Specialist Retirement Property Is In Demand, Says Property Journalist Sharon Dale

who has some tips for those who want to downsize and “uplive”.

America has led the way with retirement housing and downsizing to a purpose-built, over 55s development is now commonplace in the US. They look like a whole lot of fun with potential for making friends, taking part in activities and generally making the most of the years you have left.

British developers have watched and learned, and the sector is now struggling to keep up with demand.
Would-be buyers include those who want to downsize to a low maintenance and safe environment. Some crave company and a ready-made like-minded community.

Others want to retain independence while taking advantage of additional help with personal care and cleaning. Almost all are keen to keep their money in bricks and mortar. At the top end of the market, you’ll find villages with swimming pools, hair and beauty salons, golf and first-class restaurants. At the more affordable level, there are apartment complexes with communal lounges, activities and on-site managers.

There are now some excellent specialist retirement property developers in the UK, but there is still an enormous gap in the market for this kind of housing. A recent report by the International Longevity Centre revealed there is only enough retirement housing to accommodate five per cent of the over-65s and the situation is set to get worse thanks to our ageing population. Almost a third of people in the UK will be aged over 60 by 2039 and more than one in 12 are expected to be aged 80 or over.

Before you start actively looking to downsize and “uplive”, you need to prepare for a new way of living and a very different kind of property investment.
 

Here are some tips:


*First, have a look at the different types of retirement housing. Most developers hold open days and have show homes, though in areas of very high demand they may simply sell off-plan, in which case they are usually happy for you to visit their previous developments. This is a good strategy anyway as you may be able to chat to residents about their experiences of retirement living.

*Decide whether you want to be in the country or in a town and when you do this think ahead. You may not always be able to drive or be as mobile as you are now so think about surrounding amenities.

*Once you have decided you’d like to make the move, take a ruthless approach to your worldly goods and have a good clear out. Retirement properties are usually quite compact but as one friend told me: “It will save my children doing it when I’m gone.” In general, people find this process very cathartic.

*Don’t worry about a lack of space for family for friends. Most complexes have a guest suite that you can book.

*Calculate the costs. Almost all specialist retirement property is leasehold so check the length and terms. There will be a service charge to cover the facilities, including the building and garden maintenance, upkeep of communal areas and the warden/manager’s wages. You usually have to pay your own energy and water bills plus council tax.  Exit fees, known as transfer or event fees, are sometimes applied when you sell so check if this is the case and how much they are likely to be.

*Check whether the company managing the building is a member of a recognised body, such as the Association of Retirement Housing managers.  

*The great benefit of buying specialist retirement property is that it is built with mobility issues in mind. However, the level of care on offer varies. Most have a warden on site, some also have care packages, while others have apartments plus a dedicated care home on site.

*If you are worried about moving in alone, don’t.  Most retirement complexes have a ready-made community, activities and groups you can get involved in so loneliness is not usually a problem.


An example of the communal living spaces available in today's Retirement Living Developments, taken from Audley Retirements Ellerslie Development. 

Publish date: 08/09/2017