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Retirement villages

publication date: Apr 21, 2006
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Retirement villages, a relatively new development in the UK, are proving popular with older people as places to live, according to research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Attracted by having ‘your own front door’ in homes especially designed for later life and with on-site care and support available day and night, older people also have more opportunities to make friends and to lead an active life.

The JRF research also found evidence that retirement villages were good news for local communities, by helping health and social care providers to deliver health and community services more efficiently. On-site care and support in retirement villages can lead to fewer hospital admissions and promote earlier discharge, generating cost savings for acute hospital trusts.

As yet there are only a few retirement villages in the UK, examples being Hartrigg Oaks in York, Westbury Fields in Bristol, and Ryfields in Warrington. They usually have more than 100 dwellings, allowing certain economies of scale, and for the provision of amenities such as cafés, fitness suites, and craft rooms.

Security, support & companionship

The study was by Karen Croucher, Research Fellow at the Centre for Housing Policy, University of York. Karen said: “The study shows that retirement villages have great potential to expand the choices of living arrangements for older people as well as having benefits not just confined to those who live there. But perhaps the strongest messages are from the residents of retirement villages themselves as studies consistently show high levels of satisfaction with the combination of independence, security, support and companionship that the schemes offer.”

Most older people looking for sheltered housing or simply a ‘retirement’ property will not have small development. Presumably though, the benefits enjoyed by residents in these new villages are echoed in smaller developments. This is a rapidly growing market and one that JRF – and other experts – believe is good news for the housing market as it releases properties for sale to younger buyers.

Breakthrough as estate agents are instructed

McCarthy & Stone have led this development and currently have 120 developments across the UK, other developers include Tunstall and Pegasus. Estate agents do not often get involved in the original sales, but do handle resales and, increasingly, lettings.

Perry Bishop and Chambers in Oxfordshire have been appointed sole selling agents by McCarthy & Stone for their development at Dove Court in Faringdon. This is a first for McCarthy & Stone who more usually work with agents on a purely referral basis. Peter Chambers, Land and New Homes Director says “We are delighted to be chosen to be involved with this new project. It is a reflection of our continued close working relationship with McCarthy & Stone in respect of development land opportunities, along with our experience and high market share in Faringdon.”

Convenient locations

The new development is in a prominent town centre position, conveniently placed for shops and other services. It is a very attractive scheme offering a range of both 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, with prices ranging from £179,950 to £220,000. Peter believes that it should sell very well: “In some areas there is an oversupply of retirement properties but there is a good level of demand here. Buyers will be attracted by the position and the security that these homes can give them.”

In Winchester, Dreweatt Neate have been instructed to let a luxury retirement property for a lady who has bought it as an investment. Currently living in Cheshire and an active 70 year old, the owner says she is looking ahead – her children live in Bristol and Sussex and while she wants to be nearer to them as she gets older she does not want to be a burden on them.

Capital considerations

Tying up significant capital in a retirement home is unusual but it will save her worrying about buying when the time comes to move. Zaza Patterson of Dreweatt Neate, Winchester, says “The flat, in the Wyke Mark development, is stunning, really good room sizes taking into account that people will be down sizing and may have large furniture. The development, by English Courtyard has a resident warden, there is a guest suite for friends and relatives to stay in at minimal cost, and a weekly shopping bus. There is also garaging as most of the residents are pretty active.”

“However, this is a fairly limited market, due to the age restrictions and because they are very high specification flats, the rent reflects this. The rental is more than the majority of retired people want to spend – it is £1500 pcm - and it may therefore take longer to let. As my client has bought it for her own future this is not so much of an issue but if someone was doing it purely for an investment then this wouldn’t be ideal.”

Demand increasing

The sales and lettings markets for retirement properties are destined to increase as the population of people over 65 years increases. Given that the average life expectancy is 77, and state run retirement homes are bursting at the seams, retired people will need more accommodation that offers security and a level of care.

Interestingly though, although there are thousands of these properties around – they are difficult to locate on the internet property portals. We searched all the well known portals and the only one that facilitated a search for ‘retirement’ properties was Primelocation – locating them by using their keyword feature. In all the others you have to wade through hundreds of homes to spot the magic words.

Perhaps the other portals need to consider the ‘silver surfers’ and, perhaps, agents could look at this as an area of specialisation.

For more information on the Joseph Rowntree research visit www.jrf.org.uk