November 30, 2009

UK: Retire at home or abroad in grand style

. LONDON, England / The Telegraph / Lifestyle / Property / November 30, 2009 A quiet revolution is taking place in retirement housing. In a volte face from the granny stackers of the past, the retirement market is setting trends. By Saundra Satterlee Ancient Sands, a retirement village in El Gouna, on the Red sea in Egypt, offers properties starting at £96,000 with vaulted ceilings Not only is it more consumer orientated, the retirement sector has had very few credit-crunch hiccups by comparison with the mainstream market and has, to a large extent, defied the global economic downturn. Three new retirement villages illustrate the buoyancy of the market in Britain this year. This autumn was the grand opening of Clevedon, the newest retirement village built by Audley, which is set on a 23-acre estate on the edge of Ilkley Moor, a 10-minute drive from the centre of the attractive Yorkshire market town of Ilkley. The centrepiece of all Audley retirement villages is the clubhouse. Here it is Clevedon House, a restored Victorian mansion and once a palatial family home. Nick Sanderson, chief executive of Surrey-based Audley, likens their club houses to upmarket country house hotels. And Clevedon boasts more facilities than any other retirement village in Britain. The house features a restaurant and bistro bar, treatment rooms, library, fitness suite, Pilates studio, hairdressing salon, swimming pool and a hobbies room with internet access. The grounds include two tennis courts and a cricket pitch. "An extensive programme of events and social activities takes place throughout the year, ranging from themed lunches, barbecues, cricket and croquet matches, through to musical events and guest lectures," says Mr Sanderson. Clevedon's 98 one and two-bedroom properties start at £249,000, rising to £575,000 for a spacious two-bedroom apartment in Clevedon House itself. The development is in an elevated position, so most units have sweeping views across the moors. Properties are sold on a leasehold basis for 125 years and owners, or at least one person in the case of a couple, must have reached the age of 55. The service charge of £575 a month or £6,900 yearly, includes a monthly £50 food and beverage credit. With the aim of local integration, the restaurant is open to non-residents and a limited number of club memberships will also be available to them. As in all retirement villages, "assisted living" is an optional needs-driven extra. It is typically costed separately to service charges and usually covers anything from housekeeping to bathing. Another recent opening was Mayford Grange, the newest development from Retirement Villages. It borders Sutton Green Golf Club at Mayford, Surrey and preferential membership rates will soon be available. Situated near Woking, Mayford Grange has 46 one and two-bedroom apartments built around a landscaped square. The clubhouse has a restaurant, coffee bar, lounge and patio area, shop, hairdressing salon, library, computer stations and a function room. Apartments, sold on a 125-year leasehold basis for the over-65s, range from £225,000 to £470,000. Most units have views over the surrounding countryside or the golf course. Service charges are based on occupancy. A single person pays £136 a week, or £7,072 a year, and for double occupancy the weekly charge is £166, an annual bill of £8,632. These charges cover the usual communal maintenance, along with a catering package. This includes a choice of hot or cold meals as well as light snacks and refreshments up to a value of 600 "Mayford Crowns" a week to cover, say, a full meal service for two or three days. Unused crowns are carried over to the following week, but settled at the end of each month. Jon Gooding, who is chief executive of the Surrey-based company, says: "An on site care team is available to assist with anything from shopping to personal, social and nutritional guidance." Owners buy bespoke care packages, which is usual in retirement villages, and which are separate from service charges. There are no nursing home facilities at Mayford Grange, though they are available elsewhere in the company's properties, for example Roseland Parc, near Truro in Cornwall. External building features include handmade bricks and tiles complimented by oak cladding. Windows have timber frames from sustainable sources with weather-proof aluminium exteriors. Mr Gooding highlights efficient energy usage thanks to extremely high levels of insulation, sealing and a heat recovery ventilation system. Solar panels in a screened-off area of the gardens collect electricity for the clubhouse and corridors. Another retirement village opened this year, which also illustrates the robust quality of the sector and appears to defy the credit crunch, is Renaissance LifeCare's Grove Place. It is a stone's throw from picturesque Romsey in Hampshire. Set in the hamlet of Nursling and abutting Lord Louis Mountbattan's Palladian home, Broadlands, Grove Place features a handsomely restored 16th-century Grade I-listed manor house which is set in 27 acres of landscaped grounds. The