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Laguna Woods (Leisure World) Anyone?
Old 05-06-2014, 10:28 AM   #1
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Laguna Woods (Leisure World) Anyone?

We want a safe place to have a lock and go condo so we can travel once the kids are launched and we downsize. I saw a crime list that had Laguna Woods as the safest small to mid-size city in California.

The condos there are older but some sell for $135 sq foot compared to Mission Viejo at ~$300 sq ft.

I am not sure if we are ready for Leisure World, but the prices are very compelling, especially if you compare the housing price per square foot to Laguna Beach right next door.

I do not think it would cost more than $30 - 40K or so to update a 60's built 2 bedroom condo. So even with renovation costs the price is still favorable to the surrounding cities. The HOAs are reasonable on the ones that include property tax in the HOA fees. The most cost favorable ones seem to be organized as co-ops.

I saw an Eco-village video where the members grew their own food, shared cars, had solar power, and used compostable toilets, and at the end the narrator said they could live like that for $10k a person. $10k a person and you still have to grow your own food and work like the Amish? I think with a mortgage free condo we could live at Leisure World for $15K a person (plus travel costs and extras, $30K for baseline expenses), shop at Trader Joe's and go to the beach or play golf or tennis all day.

What do you think?
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Old 05-06-2014, 11:55 AM   #2
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I think I'd jump on a small condo for $135/square foot in California, especially in an ultra-safe low crime area. That sounds great. I'd be very careful in asking about condo fees and other fees, that's for sure. From what I understand, monthly fees in co-ops can be high as well. That could be a "Catch 22". Also it would be good to check on the financial stability and to check on the usual things like whether there are defaults, or major expenses coming up.

Caveat(s): I've never been to that area and I have never owned a condo.
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Old 05-06-2014, 12:32 PM   #3
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The co-op fees are around $600 month, or $7.2K a year. But a comparable condo in Mission Viejo would cost $3.6K in HOA fees and $4K in property taxes, and not include all the retirement village features like the low cost golf courses, archery ranges, stables, shuttle services, clubs, etc. I don't think we would need two cars if we lived in a self contained city-village like that. I think one car and our bikes would be enough.

To buy a new or already updated 2 bedroom condo in Laguna Beach right next door would cost ~$600K.

I would have to look into the fees more, but the monthly HOAs seem to be pretty similar across thousands of condo units.
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Old 05-06-2014, 01:14 PM   #4
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Good story about Laguna Woods on 60 Minutes last Sunday.
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Old 05-06-2014, 01:27 PM   #5
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I live just a few miles from Laguna woods. Definitely are some bargains to be had. Renovation needs in many of the older units would be well in excess of 50K. Fees are high but you get a lot for your $$, particularly as residents get older. As in most large retirement communities many of the residents have nothing better to do than complain about neighbors or search for CC&R violations. LOL. May look there myself after my current home sells.
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Old 05-06-2014, 01:32 PM   #6
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We want a safe place to have a lock and go condo so we can travel once the kids are launched and we downsize. I saw a crime list that had Laguna Woods as the safest small to mid-size city in California.

The condos there are older but some sell for $135 sq foot compared to Mission Viejo at ~$300 sq ft.

I am not sure if we are ready for Leisure World, but the prices are very compelling, especially if you compare the housing price per square foot to Laguna Beach right next door.

I do not think it would cost more than $30 - 40K or so to update a 60's built 2 bedroom condo. So even with renovation costs the price is still favorable to the surrounding cities. The HOAs are reasonable on the ones that include property tax in the HOA fees. The most cost favorable ones seem to be organized as co-ops.

I saw an Eco-village video where the members grew their own food, shared cars, had solar power, and used compostable toilets, and at the end the narrator said they could live like that for $10k a person. $10k a person and you still have to grow your own food and work like the Amish? I think with a mortgage free condo we could live at Leisure World for $15K a person (plus travel costs and extras, $30K for baseline expenses), shop at Trader Joe's and go to the beach or play golf or tennis all day.

What do you think?
This is not meant to sway your intentions, but just some thoughts and observations.

You don't sound like you are ready for a place like this with kids at home(?)..still? Seems like from your posts you are still somewhat in the rat race with family, etc.

There are tons of these places out there and will be more as the baby boomers start heading for the last round of golf and the ladies bridge roundtable. Heck, we are late 60's and would not be ready for "structured living" until later in life (but that's just us).

Maybe you should take a long look at this later?
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Old 05-06-2014, 02:22 PM   #7
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This is not meant to sway your intentions, but just some thoughts and observations.

