Retirement housing is more popular than ever, and the choices available to those who wish to make the switch to retirement property are on the up. The reason why demand for retirement homes has grown over the last few years is obvious: a growing population and greater life expectancy. As a result, we are receiving more and more enquiries about buying retirement properties, so we thought it was about time we created a guide to help anyone who has questions about what they need to consider when buying a retirement property.

Why switch to a retirement home?

The reason why people choose to buy retirement property is as varied as any other acquisition. Some simply want to downsize and draw the equity out of their family home to bolster their retirement, while others may need more security and help with maintenance and the upkeep of where they live.

Residential care is also a factor for some, as is the increased sense of community associated with many retirement properties. Whatever the reason, we hope that our guide to buying a retirement home will help you along the way.

Key things to consider if you are thinking of buying retirement property

There are lots of things to bear in mind, and sometimes these can seem a little daunting. However, as with most things in life, being prepared can remove a lot of the worry, so use the following points as a checklist when you begin your search and you’ll find that purchasing a retirement property is nowhere near as worrisome as you may have thought.

Location

You can’t have a guide to buying property without discussing location, and retirement homes are no different. One of the most important aspects to consider is how close to friends and family your new home is. This is a vital consideration regardless of whether you think you will be the one doing the visiting or if you anticipate visitors coming to you. The closer you are to those important to you, the easier it will be to see them, so this should be one of your main considerations.

As a retiree, it’s also quite possible that you’ll be spending greater periods of time in your new property than you may have done in your old home. With no work to take up your time, it’s imperative to purchase a property you feel you’d be happy to while away the hours in. Therefore, things such as the view you have from your property and the proximity to busy roads and other potentially noisy things should be considered, too.

That being said, choosing somewhere too quiet can lead to a feeling of isolation, so it’s all about striking a balance wherever possible. Another positive to look out for is having shops within easy walking distance. If your retirement property of choice isn’t close to any shops, be sure to enquire about whether or not there is any transport provided by the complex. Many will have a regular mini bus service, but the onus is on you to check before you buy.

Size

This may seem like an obvious consideration, but it is something you’ll need to think about as many retirement properties are very small. Although one of your primary reasons for moving may be to downsize, it is important to have enough room to feel comfortable in. Switching from a spacious property to a small one can be difficult for some, so bear this in mind when viewing retirement homes.

The other thing with downsizing is the amount of personal possessions you will be able to take with you. Moving into a retirement home often requires some serious decluttering and you may even need to purchase new furniture that will be better suited to your new surroundings.

Facilities

The facilities on offer in retirement property complexes can vary dramatically, and what will suit one person may not necessarily fit with someone else. For example, if you’ve never picked up a tennis racket in your life and have no intension of starting now, paying increased service charges for tennis courts is hardly going to be appealing.

Some retirement properties will have just the basics covered, such as a communal area where residents can gather and enjoy a cup of tea together, whereas others may boast spas, pools and all manner of other amenities. As one would expect, the more facilities on offer, the greater the service charges will be, so be sure to take into account whether or not you will actually make use of all the facilities available to you.

One facility that can been a boon to all residents at some point is an on-site restaurant. Even if you are a regular cook, having the opportunity to pop down to the restaurant can be convenient and give you a social outlet, too, so it’s something worth looking out for.

Social events

On the subject of social outlets, another consideration you may wish to enquire about is whether the retirement home you are considering has planned social nights or events that you can attend. Many will run card and board game nights inside the complex itself, as well as day trips away from the grounds.

While none of these events are in any way compulsory, having the option available to you can help stave off any feelings of loneliness and boredom should they arise.

Care

The level of care that you opt for when buying a property in a retirement complex will largely depend upon your current state of health. Those with ongoing health issues will obviously want to have access to care within the grounds itself wherever possible, while active retirees may be happy to get their healthcare elsewhere as and when they need it.

See our piece on retirement property types for more information on the different kinds of retirement housing available.

