Escape to a place in the sun

Posted on: 08 December 2009 by Mark O'haire

Sterling’s slump may have cracked the security of some savings nest eggs, but it hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for an active retirement abroad. Now forward thinking developers have come to the rescue.

50connect’s resident property expert, Laura Henderson, looks at two of the best in Portugal and South Africa. 

A re-think of retirement plans is to be expected in the current economic climate. Yet a move abroad surprisingly isn’t one of the ‘cut-backs’ with one in six Britons over the age of 55 heading to foreign shores by next year, confirms the Institute for Public Policy Research. Downsizing the family home to realise these ambitions is often the first step, but when full-time retirement kicks in and possible ill health looms-where you choose to spend your twilight years takes on a fresh significance. Overseas developers are addressing this challenge with a new line in 50+ residential communities aimed at active retirees, with additional assisted living facilities on-tap, enabling even the infirm to continue enjoying an independent life for a little longer. 

Resorts like these are a natural extension of the buy abroad boom we’ve seen over the past decade, explains Guy Mossop of retirement property consultancy Fifty5Plus: “Pre-retirees who’ve sampled the place in the sun lifestyle are now looking to trade up to something more permanent that meets their changing needs.” “Retirement resorts certainly bridge the gap between independent living and full-time residential care,” agrees Martin James of consultancy Retirement Homesearch. “And while they’re not a substitute for nursing homes, they do support an independent lifestyle and can help postpone the need to consider residential care. A warm climate and outdoor lifestyle only adds to the appeal.”

Located just twenty minutes from Faro airport in the eastern Algarve, the 20-acre hilltop estate of Monte da Palhagueira is the first overseas venture for UK developer the Amesbury Group. The company, which owns and manages several successful retirement homes in the UK, purchased the site near Loule in 1991, converting the estate’s farmhouse and outbuildings into a tranquil finca-style village of apartments and luxury villas and with private gardens. Ergonomically designed homes come with fitted kitchens, air-conditioning in the master bedroom, panic button communication systems and 24-hour nurse call as standard. On-site, is a dedicated nursing home staffed by fully qualified British speaking nurses, with 24 private suites, in addition to a doctor’s surgery, pharmacy and physiotherapy unit. Leisure facilities include two putting greens, a croquet lawn, boule pitch and hairdressers. “Residents who can no longer live independently and have to give up their resort home have the option to transfer to the nursing home,” explains company spokesperson Naomi Cornelius-Reid. “The majority of residents however, are fit and active - the occasional check-up at the surgery or a repeat prescription is all they need.”   

Property options on a “Lifetime Residency Plan” basis start from £140,000 for a two-bed unfurnished terraced house rising to £375,000 for a three-bed, four-bath, double storey villa. Quarterly fees are currently set at £1,300 and include weekly domestic help, insurance and property maintenance. “Residents don’t own their properties,” explains Resort Administrator Clive Roberts. “Instead they pay a lump sum to the management company and can then use the home as if their own on a “loan and accommodation” basis. The original sum is fully refundable (at one year’s notice) when the resident decides to sell.” While not for everyone, the pay-and-stay set-up has obvious benefits adds UK resident Johnny Wender from Hertfordshire: “I’d rather not be stuck with a place to shift at my time of life,” says the retired professional photographer who ‘purchased’ his two-bed villa for £200,000 in 2005 with wife Sherry. “This way, our original capital investment is protected. When we leave, the home simply reverts back to the company, eliminating property taxes and expensive legal and estate agency fees.” “The on-site medical facilities give us peace of mind,” adds Sherry. “I’ve had three hip operations in the UK and the follow-up care here has been excellent. Johnny also sees the doctor for regular check-ups as he takes medication for a heart condition - we’ve no private health cover - British passport holders in receipt of UK state retirement pensions are entitled to free state health care in Portugal – we even get a reminder for our pre-Xmas flu jabs.”    

Home to an estimated *200,000 Britons of pensionable age (FCO statistics) - South Africa’s Cape Town district is also carving out a lucrative real estate niche for the “active over 50’s”, with coastal resorts like Summervale in the Western Cape harbour town of Gordon’s Bay drawing an increasing number of UK émigrés. Located just 30-minutes from Cape Town International Airport, round-the-clock medical care is coordinated through the resort’s on-site health centre, which also has a newly opened frail care and assisted living unit. “Specialist services such as physiotherapy, complementary health and podiatry are also available,” adds resort manager Estelle Naude, “along with homecare visits for residents that require this level of service.” 

Two-bed off-plan single-storey homes with garden and garage start from £94,000 rising to £98,000 for a three-bed home with double garage. Purchaser’s individual preferences are incorporated into the final design, including a choice of finishes, with an average build-time of 12 months. Standard features include double-glazing and air-conditioning, with user-friendly design elements such as sockets and appliances at waist level, ramps rather than stairs and economy storage heaters. Management fees average £700 per annum with bespoke services including meals, laundry, cleaning and gardening available for an additional fee of £12 per month.

Says retired Post Office Manager John Pews, who bought his two-bed bungalow in 2007 for £80,000: “Private medical insurance is a must in South Africa as there’s no reciprocal healthcare agreement. My wife Judy and I pay £100 per month, which covers us for doctors’ visits, medicine and hospital treatment. Residents unable to look after themselves can transfer to one of the private suites at the assisted living unit, which provides round-the-clock nursing care. We’re fit and healthy now, but it’s great to know we have this facility as a fall back if ill heath looms. Until then, the tea dances and bowls will keep us on our toes.”            

Further Reading

By Laura Henderson

Property journalist, columnist and author

Laura is a UK-based property journalist and author specialising in domestic and overseas markets. A regular contributor to the Financial Times, Sunday Express, Daily Telegraph and Homes Overseas magazine, she also edits a monthly property column for the Scotsman newspaper and is the author of several on-line investor guides for among others, Channel 4 Homes.

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