When you finally retire, it’s time to live the dream and travel the world. Spending on tourism by the over-50s has grown by £10 billion a year since 2011, according to Saga. The age group now accounts for 58 percent of travel expenditure in the UK, compared with 49 percent seven years ago.
For some, that means their property in the UK becomes a second home, a bolt-hole at which to spend a few months of the year in between exciting trips.
Retirement homes fit the bill: a place to lock up and leave, giving the owner peace of mind when off exploring the world. Four years ago, Susan and David Brooks moved into Audley Binswood, a retirement village in Leamington Spa. They bought it to use as a second home, spending most of the year at their villa near Faro in Portugal.
“We wanted a bolt-hole in the UK, and the apartment at Binswood ticked all the boxes,” says David, 69, a former dairy farmer. “It will be a lovely place for us to retire to eventually.”
In Portugal, they are an active part of the lively expat community. They are also financially better off there as they benefit from non-habitual residency, which means they don’t have to pay tax on income for 10 years.
“We are investing in our future,” adds David. “We think the £600 a month service charges are a price worth paying for our lifestyle.” Another plus for such a bolt-hole is that it adds another layer of safety if no one is at home for some time. “Many of our home buyers purchase a house or apartment with a view to ‘locking up and leaving’,” says Angela South, Beechcroft’s sales and marketing director.
“In fact, almost 10 percent cite this as one of their reasons for buying. Some just enjoy travelling, but many have owned holiday properties for a number of years or have family abroad.
“The average amount of time these lock-up-and-leave buyers spend away from their main home each trip is about 12 weeks.”
Many household insurance policies do not cover homes that are left vacant for a certain time. “But at a Beechcroft development, where the estate manager checks on the property regularly, the insurance remains valid and this is a huge benefit to our customers,” says South.
David and Carol Noyce spend five months of the year at a friend’s villa on a development with a shared pool in Cyprus.
When they’re in the UK, they live at Retirement Villages’ Lime Tree Village in Rugby, which helps maintain the homes and has security patrolling.
“When we were last away, a maintenance chap replaced the batteries in our smoke alarms, which had been bleeping,” says David, 78, who was in the RAF.
“In our previous home after two weeks, the grass and weeds would be overgrown – indicating that we were away, which was a security risk.”
He and Carol, 75, chose the house partly because it was within striking distance of several airports, so they can jet off easily. “Birmingham Airport is 25 minutes away, Luton one hour, East Midlands 50 minutes and Gatwick two hours,” he adds. It may not be surprising to discover that many retirees choose to move to a retirement village near a cruise terminal; a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research revealed that older travellers are the mainstay of the cruise market.
They account for the overwhelming majority of passengers, spending an estimated £2.1 billion a year. This is expected to increase by 37 percent to £2.8 billion by 2020.
Gillian Webb, 83, is the self-confessed cruise queen of her retirement village, Bishopstoke Park run by Anchor. In her youth, she studied at the Royal College of Art and is a retired sculptor. She prefers travelling to destinations that have a rich cultural heritage.
The village’s proximity to Southampton was key in her decision to move there. “Anchor makes it easy for me to travel – they provide transportation to the port for me,” she says. It puts on minibuses to transport residents to nearby Eastleigh, Winchester and Southampton several times a week. Bishopstoke Park has one-bedroom apartments for over-65s from £345,000.
“People’s attitudes to retirement communities have shifted from being a move they need to make, to a positive lifestyle choice,” says Neil MacKichan of the retirement property website Retiremove.
“The benefits of having a property that’s taken care of enables you to spend more time on holiday, at your overseas property or on a cruise. It is significant that developers are building close to good transport links and airports.”
David Bridges, sales director for McCarthy & Stone, has seen a growth in the number of retirees choosing a property that they can live in part-time.
“One example is our Azaleas development in Compton Acres, where a couple has bought an apartment as a second home. They own a property in Spain and spend six months of the year travelling, having spent the past three months in South Africa. This is something many more people are doing across our developments.” Some are so keen to free up money to spend on travel that they would rather rent a retirement property than buy.
Keith and Teresa Davy are in their 70s and have been renting a retirement apartment in Homewest House in Bournemouth through Girlings Retirement Rentals for the past year, having previously owned a retirement flat in Torquay.
The couple is keen travellers and previously lived in Australia and New Zealand when they first retired. “One of the reasons we chose to rent was because it freed up capital to let us travel more,” said retired delivery driver Keith.
“We both always had low-paid jobs, but because we had no children and were good savers, we had the freedom to travel and buy our own properties.”
Using a retirement apartment as a second home is also a good way of easing your way into a retirement community, especially if you buy before you need to. “Opting in early and using your retirement property as a second home means you can really get to know the place and make the permanent move when you are ready,” says Clare Bacchus, PegasusLife’s customer experience director.
There is also the option of using your retirement home as your holiday home. That is what Rita and Andrew Mullins did, buying a one-bedroom apartment at PegasusLife’s scheme in Bude, Cornwall, as a second home three years ago. Their main property is a three-bedroom detached house in Wallington, Surrey, from which Andrew, 60, commutes into central London to work. “Bude is a lively seaside town with something going on year round, which was very attractive to us,” says Rita, 63. “We thought we would do something fun and foolish with Andrew’s inheritance rather than pay off the mortgage on our current home. It took just 40 minutes for us to view our Bude apartment and write the cheque.”
Attracted to the lock-up and leave aspect, the couple has been making weekend visits and spending holidays there, enjoying coastal walks with their dog. “When Andrew retires next year we hopefully can look forward to many years of life down there – we may even upgrade to a two-bed if we decided to sell our Wallington home,” adds Rita.
“We feel on holiday each time we go – and that’s how we want to feel for the rest of our lives.”