“I’d never live in one of those places”
Suspend judgement and get to know what is on offer. There are a wide variety of housing developments throughout Australia targeted at the “over 50s” population. Various terms are used for these styles of housing and often these are used interchangeably and not always correctly. These housing arrangements are regulated under separate pieces of state based legislation. We focus on Queensland legislation in this Guide so check out differences that exist in other states.
Terms used to describe these housing forms include retirement living, retirement village, lifestyle village, manufactured homes park, resort style development, seniors rental housing, over 50s resorts and so on.
New developments are generally marketed extensively, often emphasising the lifestyle and resort style features of the project, and many of these new developments can be very expensive. However there are a variety of lower cost developments for rental and sale. For example, at the time of writing, 20% of the 750 ‘Retirement Living’-style properties on realestate.com.au were priced under $200,000.
Many people have quite negative feelings about this style of housing, and there has been lots of bad publicity in recent times around aged care services and also retirement villages. Whilst these are quite separate, the two can become jumbled in people’s minds. Against this, there are thousands of very happy residents in a range locations and styles of housing targeted to older people.
“Over 50s” housing can be attractive in terms of community atmosphere, low maintenance, security, additional services and activities on site and general easy living arrangements. There are a wide variety of people living in this type of housing, from those still working through to those receiving additional care.
It is really worth investigating and understanding these options and learning about the differences between these styles of housing ownership and management. Two developments might look similar and have similar features but how and what you are renting or purchasing can be quite different depending on how the development is legally structured. This may make little difference when you move in but a lot of difference if you decide to leave. Armed with this basic information you will be a more informed consumer when you go looking into what might be available in the areas you would like to live in.
There is significant variety in this style of housing including purchase and rental options. Arrangements, especially in Retirement Villages, can be complex and confusing.
In Queensland these developments are legally structured under 3 quite separate legal arrangements: Residential Services, Manufactured Homes Parks and Retirement Villages.
4.1 Residential Services
One form of regulated housing in Queensland is Private Aged Rentals. Providers of this housing must be registered and are required to maintain certain standards to retain registration
Residential services is a term in Queensland covering accommodation including Boarding Houses, Hostels and Aged Rental developments. The umbrella term of Residential Services comes from the legislation governing this form of accommodation; the Residential Services (Accreditation) Act 2002 (QLD) This Act requires these forms of housing to be registered and accredited. The Act sets standards and provides consumer protection and is administered by the Department of Housing and Public Works. There are around 8000 units of accommodation accredited under this legislation.
In the context of this Guide, the Aged Rental category may be of interest to older women. Although marketed as “over 50s or over 55s” housing the average age is more commonly over 70. Housing is generally in small, self contained units. Kitchens are generally kitchenette-style, with full dining facilities on site. Residents are either tenants or owner occupiers. Additional services such as laundry, meals and cleaning can be purchased on site.
Often the decision to move to this accommodation is made when someone feels that maintaining a home, cooking and cleaning etc is getting beyond them or is something they no longer want to do. Residents report that developments feel safe and secure and there are generally opportunities to socialise with other residents whilst maintaining high levels of independence. The other advantage is that upfront costs for the renter are low – the equivalent of general private rental housing, i.e. four weeks bond and rent in advance. Like all tenancies in Queensland, the actual rental agreement will be under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008.
Some projects also offer units for sale to owner occupiers and investors. These units are often sold at a significant discount to an equivalent style of unit in the private market. At the time of writing the price of units in Queensland started from $125,000. If you own the unit your costs will be body corporate fees, council rates, water charges and internal maintenance; just like any other property investment. Electricity and contents insurance are the responsibilities of all residents, regardless of whether they are renting or are owner occupiers. Additional services are available to owner occupiers as well as renters and regulated in the same way but, of course, regulation of tenancies only applies to renters.
Affordability can be an issue if residents need additional services such as meals or housekeeping and are only on a Centrelink income. The combined cost of rental and other services can be high; up to 85% of the aged pension for accommodation, cleaning and meals etc. For people without either income beyond the aged pension or family support, these costs can significantly restrict their lifestyle and access to medical services and the community in general.
If you are still working but don’t own a home, this could be an affordable purchase option and one you could pay off more quickly than a standard house or apartment. You might choose to live there or to continue to live in private rental or shared housing and rent this apartment to help with repayments. If you are planning an adventurous retirement this could be a viable ‘fallback’ option for the future.
4.2 Manufactured Homes in Residential Parks
It is estimated that over 25,000 Queenslanders live in Manufactured Homes in Residential Parks. These parks come in various forms, often mixing tourists and permanent residents.
Increasingly, parks are being developed targeted at the 50s+ age group and offering only permanent accommodation to this target group.
The attractiveness of this type of housing is its lower cost, on-site recreational facilities, low maintenance and feeling of greater security in a community of people of similar age.
