Anne Arundel

For empty-nesters, it's worth the wait

If Heritage Harbour is the place you want to be, you better be prepared to wait.

"People [there] don't want to move unless they have to," said Bob Post, a real estate agent for Champion Realty Inc. and a longtime resident of the age-restricted community in Anne Arundel County.

"Everybody who has ever worked in Heritage Harbour as a Realtor has a waiting list."

In the 21 years since Heritage Harbour became a 55-and-older community, it has been a lightning rod for empty-nesters who have downsized their lifestyle but want to remain active. According to Post, buyers sometimes wait two to three years before finding the type of home and location they want in Heritage Harbour. And when homes go on the market, they usually sell within a month, often within a few days.

"Most of my clients know exactly what they want," said Post, 82, who has earned the distinction of "Sales Guru of Heritage Harbour" from his fellow agents. "It's just a matter of finding it for them. Some folks will buy whatever is available and move into a more suitable home when one comes on the market."

One of the major selling points of Heritage Harbour is the extensive on-site amenities package. Among its features are the community center and lodge, golf course, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools, exercise centers, library and billiard room.

The complex also has a television station and production center, which broadcasts internally to the residents, as well as a community bus, a private restaurant, a newsletter and an evening and weekend security patrol.

"The activities and amenities were definitely a selling point," said Jan Howell, who had a three-year wait before being able to move into the community.

Heritage Harbour falls into what is now called an "active adult" community. Before a home can be purchased, one of the occupants must be at least 55 years old. Volunteers operate activities, such as dance, bingo, bridge, art, music, continuing education classes, yoga, tai chi, the TV station, quilting, performing arts, poker and duck carving.

"You name it, we have it. If not, we'll start it." said Jean Higgins, the public relations director for the community and a 17-year resident. She said that residents "are not isolated or self-contained" and that many volunteer at area crisis centers, the local hospital, Meals on Wheels and other projects.

Of course, many residents choose to do nothing, and that's OK. Higgins said residents can be as active as they want "or do nothing at all."

Heritage Harbour didn't start out as an age-restrictive community when it was planned by a North Carolina developer in the mid-1970s. But when the developer ran into financial difficulties, U.S. Home Corp. took over, changed the covenants and by 1979 was marketing the 825-acre property to older buyers.

The community features a variety of housing choices, ranging from about 1,000 single-family detached homes to 332 condominiums and 140 two-story townhouses.

Post remembers when the highest-priced single-family dwelling sold 20 years ago by U.S. Home Corp. was $90,000. Today, those detached homes sell for close to $280,000, and he said one home -- near the water -- recently sold for more than $400,000.

Prices for the condominiums start at $159,990; for the townhouses, the cost begins at $179,900.

Post said most homes in the community range between 1,700 and 2,600 square feet.

"The amazing thing is that U.S. Home didn't think people our age would want a large home, and that's the first thing that goes. They didn't build enough of them," Post said.

He also said that 60 homes -- built by the original developer -- scattered on five coves aren't part of the community association or subject to age restrictions, but the owners have the option of joining the association to take advantage of amenities.

There is much to do close to Heritage Harbour as well. Travel time to downtown Annapolis is less than 15 minutes, and it's about 35 minutes to Washington and Baltimore. Residents have the advantage of community buses that travel to designated shopping, entertainment and cultural sites every day.

Residents can also arrange for transportation through the community's Caring Network. The Caring Network is a dues-paying operation run by volunteers who call themselves "Networkers."

The Networkers serve residents throughout the community by providing support services for those who are experiencing difficult times, such as illness, accidents or bereavement. Networkers provide respite care and transportation to and from doctor appointments, shop for food, care for pets, arrange for meals or, as Higgins says, do "whatever a friendly neighbor can do."

Heritage Harbour

Commute to downtown Baltimore: 35 minutes

Shopping: Festival at Riva, Grauls, Annapolis Mall, Annapolis Harbour Center, downtown Annapolis.

ZIP code: 21401