manor house, with its oak panelling and stone fireplaces, incorporates a full range of facilities, such as a restaurant, bar, billiards room, library and computer suite. There is also a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and gymnasium as well as a treatment room, hairdressing salon and residents' shop. The service charge of £485 a month – £5,820 annually – covers full use of communal facilities. Peter Cotterill, general manager of operations at the London-based Renaissance LifeCare, says: "Grove Place is more like a country club with all the back-up and care you could wish for." There is provision for assisted living through a wellbeing programme, costed separately from the service charge, but there is no nursing facility, unlike for instance, Renaissance LifeCare's Somerleigh Court retirement village in Dorchester, Dorset. At Grove Place there are 115 properties available for the over-60s on leases of 150 years. One to three-bedroom apartments cost upwards of £175,000, £240,000 and £310,000 respectively. Bungalows start at £175,000. A retirement village will not suit all tastes and proclivities. Independent retirement developments tend to be much smaller than retirement villages and do not specialise in lifestyle amenities. Indeed, they are more akin to mainstream housing, apart from an age restriction, the provision of age-friendly fittings and, typically, an in-house manager or perhaps a communal lounge. As with retirement villages, no two are alike in style, size or design. Some are innovative, such as the latest offering from Pegasus, which overlooks a cricket ground in Somerset. At blue-chip Beechcroft developments, a manager functions more like an upmarket concierge. At the other end of the scale, McCarthy & Stone, Britain's largest independent developer of purpose-built retirement homes, has added assisted living as integral to a selection of its new properties. The latest is in Alnwick, Northumberland, known for a low crime rate, high quality of living and its 700-year-old castle, which is featured in many films and television series, from Harry Potter to Blackadder. Under construction are 55 new-build McCarthy & Stone retirement flats located on Bondgate Without in the town centre that will be ready for sale next spring. Be it a retirement village or an independent development, the "lock up and leave" option makes it easier than ever to live in two countries, an option with great appeal for the adventurous baby boomer generation and with the further possibility of generating rental income during absences from your property. Norman and Lorraine Jones have opted for a trial year in Annecy – with its lake and nearby skiing – where they are renting the same property they've stayed in for the past 20 summers, before deciding whether to buy into the French property market. "Everyone is so welcoming," says Mrs Jones. Should they decide to buy, there is plenty of choice on the market, such as MGM's new development of 18 apartments under construction at Parmelan, which is a one-minute walk to Lake Annecy or five minutes from the medieval town centre. One to four-bedroom properties start at €388,000 (£346,000). If something green – and a sustainable development award winner at that – takes your fancy and you are inclined toward Portugal, Alma Verde in the hills of the western Algarve is one to consider, where sun-dried adobe bricks and air-cooling technology reduce carbon emissions by 94 per cent. Low density and set among mature carob, oak and pine trees, 130 villas are priced from €460,000 (£411,000), including a swimming pool and an upmarket furniture package. A new phase of apartments and town houses with a large eco-friendly spa is soon to be released, with garden studios priced from around €150,000 (£134,000). Slightly further afield is El Gouna on the "Egyptian Riviera", with its mountainous backdrop and everything on offer from golf, horse riding and tennis to snorkelling, diving and a rich choice of restaurants. Ancient Sands is this vast resort's latest offering where its Hilltop Village features expansive views of the Red sea, lagoons, mountains and an 18-hole Karl Litten-designed championship golf course. Apartments, town houses and villas start at £96,000 for a studio of 58 sq m, with vaulted ceilings and a private terrace. Retirement villages function to keep you independent and active as long as possible, but when it comes to buying your home, do not forget to calculate the service charge as part of your outgoings. A monthly charge of, say, £500 over 10 years, works out at a hefty £60,000, not taking into account inflation or other increases. Also remember that assisted living fees are typically charged on a separate basis from services charges. Make sure you are clear about these and how they are calculated. Apart from taking legal advice prior to your purchase, it may be worth looking at useful websites run by the Elderly Accommodation Counsel (a free advisory service for the elderly); Care Directions (guide to care and the rights of older people); and Age Concern & Help the Aged. [rc] © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2009