With apologies to Barb Taub, who would make this tale a really funny story.

A lot of my friends have been asking me what it’s like to live in an over-55 community. We moved here about a year and a half ago and were the first people to move in. The houses are very close together and look pretty much the same, which is standard for such communities.

Reminded us of Pete Seegar’s song about Little Boxes:

Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky
Little boxes, little boxes
Little boxes all the same

We chose our lot next to a patch of trees (not on our property) so we would have some greenery around us for the birds. And the first lot coming in so we have neighbors on only one side. Keeps us from being claustrophobic. The rest of the community, like us, has no trees in the yards. And thus no shade!

Hubs and I countered our lack of trees by planting an olive, a sunset maple, and a camellia in our tiny backyard and are contemplating what else we might add to help our bird neighbors. Our backyard is full sun almost all the time, so we have to be careful in our choices. In our front yard, we have a pink and green Japanese maple.

and another red one just outside my window — they are both dwarfs so they were approved. Still no shade. Everything we plant has to be approved by the construction company’s HOA. We’ve been told they will cede responsibility for running the community to the homeowners in 3-4 years when the additional community they plan to build behind us is complete.

This is our Ghost tree, permitted, and this is our sunset maple.

In the meantime, aside from the approvals necessary for plantings, no one is permitted to 1) Walk on the common areas (large swathes of grass scattered around the community) or use them for gatherings

2. Have more than one wreath and no front yard decorations at Christmas (a rule which everyone broke last year)

3. Have perennial flowers (a rule also broken by some, which I noticed on my daily walks, much to my delight)

4. Keep our humongous, city-issued garbage containers outside of the garage (even if there are decorative plantings outside to hide them (which we did have until we were ‘caught’), and I can tell you the garbage in our garage stinks by the end of the week, especially in hot weather.

5. Have patios in the backyard, so no hot tubs or fire pits. And so on.

6. Initially, there was a rule against having bird feeders and birdbaths, but we countered by putting them on our patios, which are the only outside areas over which we have control (except for fencing and umbrellas).

The minute we take over the Homeowners Association, things are gonna change!

I lived in the Czech Republic when it was under Communist control, and that was a breeze compared to this. Except all our Christmas decorations there were stolen.

Luckily we have a great community, people-wise, and we spend a lot of time figuring out how to subvert all the rules. Which is a lot of fun. And we have regular get-togethers (Happy Hour once a month), a wading pool (which we were told would be a swimming pool) for your grandkids, and various clubs (book, whiskey, outreach activities, etc.). I do love getting cool by the pool (as they advertised) up to my knees. The rest of me stays hot.

You might ask why we stay here. It’s a logical question. Right now it’s impossible to move because of the housing market, and we now have an extra reason to stay because my daughter and her family are moving to a bigger house about 5 min away by car. Our house is indeed quite nice and roomy inside, with enough space for both me and Hubs and our activities, and it has a workable galley kitchen with new appliances. That’s it in the background. We do end up walking around and around the island because there’s not enough space for the two of us to pass each other when we are working.

We are convenient to shopping and doctors’ offices. Joining a local country club has provided me with a real pool for laps in the summer. Ka-ching.

So despite all the rules, our community is managing to find (nefarious) ways around some of them and we expect to survive together until the Great Takeover. Can’t wait.

There are not a lot of flowers and colors in the community yet. So Hubs has been on a crusade. We have a ton of pansies, roses, and azaleas in our front yard and azaleas along the side of the house. Everything is in bloom now so we have color! Here is a sampling, none of which can even hope to compare with Geoff LePard’s backyard, but we are small scale.

I’ll have a follow-up for all y’all when we take over the HOA. It’s going to get interesting.




  1. We live in a 55+ community also. Just 52 townhomes, though, and ours is an end unit with big yard and woods on side and back of us, so helps us feel like we’re in a standalone. But. Yes, lots of rules. All the flowers planted are supposed to be YELLOW (go figure). But. We sneakily planted some hydrangea bushes (blue! purple!) and tulip bulbs (red!) and soon our Iris bulbs will bloom (purple and white!) Ha. Since we’re on the corner, many can’t see, so we’re getting away with it. We hung a birdfeeder on the wooded property and have tons of birds and no one dare complain. They all love the (Yellow!) finch, but also black and white woodpecker, blue birds, red cardinals, etc. I’m smiling, but you go with using your landscape to show individuality. Your home sounds perfect for you and your guy.

