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Tips for retirement home buyers

Holly Thomas / 17 February 2020

We look at what to consider when looking to buy a retirement property, whether you're looking to move into a retirement home or a retirement village.

Mature couple having fun in their garden
Will you need a garden in your new property?

Buying a home for retirement is an increasingly popular choice for those who want to make life easier with a smaller property to run – and be among people of a similar mindset.

Rising life expectancy has meant that people are healthier and may not need as much support, or only need care much later in life.

Retirement accommodation is ideal for some people who are looking for an easy life and the option of care being on tap when they might need it.

Buying a property in either a retirement village or a retirement housing development will be new for most people and there is much to learn before you start looking.

Here are ten things you need to know when buying into retirement living:

1. Retirement living or village?

There are broadly two types of retirement living options. Retirement homes offer independent living in affordable properties accompanied by limited provisions and lower running costs. Retirement villages offer the same independence, but within a large community setting that has a ready-made social scene plus a whole load of add-ons, depending on the village you choose. Both offer varying degrees of care.

2. Explore facilities

To reflect the growing number of older people who are increasingly healthy and active, the facilities in retirement villages range from wine-tastings, bridge, yoga classes, good quality restaurants, to gyms and swimming pools as well as allotment gardening. One retirement village hosted its first music festival in 2018. Housing can also offer a hub of activities, though more limited to what the building can host.

3. Location is vital

The idea of a country postcode may seem great. But when you realise getting out and about could become more difficult and any hospital appointments when you aren’t feeling well are miles away, you might feel differently. Try to find somewhere near friends and family and where there is good local transport. Retirement villages are typically close to towns and some developments offer shuttle services to the local shops and amenities.

4. What about care provisions?

The level of care will differ between developments. Some places some with a simple warden service a few days a week – others have full round-the-clock care. Some have a mix and match scenario so you can take on more care as you need it.

5. Ask about charges

Get a clear idea on costs at the outset. A big outlay on retirement village homes is the service charges which cover all the facilities. A service charge is made per property to cover emergency 24 hour call service to the on-site care team, ground maintenance, external property maintenance, a mini-bus service to and from shops and events, buildings insurance, access to all activities and events, window cleaning, administration and security. They are typically lower for retirement housing developments.

6. Off plan options

Buying a property before a development is finished is possible and worthwhile for the most in demand locations. Keep an eye out in your preferred area for development plans.

7. Pay a visit

Visit the developments under consideration in person when you have a shortlist. Many places offer potential buyers the chance to meet their neighbours, which can give a better feel for the social life that lies ahead. Taster Days are one way to get a real feel of a retirement village. You usually get to sample the facilities, meet the residents and the staff, as well as having questions answered by our expert adviser.

8. Consider resale

People buy their homes - rather than pay for rooms and care by the week, as in a residential home. Considering the resale is important for you and your family. Experts say as with any other type of property, location is key. Exit fees are sometimes applied when you come to sell, known as a ‘deferred management charge’.

9. Update your will

Don’t forget that any big change in circumstances will give rise to the need to revisit your will. A new property might prompt you to look at a number of measures to avoid or cut inheritance tax. See a solicitor who can help restructure your arrangements.

10. Know your options

If you'd rather keep the family home, equity release schemes offer a range of options which allow you to draw capital or raise income from your home without having to move.

Is Equity Release right for you? Find out more here


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.