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  • Lisa Jevens

Maybe you can afford a stylish retirement: Homes under $200,000

Dreaming of a home in a Chicagoland active adult community, but have less than $200,000 to spend? There are at least three affordable communities that feature new single-family homes in the $100,000s. Yes, you read that right.

Not only do these homes exist, their options may delight you. They range from detached single family homes in a Del Webb community to large duplex ranches, to high-quality manufactured homes in a 55+ community with a lake.

These homes are perfect for snowbirds with a second home elsewhere. They also make sense for retirees who don’t want to tie up all the cash from the sale of their previous home in buying another one.

“With homes this affordable and interest rates this low, buyers have the means to pay cash. But many times they take out a small mortgage and keep some of their cash to earn a higher return,” says Chris Naatz, spokesman for developer D.R. Horton. The company built Carillon at Cambridge Lakes, an active adult community that is adjacent to the all-ages Cambridge Lakes community in Pingree Grove.

What will you get in a home in the $100,000s? Generally speaking, a compact (1,000- 2,000-square-foot) home with two bedrooms, one or two baths, a modern open layout and popular amenities —think specialized storage, energy-efficient appliances, attractive woodwork and cabinetry. And of course the amenities of the active adult community, such as a clubhouse, a pool, social activities, outdoor recreation space, and lawn and snow services.

Del Webb will reveal 10 new floor plans this fall. Models will be opening at Edgewater in Elgin, Grand Dominion in Mundelein and Shorewood Glen in Shorewood. The plans have exciting things on buyers’ wish lists: more storage, universal design concepts, loft options, open layouts, and modern trends in décor, says Valerie Dolenga of the PulteGroup Inc., parent company of Del Webb. “These are great livability floor plans.

“One of the things that is gone is the old pull-down staircase to the attic storage. There is now an actual staircase from the garage,” Dolenga adds. Higher dishwashers and eye-level microwaves make the kitchen more user friendly. And two new spaces —the drop zone, and the hearth room — make their debut.

“When you come in from the garage, the drop zone is a space with hooks, cubbies, and a place for chargers. The hearth room is a space next to the kitchen and dining area, with a fireplace, wet bar, a place to read your book, a cozy space,” Dolenga explains. Exact pricing is slated for mid-October, but Dolenga says Shorewood Glen will have homes starting in the $100,000s.

Another affordable active adult option is the duplex, such as those at Carillon at Cambridge Lakes. Duplexes look and feel like single-family detached homes, with one shared wall, typically on the garage side.

“The advantage of these homes is you get a lot of home for the money,” says Naatz. According to the community website, the largest model, the Beethoven, is 1,716 square feet. It has two bedrooms, two baths, with a separate dining room, den, breakfast room, laundry room and optional sunroom. The base price is $195,490.Duplexes are also popular because people like the one level living and the ranch design. “When you can buy a well-designed, affordable home in a community that has amenities and an active adult lifestyle, that is the best of both worlds,” Naatz says.

“We have homes ready to go at different stages, so there is always one ready to move into,” he adds. Another hot trend in retirement living is manufactured homes. These homes offer size, quality and amenities unheard of in years past. Pre-manufactured homes are not mobile homes. They are homes built in a factory and transported to a permanent lot with a poured concrete foundation. Then the attached garage is built afterwards.

Buyers get to choose finishes and amenities just like in a regular site-built home. Amenities reflect current trends, such as energy efficiency, customized cook’s kitchens, open floor plans and more.

Saddlebrook Farms in Grayslake is a leader in the manufactured home 55+ community concept. Founder Chuck Farano even purchased his own home building factory so Saddlebrook Farms homes could be customized with the quality and amenities Midwest buyers expect, spokeswoman Mary Ann Andersen says. There are eight models to choose from, ranging from 1,169 to 1,967 square feet, and starting at $129,900.The newest model, the Evergreen, is a two-bedroom, two-bath home with a two car garage starting at $139,900. The name reflects energy efficiency and affordability, says Farano.

The home features an optional front screened porch with ceiling fan, and a modern great room and open kitchen with island. There are walk-in closets in each bedroom, and a walk-in shower in the master bath.

Saddlebrook Farms features a private natural setting with wooded paths, winding streets and 120 acres of lakes where residents can fish and enjoy scenic views. A community lodge has the traditional feel of a lodge with parties, clubs and card playing, Farano says.

If your budget is tight when shopping for a home, keep in mind that the home’s base price is calculated before any upgrades. Be sure to ask what is included and what is not. And don’t forget to include any monthly community fees as well, which average about $100-$200 per month, but can be more depending on the services included and the type of home you buy.

Originally published in the Chicago Tribune Prime Time senior living section on October 11, 2013.

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