personal finance

Which is the right retirement village for you?


The concept of retirement village living was pioneered in places like Australia and the USA, where they have now become an established part of the housing market landscape.

Although there is still a long way to go here in the UK, retirement villages are becoming more prevalent across the country, making this a viable and attractive option for people enthusiastically planning for their retirement and where best to spend it.

The key aspect to retirement village living that really sets it apart from other alternatives is the unique combination of amenities and services it offers. Choosing to live at a retirement village puts you in complete control of your life right now, as well as for the future, so you can get on with enjoying your well-earned years of retirement knowing you’ve got support as and when you want it.

With such a range of retirement villages popping up across the country it’s worth spending time doing some thorough research so you can ascertain what is available to you in the area you have in mind. 

Read on to find out what you should be considering when looking for the right retirement village for you.

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All retirement villages are not equal

Don’t assume that all retirement villages are the same. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ or across the board, industry-standard when it comes to the provision of amenities and services. 

Just because one offers certain provisions, doesn’t mean these are necessarily available at another. Developers are beginning to realise the possibilities of what a retirement village can offer in terms of amenities and quality of accommodation, so it is definitely worth the trouble of shopping around or taking the long-term view of places still in the construction phase.

Your ‘must-haves’

Decide on your personal ‘definites’, those things that you would insist on your retirement village having, followed by the things you regard as being less important. This can help to narrow down the options. Being able to get into town easily might be more important for you than having a hair salon on-site, for example.

Flexibility for the future

Retirement villages are home to a broad range of ages and physical abilities. As a result, there is a range of services available to residents, from standard domestic help, such as a cleaner or housekeeper, through to specialised at-home medical care. 

Check the services provided by the village and that they can be implemented at any stage of your residency and put together as part of a personalised package.

Visit your favourites

Once you have made a shortlist, it’s time to start visiting. 

Plan to visit more than once, making initial visits to gauge your first impressions and then spending a whole day there if you can. This way you can get an idea of the flow of daily life in the village, see people come and go and chat with residents. 

Some villages offer a ‘try before you buy’ scheme where you can stay for a few days to see how you would settle in. If possible, take along your family or a friend when you visit. It’s always helpful to have another point of view and, you can talk through any concerns you may have.

Look further afield

Bear in mind that, even if it is in the most idyllic of settings, you don’t have to spend all your time in the retirement village. Make sure you investigate what there is within walking distance and what you can reach by public transport should you not have a car. 

Take a look around the local town for the availability of larger shops, galleries, railway stations and cinemas if these are things you like.

Key questions for retirement villages

Is there a minimum age restriction for residents of a retirement village?

Most villages will specify a minimum age of between 55 and 60. These minimum ages will vary and can depend on the local planning requirements. Some may specify, if there is a couple occupying a property, that only one of them needs to be the minimum age.

Will I own the property where I live?

Most retirement village properties are offered on a leasehold basis, in a similar way to how flats and apartments are commonly sold. Some villages can provide properties to rent too.

How does a leasehold work?

Unlike a freehold where you own both the building and the land it is on, a leasehold gives you the ownership of a building, or portion of a building, for a set period of time. Most flats or apartments, whether in a retirement village or not, are sold as leasehold properties.

Can I sell my home if I wish?

If you are a leaseholder, you can sell your home. There are likely to be fees to pay when your property is sold. These fees should be clearly outlined before you agree to buy the property and fully explained to you by your solicitor.

Am I responsible for my household bills?

Yes, you will be in control and responsible for all bills for household utilities, such as electricity, water and gas.

Can I make changes or improvements to my home?

Decorative changes may be allowed by the village’s management. In some cases it is part of the contract to maintain good decorative order.

It is unlikely that structural changes would be permitted. You do need to check this with your village operator or owner.

What fees should I expect?

Every monthly, annual and one-off fees should be clearly outlined by the operator of the retirement village.

As retirement villages offer more facilities than standard retirement homes, there are fees to cover the cost of the services and amenities provided. The more there are, the higher these fees are likely to be.

As well as fees for the management and provision of services, there are fees charged at the end of your residency too such as ‘exit’ or ‘deferred management’ fees. The village’s operator should tell you all about these, however you should ensure your solicitor talks you through each one of them too.

What is included in the monthly fee?

You need to investigate this thoroughly with the retirement village you have in mind.

Generally, the fee covers such things as the maintenance of the buildings and grounds, the village administration, communal care cover and provision of basic village services. There may be other fees to pay for any extra facilities offered by the village and any individual care you have arranged.

Can I bring my pet?

Most villages will welcome you bringing your pet with you when you move in. There may be some restrictions in certain areas, for example designated ‘pet-free’ apartments or communal areas, such as restaurants and cafés.

Retirement village jargon buster

Dealing with retirement villages and the associated paperwork is not without its jargon. Let us help you through the basics.

Here are some terms you might read about in brochures or hear being used when you visit a retirement village. This list is not comprehensive and different retirement villages may use different terms or wording.

If anything seems unclear to you at any stage, ask for further explanation from the vendor or your solicitor.

Assignment Fee

This fee is payable by you to the freeholder of the retirement village when your home is sold and transferred to a new owner.

It covers the freeholder’s costs for arranging a new lease in the name of the new owner.

Assisted Living

Retirement villages should offer a basic level of care and support, such as being able to contact someone 24 hours a day.

Assisted living, or ‘extra care’, is the availability of add-on services you can request at any time. This can include having meals provided, access to laundry services or having a cleaner visit.

Contingency Fee

This fee is payable to the freeholder of the retirement village to pay for any substantial repairs or major improvements, such as adding a new communal building or replacing a roof. The fee is usually a percentage of the
sale value of your property when it’s sold.

Service Charge

This charge covers a broad range of costs. It pays for all those things needed to run the retirement village, from repairs and maintenance to financing the administrative side of the business. Depending on the size
and facilities offered by the village, this service charge will vary from development to development.

Deferred Management Fee

This fee is paid when the lease agreement comes to an end. In the case of retirement villages, it pays for the provision of communal facilities. These provision fees are ‘deferred’ and are collected at the end of your residency. For example, your service charge may cover the maintenance of a swimming pool but it does not cover the cost of having it built. The Deferred Management Fee is like a ‘use now, pay later’ payment and should be fully explained before you sign a contract.

Exit Fee

This fee is paid to the freeholder when your lease agreement finishes. It may be a flat fee or a percentage of the sale price of your property. The exit fee should be made clear before you commit to buying. The exit fee
is also known as a ‘transfer fee’ or ‘departure fee’.

Freeholder

This is the person or company that owns the land and buildings of the retirement village.

Landlord

This is the person who either owns the freehold or the head lease and with whom you have your lease.

Leaseholder

A leaseholder owns a dwelling in the retirement village for a set period of time (eg. 99 years) under a lease agreement with
the landlord.

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