It is common knowledge that the UK has an ageing population which has prompted healthy demand for retirement property. A recent ONS report forecasts the number of people aged 65 and over will increase from 11.9 million in 2018 to 17.7 million by 2050. So, it is not difficult to see why retirement property is a popular and growing sector.
What Is Retirement Property?
The simplest way to describe retirement property is accommodation specifically for those of a certain age group, generally over 55s. While most retirement properties tend to be flats, some communities offer bungalows and more traditional houses. The homes form a community incorporating independent living with support to hand as and when required. The minimum age to qualify for such properties will vary from development to development but tends to be around 55.
Can Someone Under 55 Live In A 55+ Retirement Community In The UK?
There seems to be a general misconception that retirement communities do not allow people under 55 to reside or visit premises on the community site. While the restrictions will vary from community to community, in general, as long as one person in a couple is over 55, that is fine. There may even be situations where children can stay, although there may be limits as to how many days per year they can do so.
The whole point of these retirement communities is to bring like-minded people together. They can be independent, mixing with fellow retirees when they like, but aren’t cut off from friends and family. There is also an array of support services available to those who may require assistance from time to time. You have to ask yourself, why would these communities stop people from seeing their children or grandchildren?
Why Are Retirement Properties Cheaper To Buy?
When you strip away the side events of the property investment market, it boils down to simple supply and demand. So, it stands to reason that if you restrict the purchase/rental of retirement community properties to those aged at least 55, then immediately, your pool of potential buyers is reduced. It is something of a double-edged sword because this restriction will reduce competition - which can often push prices higher. On the other side of the coin, as these are retirement communities, they tend to attract those looking for a particular lifestyle, particular community experience, and good old-fashioned peace and quiet.
The main reason retirement properties might appear cheaper to buy is that the restrictions on ownership or rental reduce competition.
Can I Buy A Retirement Property To Rent Out?
The vast majority of retirement properties are sold as leasehold with the developers or management company retaining a degree of control. As a consequence, it is highly likely that retirement developments will have restrictions regarding private landlords. It is also worth thinking about the effects of allowing private landlords to become more involved in retirement properties. If this were to happen, it could inject a significant degree of competition when properties are available for purchase, pushing prices higher and even pricing some retirees out of the market.
The core aim of these retirement communities is to bring together a particular group of the population. These are individuals who prefer a degree of independence but help to hand, the opportunity to live a quiet life but socialise as and when they want to.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Buying A Retirement Flat?
There are various pros and cons when it comes to retirement flats and other types of retirement accommodation.
Pros Of Buying A Retirement Flat
There are numerous potential benefits when buying a retirement flat, including:
- A Quiet Lifestyle
As most people living in flats in retirement communities are at least 55 years of age, this can often create a relatively quiet, relaxed atmosphere. However, there is the option to mix with neighbours and others on the development as and when you want. The majority of retirement communities will also have enhanced security to ensure residents are safe.
- Support To Hand If Required
Many people compare retirement communities to sheltered housing, but there are some subtle differences. However, both of these particular lifestyle choices have support to hand as and when required by the residents. This mixture of independence and support is essential to many of those looking to move into retirement communities.
- Growing Demand For Retirement Properties
While restrictions on the age of those who can acquire retirement properties can reduce competition amongst buyers, the UK is an ageing population. Consequently, the demand for retirement properties is likely to increase in the future.
Cons Of Buying A Retirement Flat
While there are numerous potential benefits when buying a retirement flat, there are several potential drawbacks to be aware of:
- Leasehold Conditions
Traditionally new properties are sold on a 999-year lease. The situation with retirement properties can be different, with some sold with leases as low as 99 years. If the lease duration were to fall below 70 years, it would be more difficult for buyers to secure mortgage funding. It is vital to take legal advice when looking at leasehold properties. You should also explore the possibility of extending the lease where applicable.
- Ground Rents
The UK government has been forced to announce an investigation into ground rents, which will often start relatively low but can eventually run into thousands of pounds a year. For example, a doubling of ground rent every 10 years may seem irrelevant in the early days, but after 50, 60, or 70 years the increased ground rent can become a problem. It is essential to clarify the details of the ground rent and any clauses relating to future increases.
- Service Charges
Service charges are something of a double-edged sword because they can offer support and security for residents in retirement communities. However, much like ground rent, they can sometimes start relatively low and gradually increase. Before signing on the dotted line, it is vital that you clarify the level of service charges, what they relate to, and your specific liability.
- Event Fees
You will often see those owning freeholds on retirement properties adding what are known as “event fees” to leases. The small print may stipulate a fee is due to the freeholder when you sell a property or make any changes. You may also be obliged to use the services of the freeholder’s marketing division when selling your property. Make sure you are aware of any such conditions.
The UK population has been ageing for some time, with the over 55’s age group showing significant growth in recent years. This is a trend that is likely to continue according to a recent report by Age UK. Therefore, it is safe to assume that demand for retirement properties will continue to grow. However, when looking to acquire retirement property, you need to consider any conditions or restrictions before putting pen to paper.