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Retirement housing: a basic guide

The UK has lagged behind many other countries around the world in offering a wide choice of housing dedicated to the needs and tastes of older people – but the market is now starting to catch up.

The benefits can be significant:  not least, effectively “downsizing” from a family home can release additional funds with which to enjoy one’s retirement or to help members of the family, and of course there are the associated reduced maintenance costs and obligations.

In fact, the best expression in many instances would be “rightsizing” as the benefits can significantly outweigh the downsides.

As well as developments of apartments which are designed for and marketed solely to older people (typically 55 or 60 plus), and which often have a common room, shared gardens and possibly an on-site warden, the last few years have seen a wide range of different approaches.

These include converted country mansions set in open parklands, and new-build “villages” with sports, leisure and dining facilities on hand.

Increasingly, developments are being established with extra care facilities readily on hand: apartments which are designed specifically for those with extra care needs, and even with care units attached, complete with medical personnel.

There is a considerable advantage of a facility that allows you to progress seamlessly from having an active retirement in an easy to run apartment or town house, through to being able to access domiciliary or nursing care as and when need it. In particular you can remain within familiar surroundings and within your newly established friendship and support network.

So are there any caveats to all these positives?

Firstly, there is still relatively little new stock being developed – which means that you may need to move away from your current social and support network to find the sort of property you want in your price range.

Secondly, not all developments offer the mix of tenures that will meet you needs: ideally, there would be a choice to purchase, part own and rent – enabling you to remain flexible and release as much capital as you need to help fund the years ahead.

Thirdly, every development like this will have associated running and maintenance costs which are passed on as management fees; and the more facilities on offer, the higher the costs – so do take full account of these when budgeting for your future years.

Fourthly, although the move into retirement accommodation is often seen as one’s “last move”, there may come a time when you (or your partner) will need to make the move into accommodation that offers a greater level of support and care (“extra care”) or indeed into a care setting. Research how easy it will be to make this move – and whether there are any restrictions on who you can sell your property to, or any cost implications.

Finally, moving into the right retirement property can prove immensely rewarding for many people: an opportunity to really make the very most of one’s later years. Indeed, many of those who have made the move will speak of regret they did not make the move earlier, or that it has made a calculable improvement on their health and wellbeing.

But it is a major move and it isn’t for everyone: it is not the same as living in a semi detached house with your own garden and drive; some developments have restrictions on the pets you can keep. Moreover, it’s a move that could prove difficult and/or expensive to “undo”. So do undertake your research carefully: there are specialist agencies that will listen to all your requirements and preferences and shortlist the best choices for you.

Don’t rush into a move:

  • Many of these developments have guest suites where you can sample the life there before deciding.
  • Talk to a wide cross section of other residents.
  • Explore the locality and check out what sort of social offering it has, as well as the proximity to those facilities that may matter to you most – now and in the future.
  • Calculate what difference the move will make on your family and current social circle – will it be easy or difficult for you to see each other?
  • Recognise that downsizing inevitably means giving up some possessions: are you ready for that? Will you mind losing some of your space… and will you miss the garden?
  • And DO calculate your finances carefully – a task made very easy for you with the RetireEasy LifePlan!

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Retire Easy Ltd.

RetireEasy is the UK’s only independent retirement planning tool. LifePlan gives you an overview of all of your assets – including investments, pensions, savings, business assets and properties – and the income you will receive after liabilities such as debts, mortgages and income tax. It is not just a snapshot, but shows you how your finances will evolve throughout your retirement.

Premium LifePlan not only provides live updates on stocks and fund values, provided by Morningstar, and you can model a Lifetime Mortgage, create and compare up to 3 scenarios of your financial future, radically reduce life insurance costs through a Life Assurance Premium Checker and you can print user-friendly narrative reports.

RetireEasy was established in 2011 and has helped thousands of users to understand their finances throughout retirement and adjust their plans to ensure that their money will last.

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