Disclaimer: Links and mentions of Arizona retirement communities in this post do not constitute an endorsement. Price ranges, services, and amenities can change — please visit a community’s website for the most up-to-date information. HomeLight always recommends doing your own research to determine which community destination is best for your situation.
According to Forbes, Arizona ranked No. 7 of the best states for older Americans making a move to retire or downsize as they prepare for retirement. GOBanking Rates found that the Arizona cities of Phoenix, Glendale, Tucson, and Mesa are suitable places where older adults can live well on as little as $2,500 per month in retirement.
Of the estimated 234,000 Americans who relocated for retirement in 2022, 5.9% chose Arizona as their destination, making the Grand Canyon state the No. 4 destination in the country. This influx of mature residents plays a role in the demand for retirement communities among seniors looking for a lifestyle that fits their golden-years goals and financial resources, which is especially important in the current high-inflation economy.
About 17% of Arizonans are aged 65 and older, which is about 1,241,577 out of the state’s approximately 7,303,398 people.
In this post, we’ve consulted with a top real estate agent in Arizona, Erin Gantman, who’s a Buyer’s Specialist on the Jason Penrose team, and has extensive experience helping seniors relocate. We’ve researched some of the best retirement communities in terms of lifestyle, location, affordability, and safety.
To compile this list, we looked at:
- Location of each community
- Access to quality healthcare
- Nearby desirable amenities and services
- Established and enforced age restrictions (such as 55+ or other)
- Type of retirement community (active adult, independent living)
- Ratings and reviews
- Homebuyer interest
- Overall community maintenance
- Proximity to destinations of interest
- Community fees
- Top real estate agent recommendations
What is a retirement community?
A retirement community is a residential housing neighborhood, subdivision, or complex designed specifically for older adults who are able to live independently and care for themselves. Many planned retirement communities give mature residents a sense of belonging and offer a way of life typically enjoyed by older adults that’s not always found in regular residential neighborhoods. Some communities offer recreational, social, and educational activities and events. These communities differ from assisted living facilities, which are designed for older adults who need professional care.
A retirement community is not necessarily exclusively for retired individuals. The stigma that may be perceived by the term “retirement community” does not do justice to what can be available and the lifestyle and benefits of an age-restricted community. Retirement communities with designations such as “55+” are a popular choice for Americans making a move to retire, downsizing as they prepare for retirement, or just to simplify their lives.
These communities typically do not provide care services but may be conveniently located near healthcare facilities and other desirable amenities.
What are the most popular retirement cities in Arizona
According to 55 Places, some of the most popular or best cities in Arizona for retired or older Americans include:
- Green Valley
- Sierra Vista
- Oro Valley
Why seniors choose Arizona
There are many reasons why Arizona is an appealing destination for Americans making a move to retire or to downsize in anticipation of retirement. Some of the most notable include:
- Low taxes (helpful for stretching Social Security, pensions, IRAs, etc.)
- Great weather compared to cold or very humid climates
- Lower cost of living compared to many states
- Number of adults aged 55 and older
- Outdoor activities for exercise, recreation, and access to nature (hiking, parks, nature preserves)
- Cultural or entertainment opportunities, attractions, festivals, and other events
- Access to quality healthcare
- Lower seasonal allergies
- An abundance of golf courses
- In many parts of the state, you don’t have to shovel snow
- Opportunity to live closer to family who have also moved to Arizona
Our picks for some of the best retirement communities in Arizona
There are a number of outstanding retirement communities in Arizona. Based on the parameters we listed above, here are some we feel are worth considering:
Phone number: 520-451-4569
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Price range: high-$100K to high $900K
About: Situated at the base of the Catalina Mountains, Saddlebrooke Tucson offers outdoor adventures as well as the comforts and amenities of a popular city. Built in 1989, the community has over 5,000 single-family homes with a variety of floor plans including luxury options.
Ratings and reviews: The development received an average of 4.4 stars out of 17 reviews on 55 Places. Many noted being happy with the array of amenities, fabulous views, and non-cookie-cutter architecture.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions: The community offers a DesertView Performing Arts Theater, fitness center, sports facilities, a pool, and a golf club. The area also provides hiking opportunities, several churches, a market, and a dog park. Popular nearby attractions include the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, Saguaro National Park, the intimate Reid Park Zoo, and the Pima Air & Space Museum, one of the largest non-government-funded aviation and space museums in the world.
