Before choosing a retirement village

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Before you look at retirement villages

Moving to a retirement village is a major lifestyle choice. Before you start looking:

  • discuss your decision to enter a retirement village with your family, friends, and other people you usually consult on important matters
  • consider alternatives, such as home help, seeking help from government or other agencies, or moving to a smaller home
  • ask a financial planner about the best way to manage your income and spending
  • check the state of the property market if you are considering selling your home. For more about selling your home, view our Buying and selling property section.
  • ask anyone you expect to live close to about their plans for the future.

Five steps to help you make the right choices:

  1. Make a list of what you absolutely must have in a retirement village and another of features you want but do not need.
  2. Seek expert advice; for example, take the retirement village contract to a lawyer and/or a financial advisor before you sign. 
  3. Talk to Seniors Information Victoria for free information about housing options, from independent living to residential care. Telephone 1300 135 090.
  4. Shop around to make sure you are informed about your options.
  5. Refuse to be hassled or hurried into a decision.

How to compare retirement villages

To compare one village to another:

  • see as many as possible that fit your location and financial requirements. Ask each operator the same range of questions (see the questions to help you compare retirement villages below) 
  • ask for the standard factsheet when you enquire about each village, to help you compare the similarities and differences in what they offer (by law, the village must provide one on request)
  • talk to residents about what they like and don’t like about the village 
  • talk to friends and family and ask them to come with you 
  • compare the retirement villages’ contracts. Before you sign up to one, make sure it reflects any verbal assurances you receive.

Retirement village contracts are not the same as ordinary residential property contracts. Before signing, take all documents about the retirement village to a legal practitioner and/or financial adviser who understands the legal and financial implications of retirement village contracts.

By law, you must be given a retirement village contract, and disclosure statement, at least 21 days before you sign.

You can find legal practitioners through the Law Institute of Victoria’s legal referral service, and financial planners through the Financial Planning Association of Australia.

Questions to help you compare retirement villages

Retirement village waiting list

  • Does the retirement village have a waiting list?
  • Do you have to pay to be on it? If so, will you get any of that money back if:
    • you enter the retirement village
    • a place does not become available within a certain time
    • you change your mind? 
  • How does the retirement village manage the waiting list if some of the residents are selling through an estate agent?

Much of this information is set out in the standard factsheet that you can request from the village operator (by law, they must provide one on request).

Life in the retirement village

  • What is the policy on pets, visitors and car parking? 
  • Does the retirement village have a bus? How is it used and maintained?
  • How close is it to all the facilities you want, such as public transport, medical facilities, shopping facilities, entertainment? 
  • Are residents actively involved in decisions concerning the level of maintenance and services provided and their cost? How may these fees vary in the future? 
  • Does the retirement village have a residents’ committee and if so, how are its members elected? 
  • What system does the retirement village have for maintaining the property? 
  • What system does the retirement village have for resolving disputes? 
  • What are the restrictions on your use of the retirement village facilities and your unit? 
  • What common areas are available? You will probably have to pay for maintenance of these as part of your ongoing fees, so check what you will be paying for. Basic common areas might include a community room and outdoor sitting area. However, some retirement villages include extensive common areas such as a hairdressing salon, medical consulting room, workshop, bar, swimming pool, bowling green and barbecue area. 
  • What are the retirement village units like? 
    • Have you seen one that is identical or very similar to the unit you may move into? 
    • How much freedom do you have to change the unit to fit your tastes?
  • If the operator claims that more facilities are planned, is this claim reflected in their promotional material? Are there any conditions attached? 
  • Does the retirement village have an activities coordinator? If you choose not to participate in the activities, do you still have to pay part of the cost through your ongoing fees?

Much of this information is set out in the standard factsheet that you can request from the village operator (by law, they must provide one on request).

Long term needs in the retirement village

  • Does the retirement village provide optional support services if you need them, such as assistance with meals, cleaning and other personal services? If so, can you adjust your contract to include these services, and at what cost? 
  • Are meals available? Where, how often and at what cost? 
  • Is there a common dining room? Can you bring your own meals to eat there? Can you invite guests? 
  • Is there hostel or nursing home accommodation in the area? You may not want to move very far if you need to go into aged care. Places in aged care are allocated under a Commonwealth assessment system, but if there is no aged care in your community, it is more likely you will have to move away. 
  • Could you be moved from the retirement village or within the village without your consent? If so, under what circumstances could you be moved? For more information about whether a retirement village can make you leave, view our Leaving a retirement village section
  • If the retirement village owner or manager will claim pensioner rebates on your behalf, would you receive all the benefits of the rebates?

Much of this information is set out in the standard factsheet that you can request from the village operator (by law, they must provide one on request).

Leaving the retirement village

  • What is the cost of leaving the village? What are the departure or exit fees? 
  • Will you be required to pay the cost of refurbishment? Who decides what needs to be done and at what cost? 
  • When would you get access to your money (if you own your unit, the proceeds of sale; if not, the refundable portion of ingoing contribution) after you leave the retirement village? 
  • If you need to transfer to another facility, will your ingoing contribution be refunded at that point or transferred to the new facility? 
  • Are there any restrictions on selling your unit? For example, the village may have selection criteria about ethnicity or religious affiliation. 
  • What protection in terms of your current rights would you have if the retirement village was sold to an organisation which had different philosophies to the existing management?

Much of this information is set out in the standard factsheet that you can request from the village operator (by law, they must provide one on request).

Experiences of living in a retirement village

Last updated: 14/10/2016

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