A retirement apartment is not like living in a retirement home as some people may think.
Residents have their own independent accommodation that they buy or rent in a retirement development.
With a choice of one or two bedrooms, each apartment has a living room, fitted kitchen and bathroom.
The development will normally have a communal laundry room, communal lounge, house manager and communal gardens and grounds.
A guest room is available if you have visitors that you can't accommodate in your own apartment.
Quite often these types of apartments will have care line installed for added support in emergencies.
An annual service charge covers maintenance and upkeep of all communal areas including gardens and grounds, water rates, and building insurance.
The house managers salary and in some cases a house manager's live in accommodation is also included. Residents will still be responsible for electricity, council tax and contents insurance.
Retirement apartments offer security as there is normally an entry phone system installed so that no unwanted visitors or trades people can enter which is re-assuring if you feel nervous living on your own.
If you want to get rid of the burden of gardening and outside
maintenance in return for energy efficient, low maintenance
accommodation they are ideal.
However a word of caution. There is a vast difference in service charges and exit fees between different developers.
Quite often retirement apartments offer either part ownership schemes or lifetime mortgages that enables you to release capital to use to either supplement your income or enjoy some extra holidays.
My parents moved into a McCarthy & Stone apartment when they were in their early 70's after Mum had a triple bypass operation and she didn't feel that she wanted the work involved in looking after their then current home.
They loved it because it meant they could go away on holidays secure in the knowledge that all would be well when they returned home.
However there were always little niggles. You have to like and get on with your neighbours. More so than in an ordinary house as you will come in contact with other residents in the communal areas on a regular basis.
The laundry was always a bone of contention.
At first there was no system in place for using the laundry facilities. That quite often meant going to the laundry armed with all the dirty washing only to find all the machines in use.
Eventually the residents drew up a rota which worked well until you needed to wash something when it wasn't your day for the laundry.
I mention this because it's something that you have to be prepared for. With communal facilities you can't always use them just when you want or need them.
There was also a range of social functions on offer for those who wanted them.
However this can vary with each house manager, some will be better than others at arranging activities.
Of course there is no reason why you can't get together with fellow residents and organize your own social functions if necessary.
I remember they had one lady house manager who used to cook a Sunday lunch for all the single residents which went down very well.
A few years later they moved to another retirement apartment to be closer to me and this was totally different.
The only social event
organized seemed to be a coffee morning once a week which was over in an
hour. When Mum was widowed she really missed the social contact that
she had experienced in the previous development.
When Dad sold the first apartment and bought the second one he didn't mention any problems he had encountered regarding fees.
However When mum died 6 years later my sister and I were left with the apartment to dispose of as part of her estate.
We were quite shocked to learn that we would have to continue paying the service charges on the apartment as and when they were due until it was sold.
In our ignorance we assumed this would be settled when we had completed on the sale of the property.
The second shock was to find that we were also responsible for paying interest payments every month from the date of mum's death on the life mortgage until the property was sold.
Normally the interest accrues and is settled on the sale of the property. Again we had assumed this would be calculated and settled once the sale of the property was completed.
The sale of the property took 18 months and it cost us several thousand pounds in the meantime. This can be a huge burden on the heirs of the estate.
There was also an exit fee payable of one per cent of the market value. This was the value the property was placed on the market at and not the price we eventually sold for which was much lower 18 months on.
According to an article in the Mail on Sunday McCarthy & Stone have since dropped exit fees on new developments and so has Churchill Retirement. However at the time of writing Pegasus is charging 5 per cent.
There's also some useful information in the Article regarding what you can do if you are in a retirement apartment and think the service charges are too much. Apparently you may be able to sack your Management Company and arrange a service contract yourselves.
Retirement apartments are marketed as a carefree retirement option and for many they are.
My own parents never regretted making the move and certainly my mother would not have been able to cope, nor would she have felt secure on her own in an ordinary house without my father. For them it was the right decision.
Buying any property is a risk and provided you are fully aware of your expectations from the move and you satisfy yourself that the positives of such a move outweigh any negatives then it will be the right move for you.
Do you have any good or bad experiences of Retirement Apartments either for yourself or elderly relatives? We want you to share it.
Your experience may help someone else who is contemplating buying or renting a retirement apartment.
Click on the links below to read fellow baby boomer's experiences. All of the stories here are from other visitors to this page.