont says.


Buy into a Lifestyle

A sampling of retirement options.

Arts, Culture and Bay Views

Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay is the CCRC of choice for those who want waterfront condo living with a full continuum of life care. Big draws are proximity to the downtown arts scene and a campus replete with concierge, restaurants, theater, fitness center, art studio, indoor and outdoor heated pools. The mid-rise garden residences and the high-rise tower apartments can be customized. Entrance fees start at $125,000 and monthly fees start at $1,700. Contact: (941) 365-2600.

Country Club Lakes and Trails

The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch is a CCRC on 90 acres with independent living in country-club style. With architecture in the tradition of Addison Mizner, the community has 306 residences, including single-family club homes, mid-rise condos and private low-rise residences adjacent to the Village Commons. With a full complement of amenities and a continuum of life care services, entrance fees start at about $200,000 and monthly fees start at about $2,400 per month. Contact: (941) 552-5300.

Downtown Condo Lifestyle

Sarasota Bay Club residents enjoy the cultural benefits of downtown living with staff and services focused on making seniors’ lives easier and more secure. Luxe condos are purchased for cash and the owners’ investment is guaranteed with choices of payback contracts. At additional cost, owners have access to customized in-home aging care services and The Inn at Sarasota Bay Club for recuperative care. A one-bedroom unit starts at $400,000 to $500,000 with monthly fees from $2,045. Contact: (941) 552-3284.

Age in Place in Laurel Park 

Listed by Charlotte Hedge of the Hedge Team with Signature Sotheby’s, this new 3,022-square-foot Mediterranean-style home comes with separate 600-foot garage with upstairs apartment that is ideal as a granny flat. Allowing kitchens in separate cottages, Laurel Park is the only neighborhood in Sarasota zoned for two-family living. Originally listed at $1,149,000, this short sale is a steal at $649,000. Contact: (941) 308-6547.

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