Given Australia’s rapidly increasing retiree population, a transparent and easily navigable retirement living sector is critical, the founder of Compare Villages, Jessica Kinnear, told Nest Egg.
She said the comparison service came about due to the “major gap” in financial information about retirement villages, with exit fees in particular a source of angst.
However, beyond fee structures, today’s retirees also want to know which villages have bowling greens, billiards rooms, beauty salons and in-house chefs.
“Retirement living is really all about community living offering a certain lifestyle for seniors as opposed to somebody needing care,” Ms Kinnear explained.
“The main things that you'd be searching for are location, price and, then, certain services or facilities that you might be looking for ... You might be looking for a bowling green. You might want to be able to bring your pets, which I know is a big one for a lot of families looking into this.”
Retirees also need to be across the obligations that come with living in certain villages as there may be restrictions on alterations that can be made, garden maintenance and improvements.
“It's sort of like moving into an owner's corporation situation that there may be rules and regulations around what you can and can't do that are very different from owning a freehold property outside the community,” Ms Kinnear said.
“There are [also] assumptions that when they move in they go, 'OK, well we won't have to do any maintenance to our house'. But, there can be circumstances depending on the village where you do have to do your own maintenance and improvements. So, it's really just good to be aware of what your rights are.”
The comparison service allows users to compare fees, features and what to expect upon departure.
“This gives users an estimate of what they or their family could expect when they leave a village. We also have plain language fee explanations when you hover over each fee. This kind of transparency and education empowers consumers and avoids the feeling of being ‘ripped off’,” Ms Kinnear argued.
Retirement villages have generally been supportive of the new service, she added. However, there have been challenges in proving the positives to operators.
“Certainly the industry is changing a lot. They are much more focused on transparency than they ever have been. So, it's a good climate to persuade operators that this is actually in their best interest, because transparency and education will actually go to changing some of the negative perceptions that people have,” Ms Kinnear said.
“It still has been a challenge in some instances of having operators see the vision and realise that we can inform ourselves online more than ever before with any major purchasing decision and this is such a significant one.
“It’s sort of the last move that people will make or their last independent move, at least. They really should be fully informed.”