Phone number: 866-818-6068
Location: Oracle, Arizona
Price range: low-$200K to low-$700K
About: Saddlebrooke Ranch is a quiet community in the Sonoran Desert surrounded by mountains. It’s geared toward those older adults seeking a peaceful setting close to nature. It’s a gated community with a roving patrol and neighbors described as friendly.
Ratings and reviews: Saddlebrooke Ranch holds a 3.8-star rating on 55 Places. Reviewers commented on being happy with the community, having robust activity options, a clubhouse, and peace and quiet.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions: A newer development, Saddlebrook Ranch offers a 37,000-square-foot clubhouse, a pool with sundeck, and salon services. There are a couple of grocery stores nearby, a movie theater, and spiritual centers. It’s about 12 miles from Oracle State Park and 14 miles from the Oro Valley Farmers Market.
Phone number: 623-561-4600
Location: Sun City, Arizona
Price range: $100K – high-$500K
About: Sun City was the first 55+ community in Arizona and in the entire U.S. Founded in 1960, it now has over 27,000 homes, making it its own mini-city in the greater Phoenix area. It’s known for strong property values, low HOA fees, a wide variety of home designs, and ample activities.
Ratings and reviews: Sun City earned an average 5-star rating on 55 Places. Reviewers comment that they love the community and neighbors, with activities available to suit everyone. Though not a gated community, many say that it feels safe.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions: Sun City is a golf lovers’ paradise. It has the most golf holes per capita of any adult community in the country. Amenities include seven recreation centers, restaurants, fitness centers, pools, sports facilities, a woodworking shop, and hobby rooms. It’s near a performing arts theater, a grand ballroom, and has an onsite hospital. It’s about six miles from the Coyote Lakes Golf Club and 11 miles from the Wildlife World Zoo Aquarium & Safari Park.
Del Webb at Dove Mountain
Phone number: 520-253-7577
Location: Marana, Arizona
Price range: low-$200K to mid-$400K
About: Located 25 miles north of downtown Tucson, Del Webb at Dove Mountain is nestled in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains. Built in 2014, the development has about 600 single-family homes ranging in size from 1,573 square feet to 2,514 square feet.
Ratings and reviews: Reviews at 55 Places show that Dove Mountain has earned 3.3 out of 5 stars. One reviewer described the community as a “piece of heaven,” praising the golf course and modern, clean facilities. Another commented on the convenient location in proximity to the airport, Tucson VA medical center, and shopping.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions: Dove Mountain amenities include a 14,000-square-foot Saguaro Recreation Center, fitness center, and sports facilities. Residents can also enjoy the local nightlife, Catalina State Park, and the Ritz Carlton Golf Club nearby. It’s also a little over 14 miles from the Saguaro National Park.
Phone number: 800-795-4663
Location: Goodyear, Arizona
Price range: low-$200K to low-$900K
About: Located between the White Tank Mountains, Estrella Mountain Park, and Phoenix, Pebblecreek has 6,100 single-family and attached homes and is marked by a country club lifestyle. Founded in 1993, Pebblecreek offers both new and pre-owned homes with a variety of ranch-style floor plans.
Ratings and reviews: Reviewers on 55 Places gave Pebblecreek an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars. Some commented on moving to the community from other states and being pleasantly surprised by the surroundings and quality construction. Some younger residents and visitors also had very positive experiences at Pebblecreek.
Noteworthy nearby amenities or attractions: The development has a 47,000-square-foot Eagle’s Nest Clubhouse amenity complex that includes a grand ballroom, library, fitness center, and auditorium. There’s also a Creative Arts Center at Eagle’s Nest, which is located just 20 miles from Phoenix. It’s about 28 miles from the Brass Armadillo Antique Mall and 10 miles from Corral West Horse Adventures.
How can I find a retirement community near me?
There are many other retirement communities in Arizona. One way to see your options is to search the internet with phrases such as, “retirement communities near me” or “55 and older communities near me.” Check ratings, reviews, and comments posted on the Better Business Bureau site, Google Reviews, and industry websites.
