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Questions to ask before buying into a village

Choosing a retirement village can be a big decision, so it is important to discuss all aspects of a potential new home. Make sure you understand all the ins and outs and know your rights and responsibilities before signing on the dotted line. And the only way you can do that is by asking questions.

Key points:

  • Choosing a retirement village can be a big decision, so pick carefully, as you could end up living there for a long time

  • On top of initial purchase cost there will be ongoing charges things like maintenance and amenities

  • Make sure you understand the rules and regulations in your village so you have an enjoyable and stress free time in your new home

Couple on a bench at their retirement village
There are a number of questions you should be asking before you buy or move into a retirement village. [Source: iStock]

Here we have outlined a number of questions to ask, to help you make an informed decision of the next place you may choose to call 'home'.

What sort of ownership rights will I have?

Buying into retirement living accommodation is different from a 'normal' purchase because of the different ownership structures and there may be additional ongoing charges when you move into a village community. 

Retirement village property ownership may come under different legislation, including loans or licence, shares in a unit, community or strata title. Some villages also offer rental options.

What about fees and charges?

On top of the purchase of your new home, unit or apartment in a retirement community there will generally be additional ongoing cost. Different operators have different charges but it is quite common to have ongoing service fees and charges for village maintenance and management. 

Before making your decision, be sure you understand what those fees and charges are and always read the small print as you may be liable for these charges even when you’ve left the village and you’re waiting for your property to be re-occupied.

How secure is the village?

Many retirement villages have dedicated staff on call 24-hours a day. Depending on the style of retirement village, there may also be gated entrances and secure parking. 

The village may have additional safety measures such as security lighting on homes, security patrols at night and security cameras.

What if I move in and realise it isn’t for me?

Some retirement villages recognise this style of living isn’t for everyone, and may offer a ‘Settling-In Period’. This means you can opt out within a set time frame, but some charges may apply. 

Are guests allowed?

Family and friends are an integral part of our lives. Generally, guests are welcome to stay with you and may also use the communal facilities while within your company. 

However, they may only be allowed to stay for a set period unless special permission is given.

What about pets?

While most villages appreciate the companionship that pets provide, some do exclude pets completely or only allow smaller pets. If you are a pet lover, ask if pets are allowed, and if so, what type you are able to keep on-site.

What communal facilities are on offer?

Your village may provide a range of facilities and amenities to residents. Recreational and social facilities may include a library, community centre, restaurant, internet café, bowling greens or swimming pool, and services such as doctors, physiotherapists, banking or hairdressers may be available on-site.

Check what communal facilities are available in the village to ensure they fit in with your lifestyle. You may also want to know what, if any, additional payments are needed to use some of the facilities.

What happens if there is a maintenance issue with my home?

A lot of retirement villages have an on-site maintenance manager who will organise maintenance and repairs. Who pays for these depends very much on what the issue is. Generally, if it’s a problem with the building, the village will pay for the repair.

What happens if I’m ill or have a medical emergency?

Most villages have call systems installed in villas and apartments to provide a 24-hour monitoring service for medical emergencies.

Some villages also keep a confidential record of each resident’s medical history on file. This information is released with the authorisation of the resident to medical services in an emergency.

How is the village managed?

Make sure the village is accredited and ask to see a copy of financial information relating to the operation of the retirement village. Also ask what arrangements are in place for the maintenance of units, community facilities and grounds.

You should also know what protections you have if the village is sold to another organisation after you move in.

Finding out if there's a residents’ committee and the role it plays in the administration of the village can be handy to know before you move in as well.

Can I transfer to a serviced apartment?

If your needs change in the future and you need more support, you may need to move to a smaller serviced apartment. If these are available on-site, it is important to know whether the village will facilitate this transfer.

Some villages also offer aged care accommodation. Residents who are assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) as needing residential aged care may be able to move to care accommodation in the same village.

Be aware, however, you may need to make a separate accommodation payment if entering into residential care. Check that your entry contribution into the retirement village can be refunded quickly so that you can pay the accommodation payment.

Know your legalities

While you would hope you wouldn’t have to use it, it's important to know what the complaints procedure is and what dispute resolution procedures are in place. It can be a good idea to also know your rights under your State or Territory’s Retirement Villages Act.

Depending on what State or Territory you buy or rent in, there are different Retirement Village Acts and Retirement Village Resident Associations.

It may be advisable to inform your family, other loved ones or your executor of your Will as to the kind of contract you are signing and what exit fees will need to be paid.

What question do you believe is important to ask a retirement village? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Finding the right retirement village for you
Should I rent or own a place in a retirement village?
Moving into a village

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