You don't sound like you are ready for a place like this with kids at home(?)..still? Seems like from your posts you are still somewhat in the rat race with family, etc.

There are tons of these places out there and will be more as the baby boomers start heading for the last round of golf and the ladies bridge roundtable. Heck, we are late 60's and would not be ready for "structured living" until later in life (but that's just us).

Maybe you should take a long look at this later?
Our kids are in college and will graduate and have jobs before too long, and we are tired of keeping up a big money pit house. We want to explore and live outside the country for months at a time so we want an inexpensive (for California) lock and go condo in safe location.

We'd be moving there more for the safe / gated community aspect, the climate, the generally desirable location (Orange County) and the price point more than the bridge clubs. Most of the clubs we belong to now all have older members than us anyway - we don't really run into many people in our area who have retired or semi-ERed at our ages.

We could still join clubs and have activities outside of Laguna Woods whether we live in Laguna Woods or or a place like Mission Viejo, but we couldn't buy a condo in MV for $198 avg price per square foot, especially with all the recreational and sports facilities thrown in for the same HOA + property tax costs.
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Old 05-06-2014, 02:31 PM   #8
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Our kids are in college and will graduate and have jobs before too long. We want to explore and live outside the country for months at a time so we want an inexpensive (for California) lock and go condo in safe location.

We'd be moving there more for the safe / gated community aspect, the climate, the generally desirable location (Orange County) and the price point more than the bridge clubs. Most of the clubs we belong to now all have older members than us anyway - we don't really run into many people in our area who have retired or semi-ERed at our ages.

We could still join clubs and have activities outside of Laguna Woods whether we live in Laguna Woods or or a place like Mission Viejo, but we couldn't buy a condo in MV for $198 a square foot.
Just thinking out loud here, but maybe you should look outside of California if that is an option? We spent 15 years in Thousand Oaks, CA (Ventura County) raising the kids (loved it in the 80's) and wouldn't go back now (after a recent visit). Like I said, there are lots of these places and if you are flexible in relocation, you may make a much better deal elsewhere.
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Old 05-06-2014, 03:33 PM   #9
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Just thinking out loud here, but maybe you should look outside of California if that is an option? We spent 15 years in Thousand Oaks, CA (Ventura County) raising the kids (loved it in the 80's) and wouldn't go back now (after a recent visit). Like I said, there are lots of these places and if you are flexible in relocation, you may make a much better deal elsewhere.
I love California. We are just looking for the best price point of location / climate / beach access / things to do / safety between Orange County, San Diego and the Bay Area.
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Old 05-06-2014, 04:26 PM   #10
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Me and DW feel the same way about Cali and most of our family lives here currently. The climate and recreational opportunities are exceptional. If we can own something in Cali that is relatively affordable it would make for a nice home base. We have also toyed with the idea of making home base in a more tax friendly state and maintaining a 1 BRM condo in Cali with the tax savings.
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Old 05-06-2014, 05:38 PM   #11
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I used to practice medicine in OC and had quite a few patients who lived in Laguna Woods. They liked it a lot. The youngest moved in at 62 and was really happy about the place.
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Old 05-06-2014, 06:04 PM   #12
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I believe you have to be a certain age to be able to buy property there. However, it's a pretty decent area overall. Mind you Laguna Woods is different than Laguna Hills, only a few traffic lights apart but I find Laguna Woods less congested with a better ambiance
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Old 05-06-2014, 06:07 PM   #13
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I love California. We are just looking for the best price point of location / climate / beach access / things to do / safety between Orange County, San Diego and the Bay Area.
In another thread, you recommended to look at Santa Rosa to another poster. I have been doing a lot of that lately - looking at other California locations with reasonable housing price, cost of living. But I keep coming back to the Bay Area. Bay area weather (more specifically, golf weather) just can't be beat by any other in CA. The only comparable one I see is San Luis Obispo area but its cost of living is fairly high. I am now considering staying put as long as I can. If stock market tanks for a long period of time, then I may have to downsize and move to a "lesser" place. For now, Bay Area is looking like the winner.
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Old 05-06-2014, 06:12 PM   #14
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As in most large retirement communities many of the residents have nothing better to do than complain about neighbors or search for CC&R violations. LOL.
Yes, I was wondering about that. I have watched the Seinfeld episodes with all the drama surrounding his parents living in Del Boca Vista Phase III.
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Old 05-06-2014, 07:01 PM   #15
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In another thread, you recommended to look at Santa Rosa to another poster. I have been doing a lot of that lately - looking at other California locations with reasonable housing price, cost of living. But I keep coming back to the Bay Area. Bay area weather (more specifically, golf weather) just can't be beat by any other in CA. The only comparable one I see is San Luis Obispo area but its cost of living is fairly high. I am now considering staying put as long as I can. If stock market tanks for a long period of time, then I may have to downsize and move to a "lesser" place. For now, Bay Area is looking like the winner.
The Bay Area is a great place to live and we may also end up staying. It is hard to find a nicer place to live, outside the real estate cost.

