Answering Questions About Matters Raised by Dispatches

25 September 2012

This is a response by McCarthy & Stone to the TV programme 'Dispatches - Undercover Retirement Home' which was first broadcast at 8pm, Monday 24th September 2012 on Channel 4. The programme was made without our knowledge and we were not asked to contribute prior to filming.

McCarthy & Stone is proud of its heritage as the country’s leading provider of specialist housing for later life. Treating our customers with fairness and respect is at the cornerstone of what we do and over the course of the last 35 years, our staff have helped thousands of people live more enriched lives in retirement.

Feedback from our customers has consistently been extremely positive. In independent customer satisfaction surveys carried out by the Home Builders Federation, McCarthy & Stone has been awarded the highest accolade for seven years running – the only UK house builder to have achieved this. We also take training seriously and in a recent mystery shopping exercise our staff scored well above the industry average for empathy.  In addition, a further survey last year by Professor Michael Ball of the University of Reading found that 92% of our residents were very happy or contented in their new home.

We take all complaints extremely seriously and we have launched an immediate review into the matters properly raised in the programme. While the programme did highlight areas where we could train our people better, the sales consultation shown is uncharacteristic of our usual approach. Taking on board the criticism though, and to ensure we always achieve the highest standards of customer service, we have already updated some of our sales literature and conducted refresher sales training. We will also be comprehensively reviewing our sales processes over the coming weeks and will promptly address any shortcoming identified.

We've included below a list of Questions and Answers that we think may arise as a result of the programme. If you have any further questions you'd like to ask us about the programme, or any other aspect of our operations, please contact us on 0800 5088370 or email ask@mccarthyandstone.co.uk

Is part exchange a good idea?

The stresses and strains of selling a property are a barrier for many people wanting to make the move to a new home. We find that these barriers can be worse for people in later life. Many of our customers, and indeed home-buyers in general, have found part exchange a way to help them to move more quickly and with less hassle. Part exchange is only one of a number of options we make available to our customers to help their move. We take care to explain the options so customers can make an informed decision on what’s right for them. The terms of the part exchange offer are always clearly set out in writing for our customers.  We encourage all our customers to seek independent legal advice and discuss the matter with their family before making a decision.

Who provides the part exchange scheme?

Where part exchange is chosen by our customers, we work with a number of different specialist part exchange companies that are independent of McCarthy & Stone. McCarthy & Stone doesn’t buy the property from the customer.

How is the part exchange offer arrived at?

The part exchange company will instruct up to three estate agents and/or a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) valuation of a property. The valuations are typically based on a price for a sale to be agreed within 6 weeks of marketing a property. Our experience is that there is often a large variation in estate agent valuations and we believe that RICS valuations give a more realistic opinion of property values. RICS valuations take into account the condition of a property and the prevailing market conditions. Indeed it is important to note that the three estate agent valuations Dispatches obtained for the valuation of the property in Worthing varied by some £50,000. A property is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it, which is ultimately determined by the market. Once the valuations are received, the part exchange company will make an offer to purchase the property. In some circumstances, McCarthy & Stone may make available an additional sum to increase the overall part exchange offer but we this is not always the case.

Why was the Dispatches valuation of the Worthing house so much higher?

The Dispatches valuations were based solely on basic estate agent valuations and failed to take into account structural issues and the general poor condition of property identified in the RICS survey report.

Was the sales agent in the programme intentionally misleading customers?

No, not at all. Although the delivery of some of the explanations could have been improved, we do not believe that the undercover journalists were misled in any way. We do acknowledge that the communication could have been improved and we have initiated further training to all sales staff to ensure that we achieve the highest standards of customer service at all times.

Do you believe your customers have sufficient time to make a decision on a purchase of one of your apartments?

Yes. Our policy is one of continuous, open and honest communication with customers on all matters throughout the sale process. Dispatches presented only a few minutes of filming of what were a lot of different meetings and conversations that took place over a six week period.  

Do you charge transfer fees on your developments?

McCarthy & Stone abolished transfer fees on its new leases from 1st September 2008. There are developments dating before September 2008 where third parties own the freehold and McCarthy & Stone is unable to control whether the transfer fee will be levied. McCarthy & Stone supports the removal of transfer fees of this type and has led the way for this to become an industry standard. If a transfer fee remains applicable in older properties, the terms are transparent and were disclosed to the customer at a number of points in the sales process.

What is the relationship between McCarthy & Stone and Peverel?

Until 2010, management services in McCarthy & Stone-built developments were provided by Peverel, who are one of the largest property management companies in the UK.  Peverel had originally been part of the McCarthy & Stone group before it was sold in 1993. Since this sale, McCarthy & Stone is not linked in any way at all to the Peverel Group of companies.

Do McCarthy & Stone now manage their own developments themselves?

Yes, McCarthy & Stone set up its own management services company in summer 2010 to provide an in-house and highly professional property management service to all new apartments built after this date. This management services company is completely independent of the Peverel Group. Peverel remains the management company for our developments built before 2010.

Are service charges within specialist retirement housing good value for money?

McCarthy & Stone’s policy on service charges is one of transparency. We openly share the individual costs that make up the service charge with residents and outline the methods for calculating the resulting service charge. The service charge covers a range of expenses such as the House Manager, security, buildings insurance, laundry facilities, maintenance, water, sewerage, window cleaning and heating of the communal areas, and we believe they provide good value for money. On average, we find that a person’s outgoings on like-for-like services are no more expensive than their previous property. In many cases, there can be a saving. 

I’ve got some more questions, how can I contact McCarthy & Stone?

For any information about McCarthy & Stone and/or the matters raised in the programme, please call us on 0800 5088370 or email ask@mccarthyandstone.co.uk