  2. I wish you joy. In the case of rules and close community, it has similarities to the place I lived in Norfolk. It wasn’t for over-55s, but the prices made it effectively so. But we did have young people living with parents until they moved into their own places, and so on.
    But once the original buyers moved out, it was moved into by people who thought it even more desirable, but decided they wanted to change the rules… I had to move out.

    1. I suspect this will always be an over 55 place, although we do have one younger couple living here. I love having people of different ages around and miss that, but the grandchildren help – plus ALL the dogs!

  3. Gorgeous shrubs and flowers! I couldn’t cope with the restrictions. Here (in our current rented house) we have the joy of the landlord and wife over the moon enthusiastic when we do anything to make life lovelier!

    1. Our neighbors like what we’ve done and haven’t snitched! Hubs is the head of the architectural review board (which reviews plans for plantings to make sure they fit the rules – and he is very, very liberal with interpretation)!

  4. Both my sisters live in a 55+ community and they love it. They don’t always love the rules, but they love the safety and security of the community.

  5. I always expect rules whenever an HOA is involved, but some of those are really stringent. When DH and I eventually sell our home after retirement, out goal is a 55+ community. I’m glad to hear that most everyone broke the Christmas decoration rule!

  6. Hang in there Noelle. That’s such a drastic difference from your previous not-so-humble abode. It will definitely be an adjustment for you all. And it sounds like your builder/developer isn’t the best to try to work with.

  7. My husband and I have been contemplating a 55+ for our next move, Noelle. There are drawbacks, but the social activities and lack of ongoing yard work are appealing. Your post makes me think about how important it is to ask the right questions before making a decision. And how lovely that you’re near some mature trees! And your plantings look beautiful. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. We didn’t have the full 52-page booklet of rules until AFTER we moved in (go figure). But we probably would have moved in anyway. Right now the negatives and positives balance out and hopefully whenever we can take over the HOA for ourselves, things will be a LOT better. Be very careful, Diana, but such a community can be a good choice.

      1. We’re not going anywhere for a while, but we have been thinking about it as an option for when we’re unable to take care of our potholes and fences and fields. 🙂 Thanks for the caution though. It’s a big decision.

  8. ‘the houses are very close together’ made me laugh – all houses apart from the very old or those owned by the very rich are like this in England – apart from all those that are terraced!

    This is most interesting, Noelle. I’d probably be ostracised by the whole community within the first week 😉

    1. Yup, I can see you breaking rules every day! I forget that houses are cheek by jowl in many parts of Europe – we are so used to space here. But that is changing quickly.

  9. This is a bit like me moving to a flat with windows looking in at our place on two sides and a small overlooked balcony, after living in my parents house with a secluded front and back garden. Your lovely bungalow looks a good size although I know you are used to a much bigger, roomier place look on the bright side less housekeeping.

    I’ve still got favourite clothes I love from my teens and I’ve asked my Mum to store them for me and swap them out in the different seasons, the good thing is that when I travel home to my parents I don’t need a suitcase lol. If they ever downsize I’d struggle 😂. They’ve got all my big performance dresses too I’ve just got two under my bed.

    George is a very outdoorsy person and would love a little farm holding I think, like his grandparents have out in Romania with small animals and fruit trees, so he loves his little balcony trees, our neighbours bought us a little tree for doing our balcony concerts and his little lemon tree is his pride and joy – perhaps a good small grower for your sunny back garden. When we moved in the balcony had fake grass I love it because it looks good from inside and is easy to clean and obviously doesn’t need much maintenance. We put up a vertical planter with about 8 plant pots that we put plants in to give us some privacy in the spring and summer.

    I do dislike it when over 55’s anything want to act like the health and safety police as though you’re going to drown yourself or burn yourself on a bbq. My Mum used to take my Old Nan (sorry that sounds disrespectful but that’s what we used to call her when we had four Nana’s alive) out from her nursing home and she loved having a hot cup of tea and a hot meal because all she got was lukewarm tea and food.

