Golden rules of getting savvy with care home costs

Posted on: 28 November 2013 by Ray Hart

Care home fees are a large financial commitment, here Ray Hart, creator of Valuing Care Fees Calculator, introduces the idea of challenging the prices quoted.

Affordable care costsWith rising bills, reduced pensions, and low interest rates on savings, becoming savvy with money is essential; bank balances need to stretch further and further. We’re happy to shop around to get value for money whether it is at the jewellers for a new watch, or the car boot sale for a second-hand vase, but how many people have contemplated the idea of getting a better deal on the cost of care home placements?

Moving into a care home is a huge leap, personally and financially. With such a large financial commitment, people who self-fund their own care are united by a desire for cheaper fees. To put this in context, moving into a care home is probably the third most expensive outgoing behind buying a house, number one, and buying an expensive car, number two. The average annual cost for self-funders is £30,000. A 10 per cent reduction is a reasonable discount for a lot of purchases, and with this in mind, savings could equate to £3,000 each year.

Typical buying patterns

It’s evident that when searching for a care home people generally settle for the first quote at the first home visited. When considering the circumstances that these decisions are made in, it is understandable. More often than not, they are hasty decisions made out of necessity, with little time to make fully informed choices.

So are we paying more than we should be for care home places? Not necessarily. The golden rule is to first establish a reasonable rate for the area in which the care home is located, and the level of care needed. So if the quote is £700 per week for a small residential care home in rural Scotland with few facilities, is that a good price? Probably not, whereas it may be more realistic for a larger care home in London with plentiful facilities.

Value for money

To help distinguish between a quote that offers value for money, or otherwise, comparison tools such as the free Valuing Care Fees Calculator are the best starting point. If the quote received is subsequently identified as not providing value for money, then now is the time to revive your bargaining ingenuity.

People searching for care homes may be losing thousands of pounds every year through paying more than is necessary, but negotiating is not just for the professionals; anyone can do it.

Get a copy of the contract and ask the manager to confirm exactly what the fee covers, including additional charges. This varies across care homes. Whilst some have transparent pricing and make residents aware upfront of all potential costs, it may be more difficult to establish with others if only referred to in the small print.

Be clear on exactly what it is you want, and have an acceptable range that you could pay. Be confident and calm. If the care home manager is showing signs that the price is up for discussion, then equipped with your knowledge of an acceptable going rate for that location, and level of care, put forward a price that you think is fair. The care home manager may only be too happy to fill an otherwise empty room at a slightly cheaper rate.

Other benefits

If nothing can be achieved on the price then consider alternatives. A good illustration here is salary. If you were trying to get a pay rise but the boss couldn’t move on the figures, then you may try to negotiate on different benefits such as working from home, or reduced hours for instance. Now apply this in a care home context; perhaps for the same money it is possible to secure a larger room, hairdressing services, or even a complimentary trip out every month.

Negotiating prices is a key part of the buying process for a number of purchases, and if the price that has been quoted for a care home placement appears to be too high, trying to agree a better price is completely acceptable. If however, you’re uncomfortable discussing fees or simply need professional advice, turn to the experts for help. There are care fees negotiators across the country that undertake this on a daily basis, and are a useful resource if you need a helping hand.


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