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mccarthy-stone-logoIn the UK, retirement living is becoming a more popular option for people who want to downsize and foster a sense of community in later life.

Retirement communities can also provide greater safety and security while relieving people of various household maintenance and upkeep.

However, as with any change in life, it’s normal to have questions and concerns about what exactly to expect from a move into a retirement apartment. This is why, last month, we teamed up with McCarthy Stone, the UK’s leading developer and manager of retirement communities, to host a virtual Q&A on our community forum.

Here, Rest Less members could have their questions about retirement living answered by a McCarthy Stone expert. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions, along with McCarthy Stone’s responses.

1. “Will downsizing help me save money on energy bills?”

“Downsizing from a large family home to one of our energy-efficient one or two-bedroom retirement apartments can lead to substantial savings – for example, lower energy bills and cheaper maintenance and running costs.

“Our research shows that the typical net saving of running a McCarthy Stone retirement apartment when compared to a three-bedroom house is an impressive £1,200 per year. This is because you can benefit from cheaper heating, water, and other utility bills, including council tax.

“Plus, our buying power means that we can negotiate harder for services than individuals can. Therefore, among other things, we can offer fantastic deals on everything from your home insurance to Sky TV.

“Our research also shows that the average energy bill saving from moving to a new build McCarthy Stone home is a staggering £435 a year. This is because all of our new retirement apartments are well-insulated, warm, and energy-efficient.

“They’re built with eco-friendly modern methods of construction. This means that not only are they a joy to live in, but every aspect of the design has efficiency and sustainability in mind.

“Heavily-insulated walls mean the surprisingly spacious rooms remain cosy in winter. Contemporary double-glazed windows and glass doors maximise natural light while keeping out the cold. Highly-efficient electrical appliances like light-fittings, ovens, hobs, and fridge-freezers are fitted as standard. And, finally, many apartments have under-floor heating to help cut down on energy usage.”

2. “How can I make sure that I’ll enjoy the environment at a retirement community?”

“McCarthy Stone developments have friendly house managers that always do their best to build communities, and, in the majority of cases, we have a warm, welcoming, and sociable atmosphere at our sites.

“To get a feel for what an individual community is like, it’s best to visit one yourself – for example, at an open day event where you can meet the homeowners who already live there. Head on over to the McCarthy Stone website to search open day events.”

3. “Will I be cut off from younger people by living in a retirement community?”

“We only build our developments close to town centres with great transport links, so you can easily get into towns and retain connections to the broader community.

“Most of our developments have guest suites, so friends and family members of any age can come over and stay. Guests are also, of course, welcome to socialise in communal lounges and gardens.

“We also love to run events where we invite people of all ages. A recent example of this was the Platinum Jubilee when more than 400 McCarthy Stone communities welcomed people of any age for exciting community celebrations.”

4. “What are service charges and what do they cover?”

“All of our homeowners pay an annual service charge, which is paid by direct debit every month and reviewed each year. This charge allows us to take care of the day-to-day running of the retirement development, like maintaining the communal areas and gardens on your behalf – so you can focus on doing the things that you want to do.

“The budgeted costs are presented every 12 months. Everyone living in a development is invited to an annual meeting to discuss the cost proposals. These costs are then divided among homeowners in line with their lease.

“We believe the service charge provides good value for money and we always aim to be transparent and competitive. Other than the services provided by the House and Estate Management teams (these are the friendly faces overseeing the day-to-day running of the development, liaising with contractors such as cleaning and maintenance providers), we don’t provide any of the additional services ourselves – for instance, gardening.

“Instead, we get quotes from providers. At some of our most recent developments, the service charge also includes the cost of heating the apartments. In addition to a service charge, you’ll also need to pay ground rent. You can find out more about this here.

“Your sales consultant will talk you through the service charges and answer any questions you have. You can also find lots of detailed information in our FAQS, or give us a call on 0800 201 4811.

“To find out more about what service charges are and what they include, head over to the McCarthy Stone website.”

5. “How much are service charges?”

“How much you pay in service charges will depend on what property you chose. Although, to give you a general idea…

“For a typical Retirement Living apartment (based on Atwood House in Sanderstead, as of 30 June 2021), the service charge is £48.93 a week for a one-bedroom apartment and £73.36 a week for a two-bedroom apartment.

“For a typical Retirement Living PLUS apartment (based on Chesterton Court in Ilkley, as of 30 June 2021), the service charge is £138.27 a week for a one-bedroom apartment and £184.31 a week for a two-bedroom apartment.”

6. “Can residents upgrade/customise the interior of their properties?”

“A McCarthy Stone property is completely your own and our homeowners love to customise their spaces. Please take a look at the content Rest Less has created in partnership with us which provides a glimpse into retirement living properties.”

7. “Can you let your property should you desire to travel or support friends/family?”

“Yes. You can rent the apartment provided your tenant(s) meet the criteria for occupiers set out in the lease.

“McCarthy Stone need advance notice of the proposed rental agreement and ask for a reasonable contingency fee to be paid into an account held on trust for repairs to the property. You can speak to your sales consultant or call: 0800 201 4811 for more information.”

8. “Do retirement properties hold their value like other properties?”

“McCarthy Stone are pleased that the vast majority of our new managed apartments increase in value on resale.

“Significant improvements to the quality of our properties and services in the last five years have helped us to achieve the highest customer satisfaction rating of any UK housebuilder which, in turn, has had a further positive impact on resale values.

“However, as well as buying a beautiful apartment, our customers recognise that they’re buying into a lifestyle based around security, companionship, warmth, friendship, ease of maintenance, reduced responsibilities, and improved wellbeing.

“As a result of this, the value of living in retirement housing is more than simply financial; it’s also about helping our customers live independently and have healthier, happier and, hopefully, longer lives.

“If you’d like to find out if there are resale properties available in your area, you can do so by using the button below.”

9. “Do service fees have to be paid by my family after I die, until the property is sold?”

“All service charges need to be paid even whilst the property is vacant as they ensure the development can run. However, we offer a service charge deferral facility for a Retirement Living Plus property that’s been lived in for six months or more under a sole agency agreement.”

“To find out more about fees, resales options, or to answer any more of your queries, please visit the McCarthy Stone website or feel free to speak to our resales team on 0345 556 4120.”

Final thoughts…

If you’re considering retirement living as a potential option for your future, we hope that this Q&A has provided you with some helpful answers to any questions you may have. And if you have a question that wasn’t answered here, why not let us know in the comments below or check out other frequently asked questions on the McCarthy Stone website?

If you’d like to see some more content on living options in later life, you can also visit the home and garden section of our website. Here, you’ll find articles like 14 of the best places to retire in the UK.

Do you live in a retirement community? Or are you considering it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.