RETIREMENT FEATURE – BOOM TIME FOR DOWNSIZERS
Retirement property is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country which is exciting news for downsizers
With more developers building for the over 60s there is now greater competition to provide quality accommodation at different price points and offer the chance to rent a home you could not afford to buy.
Nick Sanderson, CEO of the Audley Group which has built and operates 19 high-end retirement villages all over the country says: “The strength of the retirement village model is beginning to really show through in a challenging market for housing.
“We’ve had record numbers of visits to our villages in the last year and our pre-sale exchange levels have increased significantly.
“With an aging population and a dearth of options, it’s perhaps no surprise that the demand is high.
“The market is maturing and has huge potential over the next 20 years and beyond.”
A good example of recent expansion is London. Three years ago there was just one retirement village in the capital.
Described as ‘luxurious’ when it launched in 2016, the 10-storey LifeCare Residences development overlooking Battersea Park caused a media furore when a two-bedroom apartment was priced at £1million.
Now there are several players in town offering greater choice from simple apartments within secure developments to ‘whistle and bells’ retirement villages with swimming pools, restaurants and nursing care.
Newcomers include Elysian Residences which has just opened a show apartment at the Landsby in Stanmore, one of two retirement schemes it is building in London, where prices start at £490,000 for a one bedroom.
And Cinnamon Retirement Living, which is providing 28 one-and-two-bed apartments priced from £400,000 alongside a 78-bed care home at Eden Court in Battersea.
A number of large institutional investors such as AXA Investment Managers, L&G Capital and Goldman Sachs have transformed the market in recent years enabling developers to expand and improve existing villages, build new ones and create new brands.
Audley for example has launched Mayfield Villages – which offers the same facilities and care but with a lower price tag.
It’s no secret that the UK’s population is aging. With one in seven people predicated to be over 75 by 2040 opportunities presented by the sector are huge.
Riverstone Living, backed by £2billion from Goldman Sachs, is targeting the over 65s with Fulham Riverside, a one, two and three-bed project providing on-site care as well as a swimming pool, restaurant, bar, chauffeurs and cinema.
Rangeford Villages plans to have five retirement communities in its portfolio within the next five years. Specialists in contemporary, open-plan schemes, Kevin Beirne, Director at Octopus Real Estate insists, “Downsizing does not mean downgrading.” In addition to Wadswick Green, its flagship scheme near Bath which has just released a further phase of 45 homes and Mickle Hill, designed for the over 60s in North Yorkshire, work is about to start on Siddington Park, a 12-acre village in Cirencester in the Cotswolds. “We like to think of ourselves as the John Lewis of retirement villages,” Beirne adds.
When it comes to location, Surrey is proving a popular hotspot for retirees, being close to London, Heathrow Airport and the M25. Beechcroft, builders of luxury homes for the over 55s, has three retirement communities in the county. The Farthings, an award-winning scheme with a neighbouring care home in Leatherhead, has three-bedroom apartments and houses left for sale priced from £630,000. In Cobham, White Lion Place, a gated community of 30 houses and apartments has a three-bedroom apartment remaining for £665,000 and a two-bed for £795,000.
Orford Place in Ham, a short walk from the river, offers 23 one, two and three-bedroom houses and apartments including converted homes within an historic Grade II listed manor house, priced from £775,000 to £1,325,000.
In reaction to the sluggish traditional housing market a new emerging trend has been for retirement housebuilders to offer rental packages alongside outright purchase prompting some to say, “Retirees have never had it so good.”
PegasusLife offers a rent-to-buy scheme allowing prospective buyers to road test homes in their three developments in the capital before they purchase. This can help downsizers who are struggling to sell their homes. But it is also offering rental packages at six other schemes in Purley, Canford Hills in Dorset, Seaford, Tetbury, Wilmslow and Woking.
“There’s a growing trend of savvy retirees renting,” says PegasusLife’s chief commercial officer Ali Powell. “In doing so, it frees up more money to spend enjoying their retirement.”
A recent study from Retirement Villages, which has 16 villages all offering rentals, revealed that 55 per cent of over 55s said they would consider renting with 48 per cent saying they would rent with a friend.
Jamie Turnbull, Business Director at Girlings Retirement Rentals, adds: “Renting saves on stamp duty costs which can be significant in some parts of the country. One of the main benefits of renting in one of our purpose-built retirement developments is that most come with assured ‘lifetime’ tenancies, which means people have the same security of tenure as they would if they bought.” Girlings has some 2,500 properties across 600 developments in the UK priced from £794.26 a month and from £2,192 a month for a premium Diamond Collection home.
One couple renting a Girlings apartment in Bournemouth are Keith and Teresa Davy, who are both in their 70s.
Keith says, “We love the location, it’s in a lovely area near the shops and we can walk to the beach and into the town centre. We couldn’t afford to buy the flat we’re living in, so renting has enabled us to live in an area we really like.
“We also like the security of having an assured tenancy agreement. At our age we don’t want to worry that the landlord might decide to sell and give us a month’s notice to move out.”
Other developers are building to rent. Brio Retirement has built Button House, 80 one and two-bed apartments with private balconies in Hackbridge, south west London. The village, for the over 65s, opens this summer and has a fitness suite, club lounge, bar and brasserie.
Tom Scaife, Retirement Living partner at Knight Frank which is marketing Brio’s scheme, says that stamp duty and exit fees are making people think twice about buying. “People want flexibility and don’t want to be under pressure to sell their homes,” he says.
In Sidcup in Kent, rentals at Birchgrove, a new retirement scheme of 74 homes with a restaurant, library, wellbeing centre and gardens, includes gas and electricity.
Other developers are offering part-buy, part-rent options. Platinum Skies enables retirees to live in such smart seaside hotspots as Poole in Dorset, near Sandbanks (the UK’s most expensive seaside town) for a fraction of the cost of buying a home outright.
Even the nation’s largest retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone has introduced rent or part-buy, part-rent options across 1,400 apartments in the UK.
Spokesman Geoff Bates says: “Renting is a viable alternative for many, freeing up capital to spend on other things and passing responsibility for upkeep and maintenance. It also means they can potentially try out a new place, and if people decide it’s not for them, they’re able to move quickly and easily.”