At Arenburg a lot of our work involves advising clients who are thinking about moving into a retirement village. Not surprisingly, many people find the decision to buy into a retirement village difficult. After all, it is a big decision; often involving a big financial investment, a major change in lifestyle and environment with limited scope to leave without a significant financial penalty. Our clients also express a general disquiet about moving into an environment governed by lots of rules and bylaws. That said, satisfaction rates amongst retirement village residents are generally very high so finding the right ‘fit’ can lead to a very positive outcome with great quality of life.
For some people, moving into a retirement village is also a final, unavoidable acknowledgement that they are getting ‘old’ and for this reason they tend to delay a proper investigation of their options until their options are limited and they are forced to make compromises. It is pretty much guaranteed that you will be putting a lot of your savings into your new home so you owe it to yourself to ensure it has everything you want and need.
Retain Control by Being Proactive
The first thing to note is that there are a number of alternatives to buying into a retirement village. In fact, less than 10% of Australians over 65 live in retirement villages. The second thing to note is that while retirement villages cater to the over 65s the average age of residents is approximately 75. In other words, not only do you not have to buy into a particular retirement village if you don’t want to, you have many years during which to make a decision. Use the time wisely.
If you intend to fund your entry into a retirement unit through the sale of your house (90% of retirees do this) speak to a real estate agent about your current home’s value and consider putting it on the market before you start looking at villages. Don’t wait until you have found a village that you like before starting the process to sell your house. Having your house on the market without the need to sell means you can wait until you get the offer you want, rather than being compelled to take the first offer that comes along. It will also give you a much clearer idea of the amount of capital you will have to spend.
Speak to a financial advisor and Centrelink (if relevant) about the best way to manage your assets and capital to ensure you optimise your income and any pension arrangements. Well before you expect to move into a retirement village sit down with a qualified financial advisor who can guide you through the different asset and capital structures that are available to you.
There are more than 2,200 retirement villages in Australia offering a range of financial packages and services. They vary in terms of ongoing service charges, facilities and investment structures. Operators will happily list in their marketing material all of the many benefits to be had from buying into their retirement village – apparently it never rains in retirement villages. Who knew?!! But as always, the devil is in the detail. Become familiar with how this detail is presented and understand how it might impact you and your financial position.
In Queensland the standardised Village Comparison Documents and Prospective Costs Documents mean that it is very easy to compare villages and operators. The law in Queensland requires that Village Comparison Documents are readily available on village websites so it is very easy to build up a picture of how villages in your area vary by costs, facilities and capital structures. Our easy to use Retirement Village Checklist will also help you to compare villages.
Get to Know the Retirement Village Sector
Buying into a retirement village should never involve a leap into the unknown. Becoming familiar with the retirement village sector and developing an understanding of how it operates will give you some clarity on what you are buying and how the costs are determined.
Look beyond the facilities and do some research on the operators and owners of your local retirement villages. Are they a for-profit or not-for-profit organisation? Are they a major player in the retirement sector or more local? In some of the smaller retirement villages the owner/operator is a family run business generally making it much easier to resolve issues. On the other hand, larger organisations will have access to more resources and staffing. The more familiar you are with the retirement village industry and the operators, the easier it will be to recognise the names that crop up on the internet and from time to time in the media and in marketing materials.
There is no shortage of information available in the market. A very good resource is the Property Council of Australia’s Retirement Living – Book of Wise Moves. This book is a great starting point to exploring retirement lifestyle options.
Speak to the Experts
Retirement village contracts are very different from your typical real estate conveyancing. Often what you are buying is not a freehold title but a lease or license that gives you a right to reside. There are invariably ongoing service charges and costs that need to be considered as well as costs payable for up to 9 months after you exit the village. Depending on the circumstances you may not receive your exit entitlement until up to 18 months from the date you terminate your residency. How you structure your assets and investment in the retirement village may also impact any income or pension situation. It is therefore important that you consult with legal and financial advisors that you trust and who have experience in advising on retirement village contracts well before you make a commitment.