The Long Way Home – A Carefully Planned Retirement Move

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After 14 moves in the last 25 years, Mac and Nancy Cramer know what they want in a home — and they are more than willing to wait for it. They spent nearly six years locating the ideal home for their retirement. Their patience paid off. Today, they enjoy an expansive view of the Chesapeake Bay and the financial benefits of partial ownership in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).

As a Naval Academy graduate, Mac has always had a fondness for Annapolis — one that Nancy shares. It is not surprising, then, that their exhaustive retirement community search led them to America’s sailing capital. They are now residents at BayWoods of Annapolis, a luxurious waterfront retirement community.
Mac and Nancy’s long journey home started at a football game at the Naval Academy. They were both enjoying the game with friends and certainly were not looking for romance. That seemingly unremarkable meeting led to a 25-year-long marriage that united two large families. Together, the couple has six kids, 11 grandkids and 11 great-grandkids.

When Mac became Chief Executive Officer of Vitro Corporation in Silver Spring, MD, the couple moved to the D.C. Metropolitan region. Seven years later, Mac retired and the couple moved once again — this time to Charleston, SC. “I was born in Charleston, and my mother was still living there,” Mac recalled. “We lived there for ten years and absolutely loved it.”

“We moved back to this area largely because the kids were closer,“ Mac continued. “I was also still active at the Naval Academy, and we just loved this area.” They initially moved into a condo in a converted church in downtown Annapolis. While the couple enjoyed the historic charm of the house, they grew tired of walking their two dogs several times a day and looking for off-street parking, especially in the snow.

After being offered the opportunity to work with a builder to renovate a nearby duplex to their specifications, Mac and Nancy started packing once again. Their new custom home solved the problem of having to walk their dogs and park on the street, but it came with some different challenges. “It was four stories high. Both of us were having a hard time with that. It just got to be too much,” said Nancy. “I guess we could have bought three chairlifts, but you know, we just moved,” added Mac with a laugh.

The Cramers knew it was time to look for a retirement community — again. Several years earlier, the couple had purchased a unit in a retirement community near Washington, D.C. “It was a lovely community, and it was in an area we liked, so we bought a unit,” recalled Mac. Nancy agreed, “It was nice, and it was huge, but we were never there.”

While the Cramers used the unit when they were meeting their children who live in Virginia, they were not staying there nearly enough to justify the expense. Ultimately, they realized they wanted to be in Annapolis.

After consulting with several local friends, Mac and Nancy began to look at retirement communities in and around Annapolis. They carefully catalogued their options, toured communities, put down deposits, and even consulted with a builder about renovating a unit at another community.

In fact, the Cramers looked at BayWoods quite a few times before making their final decision. One of their visits was shortly after BayWoods completed a state-of-the-art health care center. The waterfront had also been completely renovated. “It was just lovely. I really thought, ‘Wow,’” said Nancy. “We got on the list and looked at a couple of places that were larger than this, but we just decided that we weren’t quite ready,” Mac said.

All of the Cramers’ planning and pondering came to an end when the marketing manager at BayWoods offered them the chance to take a look at a newly available unit. “It wasn’t quite ready, but she let us peek in. We looked in, and I saw the vaulted ceilings and then we walked out on this porch, and I said, ‘I think we should get it.’ Just like that,” recalled Nancy. The couple had their builder raise the floor on the porch, so they can now enjoy Bay views from the comfort of their wing chairs.

While they certainly value the views, the Cramers also appreciate the wealth of activities and social opportunities available at BayWoods. Nancy is a member of the flower committee and participates in Bible classes. Mac attends exercise classes three days a week. They both participate in the community’s Great Books Club. However, they both agree that socializing with the other residents is one of the best activities available.

“Within the first six weeks of moving here, we were invited by several different couples to come to their apartments for cocktails and dinner — just to meet people,” said Mac. “It was a really nice way to get to know people. We just felt so welcome,” Nancy added. Even though the couple still spends summers in Vermont and two or three months in Charleston in the winter, they feel very connected to their friends and neighbors at BayWoods.

When they are at BayWoods during the winter and spring, the couple looks forward to all the wonderful dining options available for residents. “I recently wrote a letter to the chef, listing the many dishes we like and complimenting the good servers. I just wanted to make sure the chef knew how much we appreciate his work, so I wrote it all down. There wasn’t one negative thing in that letter,” Nancy said.

Everyone can appreciate delicious food and outstanding service, but the Cramers are also thankful for a much more practical amenity:  the on-campus health care center.  BayWoods offers rehab, respite, assisted living and skilled nursing services. Knowing that excellent health care is available should they ever need it is very important to both Mac and Nancy. “You walk into the health center, and it is just beautiful. I’m very impressed, and one of our good friends stayed there after her hip replacement, and she said the care was exceptional,” Nancy pointed out.

The Cramers also like the fact that since BayWoods is a cooperative, they — along with all the residents — collectively own the land, as well as all the residential buildings and other amenities. This equity position provides residents all the financial advantages of home ownership, including income tax deductions and potential appreciation on their investment, with none of the disadvantages of upkeep and maintenance.

After what was certainly a well-researched and carefully planned move, the Cramers and their two cats, Chessie and Mischa, have settled into their new home at BayWoods nicely. As they sit on their porch and enjoy the beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay, Mac and Nancy can now reflect on the many false starts and reconsiderations that led them to what is undoubtedly the perfect retirement community for them. Their journey was long, but it ultimately brought them home.

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