The concept of the retirement village has been quite widespread in America for years, but it’s only recently spread to Britain. These days you can find many across the country, often in rural locations that are still quite accessible to towns. They offer independent living, but in a small community of similarly-aged people (invariably 55+), in modern housing that is designed for the elderly, and with care readily at hand.
Such communities offer independence and security, with the opportunity to still lead an active life. The villages often have organised activities most evenings, in addition to shopping trips during the day. In many cases the residents organise their own clubs and activities, so there’s no feeling of restriction.
These can range hugely depending on whether you are looking to buy a property in a top-end retirement village, a cottage or apartment in a small complex or a rented flat in a retirement-designated block.
Many provide communal facilities, ranging from beautifully maintained gardens, tennis courts, a spa, swimming pool, restaurant, allotments, a doctor’s surgery, laundry and hairdressers.
Others may simply be a block of flats with a communal lounge area and tea and coffee making facilities.
If you are moving to be closer to friends or relatives remember that you may also be spending more time at home, so the view from your windows should be as important as your immediate environment. You may want to be within walking distance of the shops or the bus.
Retirement village or sheltered housing
A village tends to be better equipped with lots of communal facilities and organised activities, so they suit people who are active and sociable. They are also better for single people because there is a ready-made social life on site. The nicest ones are within attractive market towns, close to shops, doctors’ surgeries and banks.
All retirement housing should be secure. Some are gated communities or have CCTV and/or equip each property with a telecom answering entry system. Some villages have 24-hour care staff while others have a warden on duty only during the day. Wardens help to sort out worries, put you in touch with tradesmen and may take on tasks, like watering plants while you are on holiday.
People without medical problems might opt for a site for the active retired where extra care can be bought in privately if required. But for those who are less robust a village built around a nursing home may be a better option.
Some developments have active residents’ groups organising card nights, theatre and cinema trips and guest-speaker events. You can decide whether you want to be in the swing or left alone.
These can seem high, but remember you will no longer have to pay for your own gardener or take care of the external maintenance of your home. Check what is covered in the maintenance charge agreement: your payments should cover all external lighting, the upkeep of grounds, gardens, communal spaces and buildings, window cleaning, external painting, site facilities, security, staff and building insurance.
This is the organisation that runs the site and levies the service charge. Some are set up as not-for-profit companies. See if there is a residents’ association too. It is always good to keep an eye on the management companies. Some have had a bad press in recent years.
An age restriction of 50 to 60-plus ensures that you will not be troubled by crying babies or noisy teenagers, well most of the time anyway because of course visitors are allowed. Some retirement schemes have visitors’ suites which is convenient if you only have a one-bedroom apartment.
Retirement property is a specialist market and local estate agents will probably not achieve the same price for your two-bedroom apartment as for a similar property on the open market. Having said that there is a shortage of quality retirement accommodation so providing it is in an area where there is a demand you shouldn’t have any trouble. But it is a consideration if you need to move into a nursing home and sell your home to pay for fees. Some developers offer a re-sales service.
Some companies charge a fee of between 0.25-12.5 per cent of the property’s value when a home is resold. A new code has been introduced requiring greater transparency over these fees.
If you have a pet you want to check before you buy. Some sites don’t allow pets, while others allow a small cat or dog. You may be restricted on the kind of property you can move into if you have a pet (i.e. ground floor flat only). Some developments allow pets to move with you but will not permit replacements once that pet passes away.