House Hunter: 'It's time to sell the family home'

John and Beryl Webster are in their late fifties and own a large, three-bedroom house in Yorkshire. They want to move 'down south' to be near their daughter
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THE PROBLEM

"Beryl and I have always lived up north but our daughter moved south many years ago and is now married with a family. We have sold our business and are in a position to re-assess our life and decide on the next chapter. We would love to see more of our family and feel that moving south is the answer. We would like the next move to last us at least 10 to 15 years before we need to consider a nursing home - longer if possible!

"Our daughter strongly advocates buying a retirement property. We are not averse to it, but it is difficult to find new retirement developments as they are spread over such a wide area. She lives in Sussex, and we would be happy there or in Kent, in Tunbridge Wells, or Hampshire, as we have had many wonderful holidays there. Our daughter feels that it would be a good investment but I am concerned about maintenance costs and need to know what sort of figure I would have to find annually.

"We have lived in the family home for more than 30 years so we are not au fait with moving, nor do we relish the idea of the actual removal, but, nevertheless, we do appreciate that now is the time to make changes in our life while we are fit enough, and to be nearer our family has to be an advantage."

THREE PROPERTIES FOR JOHN AND BERYL TO VIEW

Property one: Sandbourne Court, Bournemouth.

Price: Six two-bedroom apartments from £395,000.

Agent: English Courtyard: 0800 220 858/01903 787351; www.brandnewhomesuk.co.uk.

Agent's details: Located on the cliffs above Alum Chime in a secluded and leafy site. Retirement property, in a superb, much sought-after location with views towards the sea. Close to all amenities.

Property two: Turnpike Court, Sussex .

Price: From £420,000 to £495,000.

Agent: English Courtyard: 0800 220 858/01903 787351; www.brandnewhomesuk.co.uk.

Agent's details: Retirement complex in Ardingly, a picturesque village in Sussex. Set in the grounds of Hapstead House are 16 large, two-bedroom apartments, two wing houses and a two-bedroom cottage. All have individual garages with remote-control doors.

Property three: Court Royal, Tunbridge Wells, Kent .

Price: One-bedroom apartments from £200,000 up to £400,000 for penthouse with studio.

Agent: Court Royal: 01892 532300/01903 787351; www.brandnewhomesuk.co.uk.

Agent's details: Apartment complex for the over-55s set in landscaped environment in a conservation area. Every one of the one-, two-bedroom apartments and penthouses have "concierge plus service", offering security and personal assistance 52 weeks of the year.

HEATHER HILDER'S ADVICE

"We come across this type of scenario time and again. Having not moved for many years, John may feel that it is a daunting experience but, with professional advice, he will find his dream of a new lifestyle can be extremely successful. Many people in their fifties are healthy, outgoing and keen to enjoy life to the full. By buying a brand-new retirement home they are alleviating themselves of enormous responsibilities such as maintenance of home and garden.

"It costs around £3,000 per year to maintain an older-style house, including the repair of roofs and guttering, outside paintwork, plumbing/central heating, replacing windows and modernising kitchens and bathrooms. Running costs can also be daunting, because insulating materials were not available when many homes in the UK were built.

"Retirement properties can vary from bungalows to apartments and penthouses and are often built around landscaped gardens behind private gates, giving owners that extra bit of peace of mind. They are for those retired or about to retire, and are not nursing homes or local authority sheltered housing.

"They are often upmarket, practical homes in much sought-after locations. John's daughter is right to suggest such a property as it will allow her parents to travel abroad or visit friends without worrying about the home they have left behind. Retirement homes often have concierges on site, frequently a husband and wife team, who oversee the running of the development and offer a helping hand if needed. One Tunbridge Wells-based developer is offering a year-round concierge service, which includes booking a restaurant, making hair salon appointments and helping with shopping.

"John mentioned maintenance costs. These usually cover home, garden and communal areas and the figure is clearly stated before purchase. Charges often depend on an individual's requirements and many of the management companies set up by the developer are 'not for profit' organisations.

"Homes are built close to amenities, making it possible to travel around the nearest town, often without the need for a car. They are built to be flexible to allow for residents growing older and perhaps more infirm, and this is reflected in clever layouts. Prices vary from £100,000 up to £400,000 so there is something for everyone and of course the property remains in the ownership of the purchaser therefore allowing family to inherit the property. One way to start the search is to visit exhibitions such as the recent 50+ Lifestyle Show in Eastbourne, which attracted more than 4,000 visitors. Another way is to find a central point such as our website, which offers a range of new retirement homes in the South, and a follow-up call to assist buyers through the procedure."

Heather Hilder is a director of R W Hilder & Co: 0870 7778726; www.brandnewhomesuk.co.uk

THE VERDICT

"Finding a large selection of retirement homes in one place sounds a fabulous idea. This will give us a feel of properties currently available, prices and locations. We are going to spend a week with our daughter with the intention of viewing developments and really doing our homework.

"Prices in Yorkshire are obviously cheaper than in the Home Counties and we need to appreciate what we can get for our money. However, the idea of no maintenance on the property to worry about and low heating bills certainly appeals to the Yorkshire in me! Knowing what the general maintenance bill is per year will allow us to budget accordingly and hopefully this will be the start of a very exciting chapter in our lives."

Interviews by Ginetta Vedrickas

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to House Hunter, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail househunter@independent.co.uk

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