Choosing Your Dream Retirement Village
A checklist of what to do and questions to ask
There’s no denying that retirement villages offer an unrivalled level of luxury for your golden years.
With superb homes specifically designed for older residents, a friendly community of like-minded people your own age, and a host of country club style facilities, they offer the lifestyle you’ve been working so hard for all your life.
This is retirement living at its very best, but how do you choose the best retirement village for you, and what are the important things to consider when you are looking around?
A huge choice
Although retirement villages are a relatively new concept in the UK, the industry is growing rapidly, with new developments opening every year. Knight Frank estimates that there are currently 162,000 private retirement homes in the UK, with many of these in distinct developments or retirement villages.
A quick web search will reveal a number of specialist retirement village companies, including Inspired, Audley, Anchor and McCarthy and Stone, along with several sites that rank the best retirement villages in the UK. These are a good place to start your search, but it is important to remember that these are not the only providers. There are many highly rated independent retirement villages, such as Birtle Brook in Lancashire.
Deciding what you want
With such a large selection to choose from, you can afford to be very specific about what yo
u want from your new retirement home. After all, it is important to get it right, as you could be spending the rest of your life there.
Before you start, you need to make a list of what is most important to you. There will be quite a lot to think about, so It can help to split this into columns: "Need", Want and "Would Like".
This should include absolute deal-breakers in the first part, preferred items in the second and the ‘icing on the cake’ factors in the third.
It might be very important to you to be able to bring your pet, or perhaps being near your grandchildren is a higher priority. You may like a quiet, rural location, or like to be close enough to walk into the local town to socialise with a wider age range.
A good quality local golf course is a must for some, while others prefer a cinema within easy reach. These factors can have a significant impact on your lifestyle and your happiness, so you need to think carefully about how you would like to live. If none of the villages meets all of your aspirations, you may need to look at what alternative provisions are available.
For example: If you can’t find somewhere near your family, look for retirement villages with guest suites where they can come and stay when they visit you.
If there is no town nearby, look for retirement villages with transport for a weekly shopping or theatre trip. It can take a little while to work out which is your best option, but most people can find a mix that they are happy with in at least one location.
As well as the lifestyle factors, there are also a number of practical elements that you need to consider about each retirement village, including:
- Property type – would you prefer a flat, bungalow or cottage
- Village size – are you happier in a small or large community
- Facilities – what can the village offer for leisure and entertainment
- Services – can they offer extra help and care as your needs increase
- Age limits – do you and your partner qualify
- Rent or buy – what arrangements are available within the village
Of course, you will also need to compare the prices, asking ‘what is the cost of living in a retirement village?’, but perhaps these considerations are secondary to your quality of life. Although it is important to be able to afford your new life, your retirement could last for several decades so this is no time to compromise.
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Visiting your shortlist
Once you have narrowed down the choices, based on your list of requirements, you should make a shortlist and arrange to visit each one in turn. It may help to have someone else come with you, such as a friend or family member. This not only gives you another perspective on the place, but also avoids the risk of you getting won over by the hard sell if you are on your own.
Take your list of your requirements with you and remember to ask all the questions that are important to you.
While you are there, try to talk to as many members of staff and current residents as you can, to find out what life is really like beyond the glossy brochures and sales patter.
Questions to ask
To make sure you are comparing retirement villages equally, and getting all the information you need each time, take this list of questions with you and make a note of the answers.
You can also ask any specific questions that are important to you to the list, such as:
- What is the age limit and does it apply to both partners in a couple?
- Can I bring my pets and are there any restrictions?
- How much is the management charge and when is it paid?
- What does the management charge include and what is extra?
- Can I bring my car and if so will I have a designated parking space?
- Is there a guest room / suite and how much does it cost?
- How far away is the nearest village / town and is transport provided?
- What is the exit fee and are there any other fees I need to know about?
- Is there 24 hour cover and will I have an emergency call system in my home?
Take your time
Naturally, you will be keen to get on with your new life, especially once you see the lifestyle on offer at possibly some Britain’s best retirement villages. However, it is important to take your time and choose carefully. Make sure you visit all of the retirement villages on your shortlist, even if you feel like you’ve found the perfect place on your first or second visit.
There may be somewhere that is even better.
Whatever reassurances the village may offer, it is still important to do the same due diligence as you would for any other home purchase, including getting your solicitor to do local searches. If you don’t, then you could find that the view that you have fallen in love with is earmarked for a new housing estate, radically changing your new home and reducing its value.
Buying a home in a retirement village is a big decision, and it can be very expensive to change your mind and move elsewhere, so it is crucial that you make the right choice and are truly happy with your selection.
Don’t worry about the delay, because once you have made that choice, you could be moving in a matter of weeks with the help of Yes! Homebuyers, so there’s no risk of missing out on your dream retirement home.