Is a park home right for you?
It is estimated that 160,000 people live in park homes in England alone, with 1700 sites spread right across the UK. 68% of residents are aged 60 or over, and most of these have chosen park homes because they are more manageable, they are located in attractive areas and because they offer a community of like-minded souls to spend time with.
Downsizing to a residential park home is one of the most popular options for people who no longer need a large family home, and the move has many advantages, improving your lifestyle, assisting your finances and freeing up cash to enjoy your retirement. However, park life isn’t for everyone, and you need to understand the pros and cons of park homes completely before you make your choice.
Let’s take a look at some of the main features of park homes and how they can benefit you in your retirement.
160,000 people live in residential park homes in England
Space and size
The most obvious difference between a park home and a traditional bricks and mortar home is the size. Park homes are very compact and will usually offer much less living space than you are used to. While this makes them easier to clean and maintain, and far cheaper to heat, the smaller size is not for everyone. If you enjoy entertaining, or you have accumulated a lot of stuff down the years that you are reluctant to get rid of, a park home may not give you the space you need to live the way you want.
On the other hand, if you are looking to downsize to something more manageable, especially if you need single storey living for disabled access now or in the future, then a mobile home is a great value alternative to a bungalow or retirement flat.
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Park home communities
Unless you choose a retirement village, living in a pensioner bungalow or flat can be quite isolating and lonely. Living in a park home, however, you will be part of a community of like-minded souls. Many park home sites have age restrictions, such as over-55s only, so you will be sharing the site with people just like you.
Park homes allow you to live independently, enjoying the company of others when you want it, or some privacy and peace if you prefer. On most parks, the communities look out for each other, and many have a range of outings and social events arranged for residents.
There are 1700 park home sites in the UK
Park home sites are chosen carefully, and are normally located in a desirable setting, such as in the countryside or on the coast. They are usually landscaped and many include features such as fishing ponds, bowling greens, cycle trails or woodland walks. These parks are self-contained and safe, often within a gated community, and some will even have CCTV and security guards for added peace of mind.
For many people, this creates the perfect peaceful setting, away from the hustle and bustle of towns and traffic, but you may find the parks a little too quiet, especially in your younger retirement years, or if you are used to a more vibrant community.
How much do park homes cost?
Park homes are significantly cheaper than bricks and mortar properties, which could mean you can afford to move to an attractive area such as the Lake District or the South West that you wouldn’t possibly otherwise be able to afford. It is worth noting that unlike ordinary homes, you will not own the land on which your park home sits. This remains the property of the landlord, and while they will lease to you for a fee, this is legally different from the leasehold or freehold on a standard home.
On the plus side, this means that you will not pay stamp duty when you buy, however it does mean that park home properties will reduce in value over time, rather than growing in value like the rest of the property market. Not owning the land also means you cannot get a traditional mortgage to make your purchase.
The average cost of a residential mobile home in the UK is usually between £70,000 to £425,000 while a pre-owned property can be lower starting at around £50,000.
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The costs of running a park home revealed
As well as your annual lease fee to the park owner, you will also have to pay utility bills, just like a normal home. You will have to buy your gas, electricity and water from your landlord, but they are obliged by law to sell this at the current market rate without mark up. The low cost of park homes means that you will usually pay the lowest band of council tax on your property.
Just like any other home, a park home will require maintenance to protect and preserve it and to maintain its energy efficiency. You can take care of this yourself, or your chosen park may offer a maintenance service for you for a monthly charge. This has the advantage of spreading the cost so you do not have to face a large and unexpected maintenance bill.
Should you choose a new or a used park home?
Most parks will offer a choice of new and pre-owned park homes, or even vacant plots, and there are advantages to each option. A brand new park home will need little or no work before you move in, and will conform to the very latest specifications for insulation and energy efficiency, making them warmer and cheaper to heat. They will need very little maintenance and should be covered by a warranty for the first ten years or so.
The biggest advantage of used park homes will be the price. Used park homes will be significantly cheaper, which could mean you can afford a larger home, or afford to live at a better park in a nicer location. A well kept pre-owned park home can be great value for money compared to the new price, but you should always have your home professionally assessed to check for any hidden problems, as you will not get the same warranty as a new park home.
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How long do residential park homes last?
One of the reasons that park homes don’t increase in value is that they are only built to last for about 50 or 60 years. So you may ask is it worth buying a park home at all? The answer is yes, especially if you are buying for your retirement, as it will easily last long enough for you.
When it comes to older park homes, you should always check the date of manufacture, as insulation standards only became part of the British Standard for Park Homes in 2005, and older homes could be colder and more expensive to run. These standards were revised again in 2015, improving the insulation requirement still further.
If money is no object, then you should look for a park home site that offers vacant plots. This then allows you to have your home built to your exact specifications by the manufacturer, making sure you get everything you want in your new home. You will deal directly with the manufacturer regarding the design, but the park will arrange the transport and siting once your home is complete.
Choosing your park home site
Given that park homes themselves vary little between different parks, your choice will come down to location, location, location. Make a list of what is important to you in your new lifestyle, and break this down into need, want and would like, putting your top priorities and deal-breakers in the first column, preferences in the second and the ‘icing on the cake’ elements in the third.
Perhaps you will want to be close to family and friends, or within easy reach of trains or major road links to get to them. Maybe you’ve always wanted to live in the countryside, or by the sea. You may want a park home with a garden, or a park with a lively social programme. You might want a local pub or cinema. With over 1700 parks to choose from, you can afford to be choosy and you should be able to get all of your need list and a lot of your wants, and probably some of your would like list too.
With so many homes and parks to choose from,
you can get exactly what you want.
Once you have a short list of parks that meet your criteria, it is important to visit them and spend some time there. Existing residents will be happy to talk to you about life on the park, and they will give you a far more realistic picture of the park than any glossy brochure or park owner sales pitch.
Visit at different times of day, and in different weather, to get a feel for the park under different circumstances, and try and see inside other park homes so that you get a sense of what they are like to live in. Always ask about the management of the park, as a government report showed complaints about parks are a widespread problem.
Do your due diligence
Buying a park home is simpler than buying a bricks and mortar property that includes land, but you should still do thorough research and due diligence. You are not obliged to engage a solicitor, but given the sums of money involved, it is worthwhile to have a professional check your contracts and search for any local plans that may affect your property.
The standard contract is set out in the Mobile Homes Act 2013, along with guidance on fees, site rules, management and disputes, and there is a government fact sheet full of advice on buying a mobile home.
The most important thing to check is that the park is licensed for residential use. Some parks are technically holiday parks, and you will only have access to your home ten or eleven months a year, while other parks may be mixed use. This is going to be your new home, so make sure your park will allow you to live their all year round. You should also be clear on ground rent and other fees, as well as the park policy on annual increases.
A whole new life in retirement
There is much to consider when thinking about moving to a park home, but if it suits your finances and your lifestyle, then it can be a great move. Selling your old house and downsizing – or right-sizing – to a park home can release useful cash to make your retirement more exciting, more comfortable and more secure than you ever thought possible, while at the same time giving you a new life with new friends in a delightful new environment.
Of course, the best park homes, in the best locations, only come on the market very occasionally, so you need to be ready to strike when they do. With Yes Homebuyers, you can sell your old house on your terms, with an offer in 24hrs and a swift completion, so you can make that perfect park home your own before anyone beats you to it.