Choices in retirement

Navigate the options available to the over 55’s when it comes to finding suitable retirement properties.

There are of course a number of housing options available. These include staying at home, downsizing, moving in with family or moving abroad, each of which will appeal to different people in different ways.

New purpose-built retirement properties are a popular alternative solution and offer people over 60 (sometimes 55) the chance to lead an active independent life amongst like-minded people who can quickly become good friends and part of your social life.

Retirement apartments are secure, easy to manage and are economic to run. They offer the privacy and comfort of being in your own home surrounded by your own possessions and being able to look out over an immaculately maintained garden knowing that you never have to mow the lawn or do the heavy chores ever again!

Within a few weeks of moving into a retirement property, an overwhelming proportion of buyers state that they wished they had made the move earlier because they cannot believe how much better, easier, simpler, livelier and happier their lives have become. Their families also have peace of mind because they know their relatives are in a safe, caring, warm environment.

There are a number of options for people looking at private retirement housing;

Retirement living

These are developments built by specialist companies where the properties can only be sold to the over 60’s (sometimes over 55’s). The emphasis is on lifestyle, security and peace of mind. Typically, people who live in these developments enjoy an active social life and do not need medical assistance (or, if they do, they have a fitter spouse/partner who can help them).

Retirement developments usually have a very happy atmosphere and, for example, in times of bad weather all the owners club together to make sure everyone is looked after. Retirement property is also popular with people who have a second home overseas as they know they can safely lock up and leave their British base for many months at time.

Each property is self contained (as in any apartment building) and has a fully equipped kitchen so that the owners/residents can be self-sufficient.

Each development has a range of communal facilities, including a residents’ lounge, guest suite, laundry room and a lift and have the added benefit of a House Manager who looks after the general running of the development.

Assisted living

These are properties for people who need a bit more help to retain their independence. Properties tend to be smaller and have a kitchenette with a fridge and microwave and bathrooms modified for disabled use.

Developments offer a more comprehensive range of services and facilities designed to help residents retain independence in later life and are overseen by an Estate Management team who are on duty 24 hours a day. Facilities and support services include a waitress service restaurant, staff on site 24/7 and domestic assistance. Flexible personal care can also be arranged to meet specific and changing needs of residents.

This is the best of both worlds for many people as they can be independent, but have the security of on-site support.

Tailored care living

Developments are designed for people having difficulty with day-to-day living in their current home. A range of care and support services are available that can avoid the need to ever have to consider a move to residential care. Importantly home ownership is retained. Facilities include a waitress service restaurant, therapy room, hair salon and hobbies room. Domestic assistance is also available. Each resident is given an individual care plan which means they only pay for the care they need. This is monitored and adapted to meet changing circumstances, for instance following ill-health. Other services available include accompanying residents on shopping trips or to social events, medication prompting and bathing.

Living greener and cheaper

Research shows that owners of older properties could be paying almost three times more in energy bills than those in a new build home. This is down to the fact that new builds have to meet increasingly strict environmental standards, meaning they are much more energy efficient. This is a particularly important consideration for older residents looking to ensure their future financial wellbeing.

An independent, qualified assessor(1) compared the energy efficiency and estimated cost of fuel bills for two properties – a traditional semi-detached house built in the early 1900s, and a brand new retirement apartment. The results showed a stark difference, with energy costs totalling an estimated £1,408 a year in the older property compared to just £525 in the new home(2). CO2 emissions from the older property were also nearly four times higher than those of the new build home.

Thermal imagery was also used to compare the energy efficiency of the two homes. The thermal images captured the amount of heat lost on a cold January evening and highlighted dramatic heat loss from the older property.

Non-energy efficient home
Energy efficient homes
Older property New build retirement apartment

In the image shown, pale yellow, red and white tones indicate where heat loss is greatest, notably around the windows of the older property. The blue and purple of the brand new apartment illustrate low heat loss and a more energy efficient home.

(1) Research conducted by IRT Surveys Ltd, Dundee on behalf of McCarthy and Stone.
(2) Costs have been based on national average fuel prices. Breakdown of costs as follows:

  • Lighting – £139.80 (SH) and £48.67 (NB)
  • Heating costs – £1113.04 (SH) and £389.76 (NB)
  • Hot Water Costs – £155.28 (SH) and £87.14 (NB)

Ease of moving

New build properties offer all kinds of buyers a number of advantages. Choosing a new home over a second hand property could save you thousands on DIY, maintenance and improvements, not to mention ongoing savings in areas such as fuel bills. Add to this the advantages of having no unpredictable property chains plus the different financial incentives and assistance packages developers can offer at the time of purchase, and the savings and benefits really do start to add up.

Most developers also now offer incentives to customers that make the moving experience easier. These include part exchange packages; assistance with actually moving house and reducing the amount of belongings people take to what will usually be a smaller home; and advice and help on the legal process involved in moving.


Equity release

Equity release is an option available to assist people wishing to move raise funds towards the purchase of a new retirement apartment or the living costs associated with that apartment.

Many people in retirement are unaware that there are lenders on the market who will lend to people once they have stopped working and have begun to receive a pension.

There are several types of plan available

Interest only mortgages:

A lump sum is released and during the term of the mortgage you pay interest only, and the capital is paid back on sale of the property. There is no term attached.

Lifetime mortgages:

  • Lump sum only – a lump sum is released and there are no capital or interest repayments during your lifetime.
  • Drawdown / cash reserve plan – you are able to draw down money as and when you wish, normally over a specified period of time, with no capital or interest repayments during your lifetime.
  • With both types of Lifetime mortgage the capital plus interest is paid back on sale of the property.

To seek further information please contact a specialist equity release advisor.


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