Tips for retirement housing.

 Written by Caroline Culot.

I was utterly delighted when last week I received the following email:

 “Forgive us writing unannounced but we are an elderly retired couple (early 70s) who feel we need some guidance where property is concerned. Although we happily live in a detached bungalow we are interested in buying some sort of (and this is where the problem starts!). Is it a flat, an apartment for the elderly, is it within a ‘gated’ community? We haven’t read too much specialised matter on the subject – we know we want to downsize but we don’t really see adverts coming up with the sort of property we might want to buy.

Is this subject one you could throw light on in some future article within the EDP Property supplement, setting out all the different options one might look for?

 As property editor, I think whether to move and what to buy is always a tricky decision, whatever age you are but many people are now choosing to downsize – giving them the freedom to spend less time toiling in a garden and more time to enjoy the good things of life. Apartments offer a really different lifestyle but you do need to be able to cope with the fact you haven’t got as much space and no garden.

Apartments are wonderful to “lock up and leave” ie: you can go on holiday or visit relatives etc without the worry of the garden getting overgrown or security issues while you are away. Depending on your price range, there are some lovely apartments in old converted buildings. With apartments, however, you do have to consider there will be a maintenance fee to pay annually. Also the purchase will be a leasehold and not a freehold – again just ensure your agent checks how much is left on the lease before you buy. What advice did members of the N&DAEA have for my readers?

Nick Eley, chairman of the N&DAEA and a partner at Watsons, said: “I see a good number of clients thinking of downsizing for a whole variety of reasons. Timing is everything in my view. We always like to think we will be in good health and it is really difficult if your current property has been a family home for a number of years, why move? “Health tends to be one of the main considerations as we get older or the garden is too large, property maintenance or one party cannot drive and nearby facilities become important. So start thinking about the move while you have the time to take your time.

“First, how much have you got to spend? I would suggest a valuation by a member firm of the Norwich & District Association of Estate Agents so you have a good idea of the value of your home and consequently the money you want to spend taking into account agency, legal and removal fees. Then make a list of pros and cons. Where do you think you want to live? Is it a small town with facilities or perhaps the city? Will you always have the use of a car? How much space do you want? One, two or three bedrooms, parking or garaging, is a garden important or will a balcony be sufficient? “Apartments and gated communities often come with service charges, are they affordable and what do they include? A lift might be essential for upper floors.

“Developments specialising in the over 55s offer the opportunity of secure living within a community creating more opportunity to socialise.

“Alternatively, there is a good choice of modern houses close to the city where you are more likely to get a garage and small garden.

“Properties in the city, depending on location, can be extremely convenient, but a city can be busy and noisy and there is likely to be a mix of residential, commercial and retail property. A visit to the location at night might be worth thinking about.

“Moving from the peace of the country to the bustle of the city can be a real culture shock, equally the ability and ease of walking to the theatre, cinema and shops a real pleasure.

“Having sorted your list, by all means look on the internet, but probably a discussion over a cup of coffee with a good estate agent will be far more rewarding and beneficial.

“Agents can pass on their knowledge and expertise of the area to include an idea of the costs involved and when to put your own home on the market.

“Then I would suggest you go and have a look round two or three properties.

“Clients often worry about wasting owner’s time – but viewing is the only real way to get a feel for the types of property you are considering and what you get for your money.

“You may just come across the property that ticks all the boxes!”

JulieEngall, of Mills Knight, said: “We deal with several apartments in and aroundNorwichthat are designed and built specifically for the over 55’s.

“These developments are very secure and usually offer an emergency call system, house manager and entry system. Most have a residents’ lounge, guest room, lift and laundry room.

“A service charge covers the cost of the above plus external maintenance, gardening and landscaping, which allows the owner to enjoy the facilities without the worry of maintaining them.

“I consider their best course of action would first be to have their own property valued so they know what price they can expect to achieve from a sale and then to visit a development as suggested above but also smaller bungalows and apartments not designed specifically for the elderly so they can get an idea of what is available, at what price and whether the property would suit their needs both now and for the foreseeable future.”

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