Renting in retirement can avoid high service charges which are putting people off downsizing

This week a new research report from law firm Winckworth Sherwood and Housing LIN, asserted that housing for older people is being ignored by the government. It also highlighted the lack of choice of housing and the fact many older buyers are confused about the retirement housing options available.


80% of those surveyed claimed that the Government’s focus on housing is unfairly skewed towards first time buyers. And while location, availability and affordability are key drivers for people to move into retirement housing, uncertainty over high service charges is preventing them making the decision to move.

As Jeremy Porteus, Managing Director at Housing LIN pointed out, “People aged over 65 are involved in some 40% of all housing moves. The Government and our industry need a long-term strategy that addresses the expectations and the care and support needs of all involved that reflects the scale of this market and to introduce measures that give older people confidence about the decisions they must take.”

While (high) service changes may be a concern for people looking to buy a retirement apartment, those that rent instead don’t need to worry about them. Renting a purpose built retirement property on an assured tenancy means there are no additional service charges or ground rent to pay, as these are paid by the leaseholder.


We are seeing growing numbers of older people choosing to rent, many downsizing from a larger home and releasing capital to help fund retirement. One of the key drivers for those choosing to rent is the assured tenancy, as people know they can rent for life if they choose and that rents will only increase annually in line with the Retail Price Index.


This makes budgeting much easier as they don’t get any unexpected surprises, or have to deal with ongoing property maintenance, which can become a burden for homeowners as they get older.

While many over 65s will be looking to buy a property when they downsize, increasing numbers are realising the benefits of renting a retirement home. We have seen a steady growth in enquiries since 2002, with 2015 and 2016 showing the highest enquiry levels yet.


Downsizing and renting can be the ideal lifestyle choice for older people, as well as being a good financial decision. Moving to a new location and enjoying a fresh start is an exciting prospect for many as they start a new stage in life. The social side of living in a retirement community, as well as the access to services they may need as they get older is a big attraction for many people.

New housing strategy aims to make it easier for older people to downsize

The government’s white paper ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ outlines its new strategy for housing in Britain including several measures to make housing more affordable and accessible to buy or rent.

We understand that a policy[i] to incentivise councils, housing associations and smaller housing developers to build more good-quality sheltered accommodation aimed at the older generation, is also being considered, which may help to reduce some of the barriers to downsizing for older people.

We support these plans wholeheartedly. Our experience tells us many older people wish to downsize and sell their family home; however, the lack of suitable purpose-built retirement properties has meant many are not currently able to do so. With more people than ever before turning 70 in 2017[ii], the demand for such housing isn’t going away.

This week, Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, also discussed the importance of building the right type of housing for people. He said, “First of all, we’ve got a lot of demographic change in the country and an increasing elderly population, so it’s not just about how many houses you build, but are you building the right kind of houses.”

We agree. As an ageing nation with a changing demographic, people will increasingly demand homes that better suit their needs as they get older. Some may be considering a smaller home that is easier to take care of; others may need access to support services.

And for many older people, the ability to free up the capital in their home to help fund their retirement is their main motivation to sell up and downsize.

As specialists in the over 55s rental market, we recognise that security of tenure is the most important consideration for our tenants. We offer the majority of our properties on assured tenancies, which means people will not have to move again, unless they choose to do so. We hope that others will soon benefit from the security of longer tenancies too.





Why longer tenancies may benefit tenants of all ages

Citizens Advice announced last week that it will be stepping up its campaign for longer tenancies[i], in a bid to overhaul the private rented sector.

According to its figures, 39 per cent of people living with their children in rented homes have a tenancy of six months or less, which creates uncertainty. It also found that 34 per cent of private renters would like their tenancy to be longer, rising to almost 40 per cent amongst those with children. Families now make up almost four in ten private rented households.

Discussing the situation, Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Families are living under a cloud of uncertainty – not knowing when they might need to leave their home. This can make planning for the future, such as where your child can go to school, a real struggle.”

As specialist providers of retirement rental properties for the over 55s we know how important longer term tenancies are to our tenants.

In our latest customer survey carried out in October 2016, we found that 85% of people requested a tenancy of 12 months or more and 71% said that the security of assured tenancies we offer which enable tenants to rent their property for as long as they choose, mattered most to them when making the initial decision to rent.