Another way to find a quality retirement community near you is to consult a top real estate agent in your area. An experienced agent who knows your market can provide you with valuable insights into community characteristics such as crime rates, affordability, home construction quality, and the reputation of the governing association.
10 questions to ask before you buy a home in a retirement community
Here are 10 important questions to ask before you commit to purchasing a home in a retirement community.
1. Will I own the home or is this a lease community?
This may seem like it would be obvious, but when it comes to retirement communities, there can be a wide range of offerings, including rental properties, condominiums, townhomes, single-family houses, and patio homes. Before you get too excited about a particular property, dig a bit further into the details to find out if it’s for sale or for lease. In addition, be sure to find out all of the potential hidden costs that might come with the deal.
For example, Gantman says that retirement communities in the Phoenix area tend to have capital improvement fees that can be about $2,500 or as much as $4,000, and go toward the HOA’s general fund.
“Arizona has a really large HOA presence,” says Gantman. “It’s something to think about because it goes toward the final costs of purchasing and every community is different.”
2. What are the community rules?
Most active adult communities have a set of rules that must be followed. These might include:
- Children and grandchildren restrictions
- Pets (Limits on how many, allowable breeds and sizes)
- Parking (number of cars, where, RVs, boats)
- Guests or visitors (numbers, length of time, etc.)
- Exterior paint colors
- Landscaping or planting restrictions
- Dress codes in public areas
- Exterior and yard decorations
- Lawn maintenance enforcement
- Renting (limitations or restrictions)
- Renovation/improvement restrictions
- Noise (daytime and nighttime decibel allowances)
3. What are your new neighbors like?
It’s a subjective question but important to ask. See if you can get a sense from the sales team if the general culture of the place is in line with your personality, interests, and values. You could also ask to meet or attend an activity session to see if you mesh with the residents. In general, you’ll want to know that people actually participate in the activities offered.
4. Are there plans for the adjacent property?
You may be looking at a newer retirement community that’s not fully developed yet. As such, your home might be surrounded by vacant lots or empty land. Find out what the plans are for those parcels. If you find out that a clubhouse will be constructed next door, that may or may not be an appealing revelation. Keep in mind that there may actually be multiple vacant parcels near you that aren’t delineated. Be sure to ask about the full scope of surrounding development and how it will affect your own property in terms of noise, construction disturbances, possible drainage issues, and scenery obstructions.
5. What activities do you offer and how often?
One of the primary reasons that older adults choose retirement communities is the social connections that come with being in proximity to their contemporaries. Retired individuals generally have more free time to pursue hobbies and enjoyment. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that the community you choose has the type of activity programming that appeals to you on a schedule that fits the lifestyle you want.
6. Is the community financially sound?
Before you buy a home in a retirement community, ask to see financial reports to make sure that the development isn’t on shaky financial ground or headed for bankruptcy. This is important because it could affect your own property values as well as influence the quality of maintenance and amenity offerings.
7. Is the community located near amenities like grocery stores, hospitals, and shopping?
One of the most important aspects of deciding on the retirement community is determining if the surrounding community meets your needs. Some are located near cities of varying sizes while others are in more rural areas which might mean you’ll have to drive more to get to desired destinations. For more on this, see our “Check out the community” section below this set of questions.
8. Is there a reserve fund for maintenance?
Also known as a sinking fund, reserve funds are set aside to make sure that the development remains well-maintained, such as common areas and landscaping. Again, strong property values depend on the general upkeep of the area, and if management can’t foot the bill things could deteriorate.
9. What other projects belong to this developer?
Research the builder and ask for references to get a better sense of their track record. Discover the developer’s other projects and see what locations, homes, and amenity offerings seem the best for your situation. Problems at one retirement community could creep up at another and become your problem.
10. Is the governing association easy to work with?
You will want a community board with a proven track record of working together and finding solutions. If you discover a dysfunctional board led by power-hungry or inept individuals, it may prove to be the cause of great angst and can harm the unity of the entire community. So, ask a number of different residents what their experience has been. Check with your real estate agent. Find out if the board and its members are competent, effective, and civil. One free resource to research your association or HOA is communityassociations.net.
