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Should I move to a retirement village?

Retirement villages, with their spas, cinemas and on-site facilities can be enticing. But make sure you read the small print before signing up, as they can also be very expensive.

Guest Author
Words by: Harriet Meyer

The nine-to-five is over, the kids are self-sufficient and your time is yours to play with.

The idea of a retirement village, surrounded by friends, with entertainment and classes on tap and an extra sense of security can feel enticing.

There are dozens of retirement villages across the UK. Some even have luxury facilities, with swimming pools, cinema rooms, landscaped gardens and restaurants. 

And crucially, for those of us who want to remain independent for as long as possible, on-site care can be arranged as needed. 

But before you see an infinity pool and sign on the dotted line, make sure you’re aware of the pros and cons.

In particular you need to understand all the financial implications, as there can be hefty fees buried in the small print. 

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Here’s what you need to know:

What are the pros of moving to a retirement village?

1. On-site facilities like spas, gyms and clubs

If you’ve got the cash, and you’re willing to spend it, you can find retirement villages with fantastic facilities.

Complete with a community of potential friends, you can enjoy spas, gyms and an extensive range of clubs and activities together. 

2. Accessible homes designed for senior people

Homes in retirement villages are specifically designed for older people.

You can choose from a range of different properties, including flats and bungalows. 

These properties are likely to be fully fitted out with the latest technology and with accessibility in mind.

You'll most likely find elevators, stair lifts and handrails. While accessible bathrooms and kitchens can help you to maintain your independence.

3. Support available around the clock

Retirement villages often include the option of 24-hour on-site care that can be ramped up at an additional cost when needed.

You may also find you can pay for meals to be delivered. 

There may also be guest facilities available to hire on site for when family members or friends come to stay. 

You can enjoy independent living for as long as you’re able - with a little extra help.

4. A community of people at the same life stage

Living in a retirement home means you’ll be surrounded by others in their later years, with the chance to make new friends and join a new community.

The social aspect of retirement villages hinges on clubs, spas and on-site facilities. So there’s plenty to get involved in.

5. Household maintenance is taken care of

You can enjoy day-to-day life in a retirement village without worrying about maintenance or repairs. 

These will be dealt with by a management company. You won’t have to bother sorting out, say, leaky taps or loose roof tiles.

Although it's important to remember that the cost of any major projects will ultimately come out of your pocket.

This extends to garden upkeep, too. So you can rest assured you’ll continue to live in attractive surroundings. 

Man at a BBQ with beers in the foreground and trees and countryside behind a fence in the background

What are the cons of a retirement village?

1. Service charges can mount up

Most homes in a retirement village will be leasehold. This can come as a shock if you’ve only previously owned a freehold home. 

Having a leasehold means you’re likely to need to pay peppercorn rent to your freeholder. A freeholder is the person who owns the bricks, mortar and land your home stands on.

Technically, as a leaseholder, you are not the owner. Instead you're leasing the home long-term.

Find out more about the pros and cons of leasehold ownership here.

There will also be service charges to consider, and these can stack up to eye-watering sums.

The maintenance and running costs for all of the facilities in a retirement home are ultimately paid for by the residents. 

Service charges can eat into retirement income.

And crucially, you may be charged for them until the property is sold. Even if you’ve moved into another home or have passed away, leaving your family responsible for covering the costs.

Be sure to get details of these charges before you buy, as it’s vital to understand what you’ll be paying. 

2. Retirement homes can be difficult to sell

Retirement homes are not always bought and sold easily.

This is perhaps because of how specific the market for this accommodation is. These homes are usually advertised to people aged 55 and over. 

As a result, they can take a long time to sell, particularly in tough market conditions.

That can make it tough if you need to sell up to help pay for residential care elsewhere. 

If you die before selling, your family members will have to continue to pay the service charges while their waiting for the property to be sold.

That can be particularly tricky if they need to pay inheritance tax and the money is all tied up in a retirement home.

3. Resale values don’t follow market trends

Retirement homes can be sold for far less than expected, or even at a loss. 

Retirement villages have a lot of advantages for older people when it comes to their day-to-day life.

But they appeal to only one section of the buying public, and it’s unlikely that someone who isn’t of retirement age would want to buy one. So that can impact how much they sell for.

4. Exit fees can run into thousands

Ask your solicitor to check for so-called 'exit fees' before buying a home in a retirement village. 

Exit fees are also known as 'event fees,' or 'deferred management fees'. You'll usually find the details for these in your lease.

The fees are charged once the home is sold. That might be after the owner moves into full-time care elsewhere, or after the owner dies.

These fees can sometimes run into tens of thousands of pounds. 

Exit fees can come as a huge shock for the owner or family members dealing with probate. 

These fees are designed cover future repairs and costs associated with the upkeep for retirement villages. They continue to be charged by many retirement villages.

5. You might prefer a more diverse neighbourhood

Swimming pools and bingo clubs are all very well. But you might decide you prefer to live somewhere with a greater diversity of ages around you.

While retirement villages are great for some people, they are not a one-size fits all solution.

You might prefer to find a home that's built with accessibility in mind in a neighbourhood not targeted at seniors.

There are plenty of locations that attract retirees, if that’s what you’re looking for, too. Why not check out new-build bungalows or an apartment block with an elevator?

You can tap into clubs and activities for seniors no matter where you live. 

In fact, living in a city centre close to amenities which you can walk or take a bus to, could make all the difference to maintaining your independence.

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We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.