Like Citizens Advice, we believe that should longer tenancies become more widely available for all sectors of the market – from young professionals, to families and older people – this may remove the uncertainty people face and give them more reassurance and greater security of tenure to plan for the future.


BBC’s The One Show suggests renting can be a good option for retirees

Last week, BBC’s The One Show (22 November 2016)[i] focused on retirement living and suggested that renting may be a good alternative to buying a property in a purpose built retirement development.

Reporter Joe Crowley highlighted that a growing number of older people are buying leasehold apartments in purpose built retirement developments. Such developments offer many benefits for older people including security and peace of mind; some offer additional care services and the majority have a ready-made community of like-minded people, which can help to counteract loneliness – one of the biggest problems facing the older population today. Special guest – musical star Elaine Paige – agreed, commenting how much her mother’s friend had benefited from living in a retirement development.

For many older people, purchasing a property in a purpose built retirement development provides an opportunity to downsize from the family home to a one or two bedroom apartment better suited to their needs.

However, there are other alternatives to purchasing and we were delighted to hear The One Show’s presenter, Matt Baker, ask if renting could be a good option for retired people – a view that was endorsed by Joe Crowley, who said “it [renting] can be a brilliant solution”.

They also discussed the fact that renting allows people to ‘try out’ living in a retirement community, perhaps taking the opportunity to move to a new area to see if they like it and experience all the social advantages without the financial ties of ownership.

We agree. Over the past 25 years we have have helped thousands of tenants discover a new lease of life through renting in retirement, mostly on Assured Tenancies, which provide reassurance and peace of mind for the tenant knowing they can live there for as long they wish. The more common Assured Shorthold Tenancy will only provide security for a fixed period of time.

Many of our tenants tell us that they wish they had rented their retirement property earlier, citing the following reasons behind their decision:

  • Renting on an Assured Tenancy gives security of tenure: you can remain in the property for as long as you choose – particularly important to older people who don’t want to be uprooted in later life.
  • No surprise bills to pay as property maintenance, upkeep costs and services of the development are included in the monthly rent.
  • Only needing one month’s notice to leave. This is particularly important for family who then have no worries about having to sell a retirement property.
  • Capital released from the sale of a family home can be invested and used to supplement retirement income or simply used to enjoy a new lease of life.

We were delighted The One Show focused on retirement living and we hope that in the future such reports will look more closely at the benefits of renting in retirement too.



New research confirms that retirees ’just want to have fun’

As the first polymer five pound notes arrive in our wallets, analysis from retirement income specialists, Retirement Advantage, reveals that over 65s in the UK spend a greater proportion of their money on lifestyle products and services than on essentials*.

Andrew Tully, Pensions Director at Retirement Advantage commented, “With the launch of the new polymer five-pound note we wanted to investigate how older people really spend their money. It’s clear [from our analysis] that older people want to have fun, not just survive. Our research tells us many plan to prioritise quality of life in retirement above simply making do.”

The news that retirees are spending their money on having fun, improving their social lives and holidaying comes as no surprise to us. We carried out research earlier in the year which revealed that almost three quarters of people want to travel more when they retire.

Today’s over-50s view retirement as an opportunity to do all the things they may not have had time for in the past. With many people now spending a third of their life in retirement, they need to plan their finances well to fund the lifestyle they aspire to.

One good financial solution may be to sell the family home and downsize – either to rent a retirement property on an assured tenancy or to buy. This can free up capital to invest or spend on family or to travel if they wish, and can remove the cost and worry of maintaining a larger home.

Living in a retirement development offers a ready-made community of like-minded people which can provide retirees with a great social life and is particularly important for those on their own. Another advantage is that those who wish to travel can ‘lock up and leave’ their apartment knowing that it is safe and secure while they are away.


England’s South Coast Most Popular Place to Live for Retirees

Dorset has just topped ‘a best places to retire’ index released by Prudential this week, followed by West Sussex, Hertfordshire, Devon and the Isle of Wight. It’s no real surprise that seaside locations continue to be popular with Britain’s retirees and this also reflects our experience. It’s easy to see why, with the reasons for Dorset taking the top spot for the second time running including; it’s a beautiful place with all-round appeal, attracting older people for its climate and low crime rate.