Check out the community around the community
Vetting the retirement community with the 10 questions above will help you uncover crucial insights into what life might be like within the boundaries of those neighborhoods, but you will want to look beyond the front gates.
To truly identify the best retirement community for you, you should also research the history, reputation, culture, and amenities available in the surrounding host city or town. Find out what the area has to offer that can improve or enhance your retirement years.
- How far away are the nearest hospital and other medical facilities?
- What are the safety and crime rates of the surrounding city or town?
- How easy is it to access major highways and commuting routes?
- Is it located directly on a busy, noisy highway?
- How far is the nearest airport and what direct flights are offered?
- Do planes from the airport fly directly over the community and create noise pollution?
- Is it easy to drive around the area and travel to visit family and friends outside the community?
- Is there a variety of conveniences nearby such as restaurants, banks, shopping, or grocery stores?
- Is there a dog park, veterinarian, or groomer nearby?
- Is there a bus route, shuttle, or commuter rail that serves the area?
- Are there nearby churches or places of worship that fit your beliefs?
- Are there undesirable and noisy businesses or manufacturing facilities nearby?
- Are there connecting bike paths or walking/hiking trails that are maintained?
Q&A: More tips about retirement communities in Arizona
What is the largest retirement community in Arizona?
Sun City is the largest with more than 27,000 homes.
Are there any pitfalls to living in Arizona retirement communities that buyers should be aware of?
Gantman says that some of the state’s retirement communities have aging properties and there’s a trend of property owners finding that their sewage systems are in need of replacement. It’s a red flag because sewers aren’t necessarily covered during a standard home inspection process unless the buyer or agent knows to specifically ask about it. Furthermore, it’s a big ticket item in the same cost league as roof, foundation, or electrical repairs that could make for an unpleasant surprise.
Should you work with real estate agents who specialize in helping seniors?
Gantman says that when it comes to retirement communities, not all agents are experts. Working with an agent who’s knowledgeable about the nuances of Arizona’s retirement communities is important to a successful property purchase.
“It’s always good to interview three agents who are familiar with these communities,” says Gantman. “Interview in advance to find the agent who has your best interest at heart.”
Additionally, there is a specialty certification that agents can receive from The National Association of Realtors to become a Seniors Real Estate Specialist or SRES. An SRES agent will be well-versed in the areas of retirement, downsizing, and more. To learn more, see our post: Should You Hire an Agent Who Is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist?
When should I visit a prospective retirement community?
To get the clearest picture of how you might connect with a retirement community, it’s best to visit at different times of the year. You may love an area you visited on vacation in the fall, but that does not mean you will like it in the winter. Drive around the area to get a better sense of the surroundings during different times of the year as well.
Remember, you are making long-term retirement plans, so multiple visits are worth the time and investment. It’s also valuable to consider several different retirement locations and compare the benefits and drawbacks.
When you visit, be sure to ask if particular amenities or activities that appeal to you are provided by the community and ask to tour the relevant facilities.
What is the 80/20 rule in some retirement communities?
Some retirement communities are designated as 55+ and have different restrictions on who can live there. Many aren’t aware that not all residents of 55+ communities necessarily have to be at least 55. To be compliant with the Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA) and federal Fair Housing laws, 55+ communities generally apply the 80/20 rule that stipulates at least 80% of units must be occupied by one person who’s 55 and up. The remaining 20% of households can be available for those of other age groups, if the community chooses.
Find the right retirement community in the Grand Canyon State
With its natural beauty, affordable living, and warmer winters, Arizona ranks as one of the most popular retirement states in the country, second only to Florida.
Home to many retirement communities including the largest in the country, Arizona has ample options for your next home in a community filled with activities, amenities, and like-minded neighbors. With long stretches of empty highway weaving together the state’s major metros, make sure that your community of choice is located in an area that meets your needs, and ask the questions referenced in this article to instill confidence in your home-buying decision.
As you weigh your options, check out HomeLight’s free Agent Match platform to get connected with an SRES agent or a top-performing agent who can steer you toward a great 55+ community in Arizona.
Header Image Source: (jjbooma / Depositphotos)