It runs in the familyPosted on: 29 September 2014 by Anthony Page
Tony Page looks at the evolving retirement village market with a visit to Audley Mote House in Maidstone, Kent.
When I was in my early thirties, two business associates and I were in negotiation to buy a company making reproduction ‘fine art’ for Boots the Chemist and all of the leading UK department stores. The deal was all but done; the money in place and the new office lease ready to sign – everything was going to plan. Or so I thought. We were at our lawyers going over the final contract and one of my partners was called to the phone in another office. When he came back we knew the deal was off – his face said it all. He had just been told by the owner of the company that he’d sold it to another group of investors the previous afternoon.
Well once we got over the disappointment we moved on to the next venture and the company in question, Patrician Arts never crossed my mind until about six weeks ago – some 35 years later.
About a year ago I took a drive into the Kent countryside to look at a retirement housing project developed by Audley Retirement. The site in question; Mote House, consists of 100 properties. The centrepiece of the development is a mini-mansion circa 1900. This had been converted to a small number of very impressive bespoke apartments and a Country Club facility for the whole development. There’s a library, restaurant, bistro, and health & wellbeing centre and masses of comfortable sofas to while the time away before the next meal.
This to me was what retirement was all about. Great facilities in acres of parkland with everything on hand to make life comfortable, safe and secure!
In late July this year I was invited to visit their latest development, Binswood in Leamington Spa. Audley have used the same formula – they have taken a large old private school (complete with its own chapel) and converted it into a series of apartments along with the Club facilities similar to Mote House in Kent. It’s a model that seems to work well as the properties are selling and Phase Two is already underway. The old saying ‘Quality always sells!’ seems to be an adage that fits Audley properties. Their villages are certainly at the top end of the retirement marketplace with very little below £485k and where the penthouse apartment selling at £700k. But you get what you pay for - lovely locations, a beautifully fitted out home with character and full care services should you ever need it.
At the recent launch of this new development I was introduced to the CEO of Audley a very urbane Nick Sanderson and at a later interview chatted about his vision of what retirement should be and what he tries to encompass in all the Audley developments.
Nick comes from a house building family; his father was Frank Sanderson who started and ran Bovis Homes in the 1960-70s. This takes us full circle to the beginning of the article and me being gazumped from my, well nearly, fine art business. Frank Sanderson was the man that beat me to the deal!
So from an early age Nick Sanderson has lived with house building and deal making and this is reflected in his thirst for success in developing Audley as an innovative retirement housing developer which aims to create the ideal customer experience for later life.
At the age of 22 Nick Sanderson and good friend Andrew McDonald, who was a doctor, started Beaumont Healthcare with a novel feature for that time of having care facilities embedded in a housing development so they were available when any resident needed them. Nick uses a similar model in all the Audley developments now.
His logic was the same then as it is now ‘People prefer to live in their own homes for as long as they can with support on hand when they need it’ – this is the guiding principle of Audley today.
With this background it’s easy to understand that Nick’s great enjoyment come from his close and extended family. For his own retirement, which is a good few years away, he sees the Audley retirement model satisfying his needs so long as there is an ‘Audley Abroad’ where he can go for a month’s break when he wants it.
For leisure and pleasure he enjoys skiing and reading historical biographies – ‘You can learn a lot from the past that is still applicable to business in the present!’ His pet hates are intolerance, impatience and conservatism – small ‘c’!
He doesn’t pursue money for the sake of having it but more of an expression of what success is. His mother often told him: ‘Remember, shrouds don’t have pockets!’
Quality housing in retirement, along with security and ongoing care has been his mantra for the past 30 odd years and is unlikely to change at this stage of his career.
The future holds plenty more activity to keep him focussed – in addition to the existing six developments there are five more schemes at varying stages which, when finished will total 860 homes in all. At 55 it’s likely he’ll top 2000 before his retirement … to an Audley property!
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Visit the website to find out more about Audley Retirement Properties.
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