If you come to call Sonoma Woods in Middletown home, you just might find yourself enjoying a glass of Cabernet at your neighbor's Chardonnay model home, or perhaps a fine Merlot at a friend’s Zinfandel model as you make your rounds in the friendly, active-adult community where home designs are named for types of wine.
Situated on over 37 acres, this 55-plus community is billed as “the perfect place to relax and meet new friends.”
Marie Coughlin, an agent with Prudential Connecticut Realty and head of the team representing Sonoma Woods, says, “We welcome new families and we want to make them feel like a part of our Middletown family.”
At Sonoma Woods, the community that stays together plays together. It offers a lifestyle of travel, neighborhood activities, holiday gatherings, picnics and dinner parties. There's even a book club, men's monthly breakfasts, ladies' luncheons, a hiking club, exercise group activities and golf outings.“There's a huge community spirit here,” says resident Lew Goldberg, who bought a condominium at Sonoma Woods six years ago. “With there being only 68 houses once it’s completed, the community is smaller, more intimate. Everyone knows everyone here.”
“It's the kind of place where you pick up the phone and say, 'Let's go out for pizza.' It's unique in that we are all very comfortable with one another,” says Coughlin, who has lived at Sonoma Woods for the past seven years. “Fourteen of our unit owners even went to Mexico together. Other groups have traveled to Ireland, Amsterdam, Alaska, Spain and Paris. Our next trip is to Italy.”
Residents will soon have a new place to socialize – right in the neighborhood – once their 2,000-square-foot clubhouse is completed. Construction is scheduled to start in the fall.
Another outstanding feature of this tight-knit community is its financial solidity. “The foreclosure never had an impact (on the community). Our Sonoma Woods Association was fully in place and financially sound when the new developer came in,” says Coughlin.
In fact, that is why Robert Wiedenmann, Jr. from Sunwood Development came aboard in 2011. “He told us that he had investigated several active-adult communities but had chosen Sonoma Woods because we have a financially sound board and our association conducts itself in a true community manner,” says Coughlin.
Sonoma Woods’ five-member elected board is unique. Coughlin explains that most communities that are similarly structured hire management teams. “One of the pluses of living at Sonoma Woods is that we are self-managed,” says Coughlin. “We manage our community like a business.”
The community’s homeowner association also takes 15 percent of monthly fees (residents pay $310 per month) and puts it into a cash reserve for future projects including roofs, decks, streets, major repairs, etc. The rest covers outdoor maintenance, including shoveling streets, sidewalks, porches; an underground sprinkler system; lawn maintenance; private trash pickup and insurance (which includes 100-percent replacement of the interior and the exterior of the homes).
Whether it's Sonoma Woods' management practices, the friendliness of its residents, or the quality of construction, the development of the community has been on an upswing. “Since October, we have been significantly busier than most active-adult communities,” says Coughlin. “We have closed on four homes and we have seven more under development.”
Coughlin says that many homebuyers are attracted to the area because of Middletown's many offerings. “We are in an extremely quiet location, only a mile-and-a-half from major highways, but Middletown has a number of amenities,” says Coughlin. From Wesleyan University to Middlesex Community College, to great dining, local theater and entertainment offerings, it's a town with something to do on any given night and a place where you can be surrounded by a vibrant mix of students and locals.
When the grandchildren come to visit, there's the popular Kid City, a museum for the little ones that's big on information, creativity and fun. “The greatest reason folks buy here is they want to be closer to family, especially the grandchildren,” Coughlin says. “Grandchildren come all the time. You see tricycles, scooters and carriages everywhere.”
All of the homes at Sonoma Woods have first-floor master suites, first-floor laundry rooms and gourmet kitchens boasting granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and maple cabinets. There are hardwood floors throughout the first floor with the exception of tile in the laundry room and bathrooms. All homes feature central air.
“Visitors are often amazed that the tray ceiling and crown molding in the foyer comes standard,” says Coughlin. She adds that common upgrades include a fireplace and a sunroom. Finished lower levels can also be added.There are three Cape models and two ranches to choose from and Coughlin says the developer does a lot of customization. “We encourage that,” she says. “The builder is very willing to sit down and listen to whatever the customer wants and to price it out, whether it's adding windows, adding square footage, or taking down walls.”
The builder is adept at “universal design,” incorporating products and creating environments inherently accessible to older people, including those with disabilities. This can include everything from grab bars to higher vanities to wider hallways.
For many eying the future, Sonoma Woods is a great place for residents to head into retirement years and beyond. “We had property in Haddam before – an antique house that was a lot of work over the years,” says Goldberg. “I wanted life to be more maintenance-free.”
But he didn't want to settle for congested condominium life where homes were on top of each other. Goldberg says Sonoma Woods has a spacious feel. “Compared to other condo developments, the streets are wider,” Goldberg says. “You don't feel you are in a maze, and there is more open space between the units. People really want the property to look good here.”
Open houses at Sonoma Woods in Middletown are held on Fridays, Sundays and Mondays from noon to 3 p.m. and by appointment. For more information on the community contact Marie Coughlin of Prudential Connecticut Realty at 860-301-2425 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.sonomawoods.com to take virtual tours of model homes and the community.
Builder: Robert Wiedenmann Jr., Sunwood Development
Price: From $299,900 to $379,900
Style: Detached single- and two-story homes
Rooms: 4 to 7+
Bedrooms: 2 plus flex and bonus rooms
Baths: 2 to 3
Square footage: 1,470 to 2,404 square feet
Acreage: 37 acres
Tax rate: 28.96 mills
Best features: Active-adult lifestyle and community spirit
Contact: Marie Coughlin, Prudential Connecticut Realty, 860-301-2425, email@example.com.
Margaret DeMarino is a freelance writer based in New Haven.