When looking for a home in a retirement community, most people assume retirement villages and lifestyle parks are the same thing – but this is not the case.
Although they have their similarities – both are independent living communities for over 55s – they do have some important differences, and these are significant both financially and legally.
So how do they compare? And which option is best for you?
Retirement villages are residential communities for over 55s, and they generally have a range of leisure and support services available. The accommodation is usually made up of a multi-unit complex or high-rise apartments, and there is both low-cost and high-end resort style living options available.
Retirement villages usually have a community centre where residents can access a range of spaces and activities. There may also be rooms for visiting doctors and other health professionals, and some have residential aged care facilities on site.
Retirement village contracts will usually be either a long-term lease, or freehold title. Freehold contracts generally require an upfront lump sum payment, plus periodic payments to cover costs. They may also charge other ongoing fees including administration fees, municipal rates or water rates. Another significant cost is deferred management fees – this is a clause of the contract that requires residents to return a percentage of the sale price to village managers when the unit is sold. This can end up costing residents and their families thousands – so before agreeing to a deferred management fee you should seek expert financial advice.
Lifestyle parks are not always restricted to retirees, but many are exclusively for over 55s. The accommodation is usually made up of single-level relocatable homes situated on individual blocks within large, estate-style grounds. Some parks offer 1,2 or 3 bedroom homes that include carports, gardens and fully fenced yards. Residents can purchase an existing house or build a new one, which means you can choose a home that exactly suits your needs.
Like retirement villages, lifestyle parks have shared spaces and activities, so residents can mingle with other members of the community. For example, facilities could include a recreation room, shared dining hall and barbecue areas, a gym, plus, indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
Lifestyle park contracts generally operate under the Residential Tenancies Act and residents own their home and pay rent on the land. There can be other charges such as an annual power supply fee, but many (including Village Lifestyle Park) do not charge administration fees, municipal or water rates or deferred management fees.
So Which Is Best for Me?
Choosing a home in a retirement community is a personal choice. Things to consider include the type of accommodation (unit, apartment or house), the facilities you value, and the financial implications of the contract – in both the short and longer term.
Visit a variety of retirement villages and lifestyle parks to get a feel for what they are like, and chat to some residents to get a first-hand account of life in the community. Discuss your decision with your family and seek professional advice on contracts before you sign.
With an increase in the number of over 55s making the move to retirement communities, there are plenty of options available – and if you do your research, you’re bound to find the perfect community for you.