Whether you’re pondering over what type of property should lie in your future or you’re hoping to help a friend or relative narrow their search, there’s a surprising amount to consider when it comes to finding an appropriate retirement property. Estate agents Knight Frank recently highlighted the growing importance of purpose-built serviced retirement housing and communities but you don’t need to settle on such a structured option if it doesn’t fit with your personality, plans or personal circumstances.
However, if you do intend to move from the family home into a bungalow, smaller house, flat or apartment, you may find you need to take a rather determined approach to downsizing. Last year HomeOwners Alliance estimated that half a million over 55s were stuck in property limbo due to a shortage of suitable housing. Then there are other essentials to consider like location, facilities and maintenance. Here’s how to get your search off to the best start.
Think beyond bungalows
There was a time when downsizing for retirement pretty much meant moving into a bungalow. It’s still an option for some but a lack of newly built bungalows has contributed to a dire shortage. Last year the National House Building Council estimated that just one percent of new houses being built are bungalows. Unfortunately, developers stand to make more money from putting other types of property on the same sized plot of land and they are now far more rate to the market. If you’ve set your heart on a bungalow, you may find supplies more plentiful in seaside towns that are traditionally seen as good spots to retire. If you do happen across the bungalow of your dreams, you may need to be prepared to pay a premium price for it too. In some parts of Britain, bungalows for sale are commanding almost twice as much as homes with stairs.
If you like the idea of purchasing the kind of specially developed retirement property from a market Frank Knight says is now maturing, you could do well to purchase second hand. Some sites offer assistance for independent living and most boast additional facilities close by, particularly if sighted within a retirement village or community. However, they don’t tend to hold their value in the same way as traditional properties. Information from the Elderly Accommodation Counsel suggests that 51% of this type of home built and sold in the period 2000 and 2010 then resold between 2006 and 2016 saw a drop in value. You will also need to factor in any service charges to your budget, though many find these are comparable to the general upkeep and maintenance of other properties.
Make the layout work for you
Finding a property that will work for you needn’t necessarily mean selecting something that’s ready to move in to. For example, many smaller properties now incorporate open plan living in the downstairs area. This can be great for accessibility and give the impression of more space even in compact areas, but it may not be what you’re used to and prefer. If you’d like the option of closing the kitchen off from your living space, having bi-fold doors fitted before you move in will offer you the flexibility of opening and closing the space as you please. These more traditional styles from Vufold are available in a wooden finish as well as more modern uPVC, so you can match your doors to your interior.
If you’re downsizing to a smaller two-storey property, you may want to consider your future mobility. Staircases that go straight up are far easier to navigate and also easier to fit a stair lift too.
Triangulate for must-haves
Some people treat retirement as an opportunity to relocate somewhere they’ve always dreamed of living. For others, it’s often about staying close to family and friends in a property that’s better suited to their needs. Whatever route you’re heading down, you may want to involve your family in your search as they may be able to point out practicalities you need to consider that you hadn’t thought of.
Location, location, location is definitely key when it comes to things like good transport links and having amenities nearby. You may not drive in the future and therefore having a good bus route on your doorstep will become a much more valuable commodity. Similarly, having a supermarket, library or leisure centre within easy distance may be on your must-have list. If you’d prefer not to commit to maintaining an outside space such as a garden, having a local park may be a priority for you.
Wherever your search takes you, the views from inside and around your property are likely to be important to you, so don’t forget to peek out of any windows in the buildings that you view.