But one of the reasons Laguna Woods came on our radar is I took this list on crime by California city -

California Crime Index City Rank

and penciled in the average house price per square foot for each of the safest cities. Orange county and especially Laguna Woods came out quite favorably, plus the weather is quite temperate even in winter.
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Old 05-06-2014, 08:23 PM   #16
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I live fairly close to Laguna Woods. I can't speak specifically for the community as I've never been inside the gates, but the general area is very nice and highly desirable for retired folks. You may also want to look at Leisure World in Seal Beach, which is very close to me. It's also in Orange County, just a few miles from the beach. I believe both of these communities are fairly similar, so it may come down to which one has the most desirable unit available for sale.

If I recall correctly, Laguna Woods used to be called Leisure World but changed its name to Laguna Woods Village, so it may operate differently than the Seal Beach location, which still operates under the Leisure World brand name.
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Old 05-06-2014, 10:06 PM   #17
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Laguna woods folk do not like the term Leisure World applied to them since the community officially was renamed. Laguna woods is HUGE. Really is a city in itself. What you get is a safe gated senior community with reasonable housing prices by local standards. There are all sorts of activities for seniors including an extension of the local community college. Classes taught in the community. Building was completed quite a few years ago so architecture is not modern or trendy. It is also not luxurious. Many of the bargain priced units are totally trashed.

Being a senior community many of the nicest units come up for sale as part of estate liquidations. These units include quite a few bargains but you have to be ready to buy as soon as you see the listing or the best units are gone. The other choice is to buy a totally trashed unit at a price that justifies the cost of refurbishing. Should qualify that my observations are from second hand experience watching friends and relatives buy in Laguna Woods in recent years. Interesting fact--average age has been dropping at Laguna woods over the past 20 years. Was 77 and now late 60s.
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Old 05-07-2014, 12:32 AM   #18
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Laguna woods folk do not like the term Leisure World applied to them since the community officially was renamed. Laguna woods is HUGE. Really is a city in itself. What you get is a safe gated senior community with reasonable housing prices by local standards. There are all sorts of activities for seniors including an extension of the local community college. Classes taught in the community. Building was completed quite a few years ago so architecture is not modern or trendy. It is also not luxurious. Many of the bargain priced units are totally trashed.

Being a senior community many of the nicest units come up for sale as part of estate liquidations. These units include quite a few bargains but you have to be ready to buy as soon as you see the listing or the best units are gone. The other choice is to buy a totally trashed unit at a price that justifies the cost of refurbishing. Should qualify that my observations are from second hand experience watching friends and relatives buy in Laguna Woods in recent years. Interesting fact--average age has been dropping at Laguna woods over the past 20 years. Was 77 and now late 60s.
Thanks for all the insight. I was looking online and saw some really nice renovated units and then some not updated ones, and unless there was a lot of dry rot or structural issues it seemed like it wouldn't cost that much to buy an older one and have it fixed up like the renovated photos. The outside is taken care of by the HOA, so we'd only be looking at the inside of 1,000 sq feet to fix up.

The per square foot prices seem like quite a deal, even with refurbishing costs, to live in such a nice area. I think we will have to check it out.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread so far. It sounds like a nice area and certainly looks scenic from the online pictures.
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Old 05-07-2014, 12:39 AM   #19
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I live fairly close to Laguna Woods. I can't speak specifically for the community as I've never been inside the gates, but the general area is very nice and highly desirable for retired folks. You may also want to look at Leisure World in Seal Beach, which is very close to me. It's also in Orange County, just a few miles from the beach. I believe both of these communities are fairly similar, so it may come down to which one has the most desirable unit available for sale.

If I recall correctly, Laguna Woods used to be called Leisure World but changed its name to Laguna Woods Village, so it may operate differently than the Seal Beach location, which still operates under the Leisure World brand name.
We'll check out Seal Beach, too, when we plan our next location scouting trip. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 05-07-2014, 09:50 AM   #20
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I think you have to be of a certain age and mindset to live in such communities. But if it fits, it sounds like a great solution.
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