Citadel Investment Services Proprietary Limited is an authorised financial services provider.

For over a decade, retirement villages have increasingly formed an integral part of greater lifestyle estate developments. Marketing around these developments typically promises a lifestyle of comfort and safety, exclusivity and convenience. Here are some insights into this booming industry.

WHY ARE RETIREMENT VILLAGES GROWING IN POPULARITY?

Retirement villages have traditionally been a natural extension to living independently with the added benefit of having support on hand when needed. Security and safety concerns, medical assistance and long-term healthcare considerations are often the most important factors influencing an individual’s decision to move into a retirement village.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

Safety, lower maintenance costs and quick access to medical facilities are among the main benefits associated with retirement village living. The community nature of these estates also ensures access to shared facilities and a variety of activities which can improve people’s quality of life. For keen travellers the ability to lock up and go without having to worry about house sitters, security, garden services or power outages is an increasingly attractive option for retirees or those on the cusp of retirement.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT?

Cottages or apartments, be they one-bedroom or three-bedroom units, are the entry point to this type of lifestyle. But when you choose an estate other issues need to be factored in. Think about the impact of public roads, the location of the unit within the village, and make a comparison to units in similar villages in the area.

Also consider shared facilities within retirement villages, which can include lifestyle centers with entertainment areas, a dining room, lounges, hobby rooms, a library, a ladies’ bar, gym, a swimming pool and other recreational facilities. Communal gardens and walkways are also an attraction for potential residents.

In addition, typical retirement villages offer healthcare and nursing with 24-hour emergency response, frail care facilities and assisted living which is becoming an increasingly attractive option. Assisted living is designed for people who need assistance with their daily lives, but still wish to live as independently as possible for as long as possible.

HOW DOES OWNERSHIP WORK?

Sectional title and life rights are the most widely used forms of ownership on offer. Full ownership and sectional title usually work in the same way as any other home ownership.

Life rights, which is becoming more popular, allows the owner, and spouse if applicable, to occupy a unit for the duration of his or her life. It is, in effect, a long-term lease agreement in exchange for a lump sum or an interest free loan. No transfer duty is payable. The title deed remains in the name of a trust or company, while the life right is an inter-party agreement. This can voluntarily be registered in the Deeds Office if third parties, such as a bank, need to be made aware of the life right agreements.

Note, however, that the form of ownership does not determine the success of a retirement village. Rather the effective day-to-day management put in place will determine an estate’s long-term sustainability. For peace of mind it is important to scrutinise the sales agreement, village rules and constitution carefully or seek legal advice, if necessary, before entering into a purchase.

HOW DOES PROFIT SHARE ON THE RESALE OF UNITS WORK?

Most retirement villages retain a share of the profit on resale, usually between 10% and 30%. It is necessary to go into a life right scheme knowing you will only receive back your original capital or a portion thereof.

The profits retirement villages make from this financial arrangement with its residents are used to finance maintenance, major improvements and to subsidise the increase in monthly levies. Refurbishing of life right units by the village owners before you move in is part of the deal to keep the standard of the estate as high as possible.

SOME SAGE ADVICE

Do your homework. Be informed, determine which area or town you want to live in and follow the developments in that area. Consider family and friends and whether the lifestyle on offer appeals to you.

Consider off plan. The best time to purchase in a village is when it is being constructed. A new retirement village offers a wider variety of choice and you have enough time to sell your property and plan your move. Be flexible. You need to be open to a degree of give-and-take if you are aiming to live in a retirement village, so being open to change and willing to adapt will help the transition. Be sure to weigh up all the pros and the cons.  

Work as a team. Making the decision to move into a retirement village is easier when you operate as a couple. It will also save a surviving spouse the stress of having to cope with a major move in the wake of a partner’s death. The best advice is to start looking around in your 60s and move in when you reach your early 70s.

Written by Riaan Campbell, Citadel Advisory Partner