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Expert insight into our retirement homes service charges

Did you know we don’t make a penny from our services? Our McCarthy Stone experts explain how we set fair service charges for our retirement homes. Learn more.

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Property advice
Posted 28 May 2024
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Did you know? Services in our retirement communities are delivered at cost price.

Service charges are essential to providing the services people value at our retirement communities—and it may surprise you to learn our services are delivered at cost price. By law, service charges have to be clearly communicated from the start and agreed to by homeowners. We asked Willie Mcgillivray, Operations Director and Liz Fairbanks, Northern Divisional Director to explain how we set fair service charges and to bust some misconceptions.


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All costs are passed on with no commission or mark up. We do not make a penny from them. And any surplus money is returned to homeowners at the end of the year.

Willie McGillivray, Operations Director, McCarthy Stone


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Our role is to benefit the lives of older people in our society so they can live independently for longer…It’s hassle free.

Liz Fairbanks, Northern Divisional Director, McCarthy Stone

Why are there service charges on retirement homes?

Willie explains, “All housing developments with shared spaces have a service charge. But retirement homes services charges are not like the service charge for a normal block of flats, they cover an awful lot more. The service charges pay for running costs – including the Manager’s wages and things like the full-service restaurant/bistro (if there is one), the provision of a guest suite, heating and lighting in communal areas, cleaning, water rates, keeping the lifts working, gardening and overall maintenance of shared spaces.”  

Why are retirement flat service charges so important?

Liz says, “Our role is to benefit the lives of older people in our society so they can live independently for longer. This means 24/7 support including pull cord/wrist monitors and monitored security and fire protection. We take away the challenge of the things that are increasingly a challenge. It’s hassle free. You don’t have to organise three quotes if the gutter needs fixing or the roof needs repairing, we do that for you. You’re part of a caring community. You see people every day, they look out for you and we organise social events —or you might just pop to the hobby room and decide you want to try painting.” Liz adds,  ‘Often it’s about the small things that make life more pleasurable. Say the sun comes out for the first time in spring and previously you’d have to get the patio furniture out, clean it etc.—in our communities it’s all done for you. You can just go out and enjoy the sunshine.”

How is a retirement home’s service charge set?

Willie says, “The service charges in our developments are agreed annually in consultation with everyone in the community at an annual budget meeting. The budget, which apart from team wages, is based on quotes from suppliers, is discussed and then divided among the homeowners in line with their lease. It’s all very transparent, so they know exactly what they are paying for, from window cleaning to gardeners. All costs are passed on with no commission or mark up. We do not make a penny from them. And any surplus money is returned to homeowners at the end of the year.”

How do we ensure the service charge on our retirement homes is fair? 

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Before you choose to buy or rent a McCarthy Stone retirement property, we sit with you (and a friend/family member if you wish) to clearly explain all the costs involved and the services you’ll be paying for. Willie says, “We explain everything upfront. It is a legal and clear process with no surprises,” adding, “there is a management fee, but all services are provided at cost. We use our buying power to get great deals so you spend less or the same than you would in your current home.” Most of our homeowners save money when they move into a McCarthy Stone home. 

Why does the average retirement flat service charge vary?

Service charges vary depending on the location of the development, size of the property and the range of communal amenities and the services on offer. Our assisted living developments —Retirement Living PLUS offer additional amenities including a restaurant/bistro but also things like wellness suites with on-site hair and beauty, or fitness studios, as well as a manager on-site 24/7 and an hour’s domestic support included. Liz says, “Some people worry about moving into a smaller space but actually rather than rattling around in a large, lonely home they gain access to more spaces that they actually make good use of. Popping out to the lounge to use the Wi-Fi or watch a film with friends or borrowing a book or magazine and sitting in the maintained gardens.”

Does the cost of living increase the service charge on a retirement home? 

Willie says, “We have been impacted like everyone by the rise in energy prices, food prices, prices of materials and wage rises. For instance, national food costs in the UK have risen 16.9%. Therefore  our service charges are affected the rising costs of external services. But as we mentioned earlier these are passed on at cost and our buying power often means that we get better deals than individuals.”

Why do families have to pay service charges when a retirement flat becomes empty?

If a homeowner dies, or moves into a care home, service charges need to be paid until the property is sold. “This is fairest way to keep the development  going, ensuring all the homeowners get theirs services, the gardens are maintained and the staff are paid, “ Will says, adding, “There are legal obligations and taxes to pay if you own or inherit any property and this can feel like a burden when you are grieving. But we are here to help and support you.”  Liz adds, “It’s in our interests to keep our developments full of people – to create a happy buzzing community, so we will do everything we can to help you to resell a property. We are the experts in selling the community and services, we keep an eye on the property and we can help you to keep it looking its best. If there are issues, we can perhaps help you to sublet it, which should cover the services charges and more – or to redecorate – we may even defer the services charges until after the property is sold – if you talk to us, the help is there for you.”

Service charge benefits go way beyond the price 

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Our homeowners are our first priority. Our aim is that they enjoy the services, amenities and community spirit to the full and stay independent for longer.  As Liz says, “Our communities transform lives. Homeowners describe it as like being on holiday or a cruise without the ship.”  From the reasonable service charges to flexible buying and renting options like Shared Ownership, to suit different budgets, we do everything in our power to give our homeowners value for money. That includes offering free (and highly successful) support to make sure homeowners are getting money they are entitled to — things like Attendance Allowance which can help towards covering service charges.

To learn more browse our range of stunning retirement properties now or contact our friendly team on 0800 201 4811.

 

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