Security

Regardless of the type of retirement property you plump for, security should be taken care of by those in charge of the complex. Things to keep an eye out for are:

  • Gated communities
  • CCTV
  • Telecom answering entry systems
  • Around the clock wardens

 

Some retirement properties may also offer 24-hour emergency Careline system for those who are more immobile or vulnerable. A pendant is worn around the neck or on the wrist and a simple press of the built-in button will alert Careline that there is a problem. Careline will then attempt to speak with the person via the base unit, which is connected to the phone socket in the home, and they will inform a previously arranged emergency contact to tell them you require assistance. 

Should a medical emergency occur, the Careline team will contact 999 for you, giving the emergency services details of your medication and medical history so they will be best placed to assist you when they arrive.

Pets

Many retirees will have pets that they wish to take with them, so it’s important to check whether or not the site you are looking at allow animals within the grounds. Some will have certain rules, such as only ground floor flats being made available to those with pets. Others may allow you to bring existing pets with you, but won’t let you have replacements if you’re pet passes on while you are living there.

Financial considerations

As with any purchase, there are obviously immediate financial considerations to take into account. However, buying retirement property also comes with some ongoing factors, too, so it’s important to be well versed in what they are and what they may mean for you now and in the future.

Service charges

Sometimes referred to as maintenance, service charges are an important consideration when buying a retirement home. At first glance, they may seem prohibitively high, but it’s imperative you get a breakdown of exactly what is included. Remember, much of the service charge may replace bills you are currently paying separately, such as a gardener, for example.

Typical service charges will include the upkeep of the communal areas, grounds and gardens, external lighting, window cleaning, building insurance, staffing costs, on-site facilities, security and any decorating required in shared areas. Ask what is covered and what your responsibilities are. Usually, things such as gas, electricity, water, telephone, contents insurance and internal maintenance will be down to you.

One question well worth asking is whether or not the site operates a sink fund or not. This will help cover any unexpected costs that may arise, such as a damaged roof, for example. If there isn’t a sink fund in place you could be asked to foot a share of the bill, which is something you’ll naturally want to avoid if at all possible.

Another consideration is how the service charge is worked out each year. Can it be independently changed or is it linked to the inflation rate? Knowing this could help prevent being hit with exorbitant increases once you move in.

Exit fees

Many of the companies who run retirement complexes will charge an exit fee whenever the property is resold, and it’s essential to find out what this will be before you move in. Some can be as much as 12.5 per cent of the property’s value, making it a significant amount.

Concerns over the transparency of company policy regarding charges and fees has led to a code of practice being introduced by the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO). This states that companies must disclose all details regarding fees and charges prior to the resident moving in, but there have been instances of fees being hidden within the small print of the contract, so it’s an important thing to clarify so that you’re 100% certain.

Resale

Selling retirement property is different to placing an ordinary home on the market and it is highly likely that your retirement home will fetch much less than a regular property of comparable size would. While this may not be a concern for some, for others the sale of a retirement property can be for more than personal financial gain. For example, those who must sell up in order to move into a nursing home may need to cover expensive fees, so it’s important to factor in the potential resale value into your calculations before you commit to buying a retirement home.

It is estimated that as many as one in four of the UK’s population will be over 65 by 2032, so retirement property will continue to be in demand for many years to come. Despite many new retirement developments springing up in and around Wanstead and Buckhurst Hill, there is still a shortage of good quality retirement homes in the area. This means that making a sale shouldn’t be too much of an issue locally.

 

If you are thinking of buying or selling a retirement home, Petty Son and Prestwich can help. Our family run business is built on traditional values and we pride ourselves on offering a greater degree of personal service than many of our competitors provide. So, if you need some help or advice, feel free to give our friendly team a call on one of the numbers listed below:

Wanstead office – 020 8989 2091 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Buckhurst Hill office - 020 8504 5403 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

guide to purchasing a retirement property