    1. Wonderful memories and plans for the future, Charlotte. I’m glad to hear you have your little plot of greenery on your balcony. I feel certain that when you and George are more established there will be a house and a garden in your future. I forgot when I wrote this that the houses in England are usually side by side and/or sharing walls, and it’s difficult to find single homes with yards, except out in the country. But I have no doubt you’ll find something. Does George grow herbs? They’re easy to do in a box on the balcony – even a tomato plant! I would love a Meyer lemon tree but I think our sun here is too hot. Thanks for sharing your world with me!

      1. He does grow herbs 🪴 and tomatoes 🍅 but not right now as its too cold. Oh goodness too hot for a lemon tree outdoors 😊 I forget where you are, we have to bring our tree indoors occasionally or wrap it in a protection hehe. To be honest we are quite content although he would also love a room big enough for a grand piano. 😂

  10. Lovely photos Noelle and you have made inside a home and outside a haven for birds and passersby…We lived part time in a community in the south of Spain during the winter when Madrid could get to – 10 at night… and they had a whole list of rules including the width of the blue (had to be blue) stripe in your awnings on the patios.. But at least you get a reprieve in a couple of years and by that time you will have expanded your circle of like minded friends and create something even more special.. With your daughter around the corner a great incentive to stay. ♥

    1. Interesting to hear that there are community rules worldwide! We are also regulated as to the color and stripes of our awnings! I am gradually getting to know some of the women in the community – through get-togethers and water aerobics! I also joined the book club but have missed several meetings due to editing!

  11. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Weekly – 5th June 2022 – #RoadTrip Pete Springer and Jim Borden, #Writing D. Wallace Peach, #Spring D.G. Kaye and Valentina Cirasola, #Communitylife Noelle Granger, #RoastedCod Dorothy New Vintage Kitchen | Smorgasbord Blog

  12. I couldn’t deal with all those rules. When my husband and I were house-hunting for our current house, we wouldn’t even look at a house with an HOA.

  13. petespringerauthor

    I find these homeowner association communities rather humorous. When some of the rules are installed, everyone knows they will be violated. It’s like putting controls in place that don’t need legislation. While they may be well-intended, I wonder how many people want just stringent rules.

    I look forward to reading what happens after the coup. 🤣🤣🤣

    1. Some of the rules are ridiculous – no one can walk on the areas designated as common areas (grassy patches), and you can’t have a second patio in your back yard (for example, for under a firepit, a seating area, or a hot tub). It’s going to be three to four years before the coup – they won’t hand over the HOA to us until the second community is completely built. But I’ll warn you so you can duck!

  14. Holy smokes Noelle, that’s a lot of rules for actual homeowners who have purchased. I’m glad you guys have found a way to dance around the silly rules, and thank goodness they allow you visitors! Yes to change with HOA! 🙂 x

    1. My husband and I are great at finding ways around the rules (all 52 pages of them.) He took on the chairmanship of the architectural review board, which means he and his committee review everyone’s plans for their yards – I will say that almost everything that comes to the committee gets approved. It’s then up to the construction company to deny it.

  15. As Terry mentioned, things are different in other parts of the world. I live in Barcelona, now, and most people live in an apartment, and a small one at that, so the place sounds huge, although the rules are very limiting. But here you have many people living in the same building, so it’s complicated no matter what. Oh, and we have a bar/restaurant downstairs… I hope things get better once you take over. Keep us posted, Noelle!

    1. I had forgotten what it was like when I was living the Prague – same thing, a big building with many apartments. No hot water in the summer (the man in charge went on vacation), so I got used to cold showers.

  16. Lovely photos, Noelle. And it sounds as if youre3enjoying luving there and finding ways to break the rules! I’m so glad your daughter has moved nearby and that your new neighbours an friends are supportive.

  17. I like the bright splashes of colour in your yard. I hope the next few years pass by quickly for you. Those rules sound pretty vexing.

    1. They are, indeed, Lidia. We do spend energy figuring out how to circumvent them! My husband is the gardener. There’s never been a garden store he would pass by!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! All these rules were something we did not expect, especially after living without one in our previous place for so many years. But 42 pages!

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