A simpler life
How to choose a retirement property that ticks all the right boxes
Know someone who’s thinking about moving to a retirement property? These aren’t care or nursing homes but houses and flats, sometimes in retirement communities, dedicated to older people who still want to live independent lives, even into their 80s. With a variety of accommodation out there, all offering different things, we asked Tim Somer of Hawthorns Retirement Village in the gorgeous seaside town of Clevedon, north Somerset, for advice on how to choose the right place.
What are the options?
There are three main ways to go: purchasing a retirement property (these are mostly on leasehold not freehold, granting tenancy over a long period of time, with ongoing service charges and possibly re-selling restrictions); taking on a shared ownership property where you part buy, part rent on a similar basis to an outright purchase; or renting a property on a month-by-month, or longer, basis. Properties may be standard housing developments or part of a dedicated retirement community.
Is it for one person or a couple? A self-contained apartment or a room in a communal property? On the ground floor, on one floor or over two? Is it important to have a garden, balcony, communal gardens – space for guests? Are there access issues to consider? Will a pet be coming too? Is there space for bikes and cars?
Location, location, location…
Which is preferable a town or city lots going on within walking distance or in the countryside, where transport might be an issue now or in the future?
Stuff to do
Consider what facilities – if any – are available on site. Could be handy to have a restaurant, cafe, libraries, gym equipment, hairdressers and beauty treatments, cinema screenings and more literally outside your front door. Are there activities like trips out and health/wellbeing programmes? Your relative might not want to have a non-stop social life planned out for them 24/7 but it’s nice to know it’s there and it can be a good way to get to know other people.
It might not be necessary now but what if your relative needs support or additional care in the future? Retirement properties are not care homes and won’t provide nursing or medical care but some allow residents to bring in their own support/carers when needed.
If you’re buying a retirement property or going into a rental property with a long contract, then you’ll may need to sell an existing house – but not if you’re renting on a shorter term basis. Always check what is – and isn’t included – in any charges. If you’re buying a property, it’s most likely to be freehold with yearly service charges for maintenance, emergency alarms, admin charges (which for a one-bed flat could be £1,500– £3,000 or much more). With renting, the monthly rental may include absolutely everything from someone to cut the grass to a 24-hour concierge service, all your meals and even a glass or two of wine. Not all rental retirement properties offer the same, so check the small print.
What if it doesn’t work out?
If you’re buying, then you may have to to sell on and there are usually age-related restrictions. Some rental properties can tie you into long contract; others offer a month’s notice with no exit fees – very handy if it turns out it’s not for your relative or circumstances change.
And finally, pay a visit
Always go along to see what the place is really like or even stay and try it out.