Retiring gracefully
Monday, 30 November -0001

Retiring gracefully

One in six of us is over 65. So where will we choose to live? Retirement properties can offer a pleasing solution. Angela Epstein considers the options…

Written by Angela Epstein

In an ideal world, many of us would like to think we’ll be trading in our working life for lazy days in some gorgeous, sun-kissed bungalow which is both weather- and inflation-proof.

Certainly, the market place is crowded with companies that seem to offer the perfect solution – trailing bougainvillea and hot-and-cold running amenities. But if you are ready to dispense with the family home and move to the perfect retirement pad, where to start?

‘Most searches are conducted by the children of those moving into retirement homes, who want to understand fully what’s on offer,’ says David Gabriel, Head of Retirement Homesearch, a leading nationwide property- search service.

As well as specialist sites, there are adverts in magazines such as The Lady, while the Elderly Accommodation Counsel has speci…fic information about which sort of homes meet varying requirements. And what if you do …find a retirement home that seems to be just the ticket? ‘Check the obligations on the lease you are signing, as almost all retirement homes are leasehold,’ explains David Gabriel. These are put in place to ensure the development is a pleasant, secure environment for retired people who want to live independently without having to worry about things like day-to-day maintenance and, as such, they require all residents to stick to them.

Check you can afford the service charges too. While these are usually cheaper than many people pay for the upkeep of a large family home, they will need to be paid at set times during the year. ‘You should also be sure you’re happy with the transfer fees when the property is sold,’ adds David. Almost all retirement properties require a contribution to the development’s central fund when a property is sold – generally this is about 1%, but it can be much higher.’

The government’s latest initiatives have been encouraging care in people’s own homes, and there are care packages available for this. However, this can be a problem when someone’s own home is no longer practical for that purpose. With the elderly population rising exponentially, the most important issue for the government to address is how we get more homes built that are designed speci cally to help retired people live independently in their own properties.

Part exchange will guarantee the sale of the original property, usually at a rate just below the market value. The pay-o‚ for the seller is the immediate release of equity, as well as avoiding the possibility of decreasing values on the open market.

Anchor, England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for people over 55, plans to develop 1,100 new properties over the next five years to meet the needs of the changing aspirations of older people.

Take Denham Garden Village in Buckinghamshire, which comprises retirement apartments, houses and bungalows. With everyday necessities from a doctor’s surgery to a cafe and shop on site, this o‚ffers what appears to be traditional English village life. Facilities such as a fitness suite, spa and swimming pool also add a special touch of luxury.

It sounds like an upmarket holiday camp with its ‘Highly active social committee that organises events on a daily basis, from a fortnightly pub quiz and regular bowls and bingo to art classes and theatre trips’.

‘We don’t sell to anyone under 55,’ says Howard Nankivell, Anchor’s sales and marketing director. ‘That ensures like-minded people can be together.’

One thing to consider is the potential di’fficulty of selling a property within a gated or retirement community ‘Some people may prefer “new”, not “used”, and might be o‚ffered extensive incentives to buy new,’ explains Robin King, business development director of Move With Us.

Another option is to do what young urbanites do and settle in a town centre. Not so much for the nightclubs but because it is a pleasant town with good access to local facilities and transport. ‘That way,’ says King, ‘You are experiencing some of the benefits of a closer community, seeing property values increase not decrease, without leaving a probate headache for your children.’

For some there is even the option of going abroad and getting the sun. The Villages Group is building ‘active living’ resorts for the over-50s, based in South West France in places such as Moulin Haut and Languedoc. But these resorts focus on ‘active’ retirement so there are no medical/disabled facilities on site. Instead, you’ll nd swimming pools, gyms and social and cultural entertainment programmes, such as dancing or singing.

One option may simply be to dispense with the burden of home ownership altogether. Peter Girling, chairman of Girlings Retirement Rentals, set up his company with this in mind. He realised that there was a gap in the property market for retired people who would like to rent.

‘We have seen enquiries rise by a third,’ he says, ‘as more people realise the nancial benefits of renting in later life by selling their properties to invest or release their money.’

The Girlings apartments are designed for older people, and located in secure, managed developments. The rent for a one-bedroom property is around £600 a month and there is a house manager on site. Each apartment also has a 24-hour Careline service in case of emergency.

Renting like this may o‚ffer some flexibility in agreements, depending on which company you rent with. With Girlings for instance, one option is an Assured Tenancy, which gives you the right to live in the property for as long as you wish – your landlord cannot give you notice to leave, so long as you adhere to the terms of the agreement. There is no capital sum to pay up front and you have security of tenure. The rent includes the service charge and ground rent and there’s even a try-before-you-buy scheme.

 



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