Why more over 50s are buying 'lock-up and leave' apartments

You have worked hard all your life, bought a house, raised the kids and waved them off. Retirement is just around the corner and the world could be your oyster – except for one thing.

Selling up your home to rent a lock-up and leave apartment is a growing trend amongst the over 50s

You are left rattling around in a house that is far too big for you and the cash you would like to spend living the high life is still tied up in a mortgage.

“It’s a dilemma facing a lot of middle aged people,” says Howden estate agent and property developer Ian Screeton. “We are generally living longer, healthier lives and for many retirement doesn’t mean putting your feet up and growing old. Many retirees are far too young to think about retirement homes and too active to be tied to the chores of home ownership.”

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Until recently, however, the options for people in this age bracket were relatively limited. They could sell the family home and buy somewhere smaller – although with inflation and rising property prices that is not always a cost-effective move – or they can simply stay put, plough their savings into maintaining an over-sized house and garden and bide their time.

Options for the over 50s in this market were limited until recently.

Selling up and renting has rarely been an option after years of being sold the virtues of investing in bricks and mortar. But all that is changing.

Selling up to rent is a growing trend among the over 50s, and many are looking for something very specific – luxurious apartments that they can lock-up-and-leave whenever the mood takes them.

“Anyone who has enjoyed a certain style of living and perhaps lived in a very modern house wants to continue living in high standard accommodation,” says Ian. “They don’t want to take a backward step. Nor do they necessarily want the time and expense involved in a home and garden or an ongoing mortgage commitment.”

Instead, there is a growing number of fit and healthy retirees who are opting for luxury rental homes that allow them the financial freedom to lead a jet-setting lifestyle – or at least a life enriched by experiences.

Retirement villages have been around for a while, but Ian has just designed and built a relatively new concept in retirement living featuring gated, luxury rented apartments, each with their own small gardens.

The 14 one and two-bed apartments are spread across seven individual properties and have been designed by Cottingham architect Terry Litton in conjunction with Ian.

They were built in 12 months by East Yorkshire based Dimmack Brothers Builders Ltd, who are renowned for their individual schemes and quality craftsmanship.

The project was completed in May this year, by which time the first tenant had already moved in and others were queuing to snap up the £1,000-a-month (including electrics, heating and wi-fi) apartments. At the time of writing, there were very few still vacant.

The development came with its own set of challenges. Planning took much longer than expected as negotiations rumbled on over building materials and external finishes, and its location on a busy corner had to be mitigated by Argon-sealed windows and sound insulation. But the effort was worth the results.

The mix of coloured brickwork, brightly coloured doors, stone detailing and period style exteriors has completely transformed the sad and overgrown site of a derelict public house into a stylish residential block, featuring an imposing three-storey main block built in stone chapel style, complete with arched windows.

The apartments are accessed through security gates and flanked by miniature gardens and leafy patios.

The gardens stand either side of a path that runs the full length of the development and leads to shared outdoor facilities, including a greenhouse and potting shed, pizza oven, BBQ and a modern gazebo seating area.

Inside, each 550-600 sq ft apartment is fully kitted out with Howdens kitchen units, quartz or granite worktops, engineered oak flooring and luxury furniture.

The modern bathrooms include walk-in showers and anti-steam mirrors. On the top floor of the main block is a communal reception/social lounge with its own mini bar and kitchen.

“This style of living is quite a new concept for retirees and one I wanted to introduce to Howden, especially as the town continues to expand,” says Ian.

“Howden itself is a market town with independent shops, great eateries and bars, a stunning Minster and narrow cobbled streets, yet it’s literally a few minutes from the motorway and also has a direct train service to London. It’s the perfect location for a development like this.

"It’s aimed at people – either singles or couples – who are retiring, like having their own space, are fit and independent, and who want to use their money to enjoy life rather than having it tied up in bricks and mortar.”

Although similar developments are being built in other towns and cities across Yorkshire, Ian believes that Scuttlecroft Place, named after an old local road, is still ahead of its time.

“I did some research and realised that most places aimed at retirement living are for sale, rather than rent,” he says. “I could see a need for luxury rented accommodation that gave people a lot more choice and flexibility in the way they lived.”

In fact, he believes this fluid kind of lifestyle for the over 50s could soon become the norm. “People are staying younger for longer and want to free up capital so they can make the most of their new-found freedom,” says Ian. “This is the time when the children have left home and you have the good health and appetite for doing all the things you dreamed of.”