Good weather was the major reason also why West Sussex, Devon and the Isle of Wight are in the top five, with the Isle of Wight taking the top spot for sunshine levels. The only county not on the South Coast of England in the top five is Hertfordshire which attracts people seeking peace and tranquillity in a rural setting.

However the Prudential data also suggests that many pensioners in the south and south west may not be able to afford to continue to live in these places, with fewer than half thinking they will be able to afford to do so comfortably on their current pensions.

One option for older people is to consider downsizing and renting on a long term tenancy in retirement. This means people can release equity in their home to invest in their retirement. At the same time it frees people up from the worries that come with owning a home such as unexpected bills and ongoing maintenance.

As people get older having a smaller home is often far more appealing because it’s less upkeep, less rooms to keep tidy, giving them more time to spend on leisure activities.

Many of Girlings rental properties offer assured ‘lifetime’ tenancies too which means people can stay in the property as long as they wish. Monthly rents include services and maintenance, which makes budgeting much easier.

Developments will usually include communal lounges for enjoying a cup of tea or coffee with other residents, plus some organise regular social events such as fish and chip suppers, keep fit and quiz nights.

We have plenty of properties available on the south coast of England so a quick search of our website could bring up your perfect retirement apartment today.

Are longer tenancies back on the housing agenda?

According to reports, the new Housing Minister Gavin Barwell supports the concept of longer tenancies for renters in the private sector and is investigating ways of making it easier for private tenants to obtain longer tenancy agreements. This makes eminent social sense as it facilitates more permanent communities to be established with the consequent benefits to society.

We welcome and support this move.

With the sharp decline in rates of homeownership in the UK in the past decade, and the numbers of renters continuing to rise because of the housing shortage and high prices, longer tenancies would give people greater security in their homes, which many crave.

The security of a long tenure is particularly important for families and older people.

One of Barwell’s predecessors had announced in October 2013 that the government was to introduce new measures to encourage longer, fixed term, ‘family-friendly’ tenancies in the rental sector – although there were a number of flaws with these measures, it puts the Private Rented Sector (PRS) on the political agenda and is certainly is a good place for Barwell to start. Let’s hope he picks up and develops these measures in consultation with industry bodies in the PRS.

In our experience of the over 55s rental market, we know that many people want to sell their family home to downsize and rent as a lifestyle choice, provided they can find a suitable property with the security of a long tenure.

Our assured tenancies enable tenants to remain in their property for as long as they wish. Our tenants tell us that this is the biggest attraction of renting in retirement, as they have security of tenure for life. Let’s hope others in the rented sector will also benefit from longer tenancies soon.

Britain’s retirees increasingly optimistic about their future

According to the Inaugural Retirement Confidence Index* from McCarthy & Stone, the UK’s largest retirement housebuilder, retired people in the UK are currently exhibiting soaring levels of confidence.

Our own experience bears this out as our customers frequently mention they are looking forward to the future and the chance to do something new and exciting. For many this involves downsizing to rent a purpose-built retirement property. 74% of our tenants tell us that renting on an Assured Tenancy gives them security and peace of mind. Many say they have gained a new lease of life through making new friends, taking up new hobbies and regaining their independence. For some, moving to a different part of the country has given them a fresh start in a location they have always wanted to live.

Whilst downsizing into more appropriate homes may be a solution for some, a chronic shortage of suitable homes for older people may make this an impossible dream for many.
A report from Knight Frank^, ‘Retirement Housing 2016’ highlights that by 2037 three quarters of households are likely to be headed up by someone aged 65 or over. It also states that according to the University of Reading only 2 per cent of current housing stock is retirement housing. With an ageing population – there are an estimated 11 million people aged 65 and over in the UK today – the provision of suitable housing which meets the needs of older people is more crucial than ever. Knight Frank estimates that potential demand could reach 30,000 retirement units per year, however, current planning is for just 5,500 retirement housing units per year: a significant shortfall, which we believe needs immediate attention.

Without greater investment in retirement housing, many older people will be stuck in homes that no longer suit their needs. Consequently, there will be fewer homes available for those further down the ladder. Housing policy needs to address the question of under-occupancy today, otherwise our current housing crisis is only going worsen.

We applaud the optimism of today’s older people and we are doing all we can to support this by providing suitable, purpose-built retirement property for rent on Assured Tenancies across the UK. There is much more to be accomplished to encourage confidence in the retirement housing sector and we believe there are exciting times ahead for the Industry.