In a Manufactured Homes Park, residents generally own the dwelling and lease the land or site the home is on. Your key legal document is called a site agreement. This very important document describes your rights and responsibilities in a particular Park as well as what your ongoing costs will be. For eligible lower income owners this arrangement also means that they may be able to get rent assistance through Centrelink to assist with site rental. You will be responsible for all the maintenance of your home and may be subject to a number of restrictions on what you can do to your home and when you are required to do (or pay) for certain maintenance.
Most parks only allow owner occupants so you cannot own a home and rent it out. Take care with this aspect if you are thinking of getting a tenant in short or long term at some stage. Occasionally a Park will rent units so make sure you ask this question when you visit sites.
Homes in Manufactured Homes Parks generally sell at a significant discount to similar-sized freehold titles homes in the same area. Homes typically sell from $150,000 to $400,000, although at the time of writing there were some homes selling for $700,000+. Homes in established parks are generally more affordable than new developments. Always get legal advice before entering into a contract to purchase.
In Queensland, Manufactured Home Parks must comply with and be registered under the Manufactured Homes (Residential Parks) Act 2003. This Act gives consumers standard protections, however there can still be considerable differences between Parks, so it is very important to carefully read the site agreement and get legal advice before you sign anything. The Department of Housing and Public Works administers this Act.
4.3 Retirement Villages
Retirement villages are communities of older people living in independent living units or serviced units and share common facilities and amenities. On the same site there may also be a Resident Aged Care facility (formerly called a Nursing Home) which is subject to quite separate regulation.
Retirement villages have been around in Australia for over 60 years and in Queensland alone, there are an estimated 20000 Retirement Village Units in Queensland. Retirement villages are regulated by the Retirement Villages Act 1999 (Qld). In Queensland, the Department of Housing and Public Works, administers this legislation.
Retirement villages may be owned by commercial operators or charitable, religious or ethnic not-for-profit organisations. Changes in ownership is not uncommon.
The most common tenure for residents is leasehold, usually a 99 year lease but each retirement village is different so conditions can be different in each. Deciding to move to a retirement village is a lifestyle choice, not a property investment.
The general structure is the payment of an entry fee which could range from $150,000 to over $1m. This payment generally secures a lifetime leasehold. In addition you will be required to pay monthly fees to cover maintenance and management of the village, including rates and grounds maintenance and common facilities. Facilities vary from site to site.
If you decide to leave or you pass away, exit fee may be charged. These will be deducted from your entry fee and what is left refunded. The exit fee generally increases the longer you stay in the village. It is commonly capped at 25-35% of the initial entry fee. In some circumstances, other exit fees may be charged against your entry fee. Generally your residual entry fee will be refunded when your unit is sold.
Fee structures can be complicated and differ between villages. Fees are set out in the residence contract. Always get legal and financial advice before signing a contract to ensure you understand the costs, rights and obligations at entry, whilst you live there and when you leave. Having someone you trust with you can be really helpful to clarify your understanding and to ask all the questions.
Having said that, there are some retirement villages that offer units for rent and do not require an upfront contribution. Check the provider’s website and ask this question when you visit the retirement village.
Key questions for all “Over 50s housing”
As with all housing options, careful research is needed. Key questions to ask are:
- Do I know the different legal arrangements of these forms of housing?
- What are the costs at entry, ongoing and when I leave?
- Is this a local area I want to live in? Will I be able to work, access services and maintain friendships and existing community involvement?
- Do I want to live in this particular community?
- Go beyond the sales pitch, ask questions and really get to understand how this type of housing works. Who pays for internal maintenance to my home? Can I do improvements to my unit? Can I keep a pet?
- What are the initial and ongoing costs and how much will I have left over for other costs of living? What about costs in the future?
- Can I move to another unit? What fees apply if I decide to leave.
Seniors Housing Online
Finding out about Retirement Villages, Seniors Rentals (Residential Services), Residential Parks and other housing targeted for seniors can be confusing and there are a variety of online directories of these services. One of a number of online directories of residential rental units for 50-55+ people. The main site is focused on new Retirement Villages for sale however a part of the site does advertise Residential Rentals. NB prices vary with the other services included such as meals.
Increasingly “Over 50s” housing is advertised on real estate sites. Realestate.com is the largest online listing of homes for sale or rental in Queensland. For a rental search you will need to add “retirement living” in the filters.
It’s Your Life
A directory of a range of accommodation and aged care providers. This site covers the whole of the state however listings in some areas and categories as limited.
This national site offers lots of information on buying & selling manufactured homes – from selecting the home & park of your choice to new home manufacturers, insurance, removalists, home transporters and legals. With over 100 parks and listings, homeparks.com.au provides Australia’s largest, and most cost effective market place for the manufactured homes industry.