Don’t forget the small print

Enjoy a trouble-free retirement by choosing a specialist property – but watch out for extra, unexpected charges

Buying a specialist retirement house or apartment can be a fantastic way of easing the burdens associated with traditional home ownership in later life. But anyone thinking of purchasing must remember there are often additional costs, even after you move in.

The largest ongoing cost will be the service charge. When you owned your own home, you had to pay for repairs, building insurance, gardening and keeping everything neat and tidy.

Take a close look at the contract you sign

Likewise in a retirement development, these same activities and services are funded through a service charge on all individual owners. The charge is set out in a lease or transfer contract, so ensure you check before buying. The cost varies depending on the development’s facilities and the size of your home.

There can also be other costs – sometimes levied on a daily basis – if a resident requires additional cleaning, supervision or medical care above the basic service provided.

Third, if an owner wants to sub-let the apartment it is vital to check the contract. Some development managers forbid any sub-letting, while others charge a fee varying from a small annual charge to a big percentage of the property value.

A fourth cost may be an exit fee which you or your family pay when a retirement property is sold. The fee varies per development and could be as low as 1 per cent of the sale price, but could be as much as 25 per cent.

Development managers say these one-off payments are used to help fund facilities, but many families fail to budget for them.

More help is available from the Association of Retirement Housing Managers at www.arhm.org and Housing Care at www.housingcare.org

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