More people renting in retirement, according to new poll

A new poll of private renters by the National Landlords Association (NLA)* shows that the proportion of retired private renters has grown by 13 per cent since 2012 (approximately 220,000). It also highlights that 17 per cent of the retired private renting population live in the South East of England, with just 3 per cent in London and only 4 per cent in the North East.

House prices in each area no doubt have an impact on whether people can afford to buy but also to rent and with London being the least affordable for both its hardly surprising there are fewer retired renters.

In our experience many people in the South East also choose to sell up in retirement and rent, taking advantage of years of house price rises and releasing equity to invest in their future.
There are huge challenges ahead though for the retirement housing market.

One highlighted by the NLA is that the proportion of landlords who let to retired renters has almost halved since 2012. They found that just nine per cent of landlords said they currently let to retirees compared to 19 per cent in 2012.

The reasons stated are the issues renting to a more vulnerable section of the population and pension cuts, plus tax changes for landlords which means in expensive high demand areas they can only afford to rent to people with high paying jobs.

Another report a few weeks ago from Knight Frank^, ‘Retirement Housing 2016’ provided further insight into the state of the housing market for Britain’s retired and the housing challenges ahead.

The report highlights that by 2037 three quarters of households are likely to be headed up by someone aged 65 or over. It also points out that according to the University of Reading only 2 per cent of housing stock is retirement housing.

Current planning is for only 5,500 retirement housing units a year, but Knight Frank estimates that potential demand will reach 30,000 retirement units needed per year.

As Michael Ball, Professor of urban and property economics at the University of Reading says: “Within 10 to 15 years we might see retirement housing demand equalling today’s demand for starter homes.”

The UK is already experiencing a shortage of retirement homes which is preventing people from being able to downsize and this situation looks set to get worse.
Knight Frank estimates that the over-50s hold 66% of all housing wealth, equalling about £2.5 trillion – if they were able to downsize successfully, they would able to be free up much needed family homes whilst releasing equity.

Downsizing to a home with one less bedroom will release around £52,000 in equity on average across England and Wales, with large regional variations.
Over the next 20 years the demographics of UK are going to change quite significantly as we shift to being an older population. House building needs to reflect this changing demographic and provide enough suitable housing, for both renting and buying, to suit people’s needs as they get older, which in turn will free up homes for those further down the ladder.


Half of home movers looking to downsize

We were interested to read a report by Lloyds Bank* this week which suggested that nearly half (46%) of home movers in the UK plan to downsize in the next three years and could realise up to £200,000 as a result.

Downsizing was cited as the single most popular reason for moving and the average age for a downsizer is 53 years old.

The reasons for wanting to downsize varied, with 53% saying they wanted to move somewhere that better suited their circumstances, 39% saying they wanted to reduce bills or free equity and 31% wanted extra cash for retirement.

Mike Songer, mortgage director with Lloyds Bank suggested that whilst financial reasons are not always the main driver for downsizing, three quarters of people expect to profit from such a move.

He said: ‘There are definitely financial benefits to be gained from trading down, with an average potential windfall of £117,230 when moving from a detached home to a semi-detached house. Downsizing is also healthy for the market, as it helps keep it moving and frees up larger properties which could be perfect for young families about to take their next step up the property ladder,’ he added.

Unsurprisingly it was downsizers in the London area that make the most from downsizing with home owners making £201,052 on average from the sale of their home. Downsizing to rent a specialist retirement property is a good financial solution for many older people as it frees up all their capital.

This is borne out by research we undertook earlier this year which found that 35% of people over 50 wish to downsize from a larger family home to a retirement property more suitable for their needs. We receive many enquiries from older people who are choosing to take this option when they retire, attracted by the security of tenure that the assured tenancy offers, plus the ability to budget effectively as the monthly rent includes the services of the development and property maintenance costs giving them the financial freedom to really enjoy their retirement years.

Our research also highlighted that the majority of older people don’t want to put their feet up in retirement but are instead looking for adventure. 70% of over 50s said they wish to travel more, with more than a third (37%) wishing to travel several times a year. Having additional resources, for instance from the sale of a house, can help fund such plans plus the ability to ‘lock up leave’ when renting a purpose-built retirement property in a secure development brings added peace of mind to the traveller.