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One-on-one interview: Jane Slade, Retiremove

Posted 2 February 2017 by Helen Christie

Founder of Retiremove and WhatHouse? Awards judge, Jane Slade, speaks exclusively to Whathouse.com about the market for senior homebuyers...

This week, we are putting the spotlight on retirement properties with an exclusive interview with Jane Slade, founder of Retiremove to find out more about herself, her website and the benefits of buying a retirement home. Jane is also on the WhatHouse? Awards judging panel.

Please tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I am the founder of Retiremove, a retirement property website targeted at discerning retirees looking to find their dream home to spend their later years. I set up the website with my husband four years ago after spending 10 years as property editor of the Sunday Express newspaper. We are now looking to establish our own listing portal which we hope will establish Retiremove as the ‘go-to’ website for anyone looking to buy or rent a retirement property in the UK.

How and when did you first get involved in the WhatHouse? Awards? 

Rupert Bates kindly invited me to judge the retirement property category. I was very flattered but I don’t suppose there are too many journalists specialising in retirement property like me, and have visited as many retirement developments and villages as I have!

What were your first thoughts on the entries you saw for the 2016 Awards? Were you impressed with what you saw and the range of approaches taken by entrants?

I was very impressed with the standard of entries; it is obvious that housebuilders in this sector take huge pride in their developments and are striving to give what the customer wants and needs. I could see that many took a lot of time and trouble to fulfil the criteria we were looking for. Interestingly, it isn’t always the flashy, expensive developments that win.

What made Audley's Chalfont Dene the very best in the Best Retirement Development category?

Audley’s Chalfont Dene is not, in my opinion, the most luxurious scheme in this developer’s portfolio; but one that although was brand new, has a home-from-home feel and looks established and part of the local vernacular. The interior is stylish and original in terms of the décor and apartments spacious and well-laid out. Sometimes it’s that intangible X-factor that makes a development a winner.

Were you surprised/pleased to see Churchill Retirement Living named Housebuilder of the Year, given they were pushed into Silver in their specialist category?

No, I wasn’t surprised to see Churchill win Housebuilder of the Year. I have known Churchill a long time and it has built a reputation for being a high-quality developer which has the buyer at the heart of everything it does. The properties are well designed, well priced and well located, and constantly improving.

What were your impressions of the WhatHouse? Awards 2016 event last November?

The WhatHouse? Awards has to be the ‘don’t miss’ event on the property calendar. I was astonished by just how many people attended; the incredible support and respect it has among the housebuilding fraternity and the prestige each award carries. And inviting William Hague to be guest speaker was simply inspired.

Do you think that older homebuyers in the UK are getting more aware of the benefits of buying a purpose-built retirement property later in life?

I think there is still a lot of work to be done in making older homebuyers more aware of the benefits of buying a retirement property. The key is persuading them to think about moving sooner rather than later. There are some fabulous developments out there with incredible facilities yet so many older people are in denial declaring “I am not ready for that yet”, preferring to rattle around in houses that are too big and no longer appropriate to their needs. This is the most dynamic area of house building so I do hope my generation will be happy to move when our time comes.

Why do you think the UK is so far behind North America and Australia/New Zealand when it comes to building homes for retirees?

I think we are catching up! But America and Australia are still way ahead of us in their mindset about progressive housing. I think it is because of our fanatical attitude towards being homeowners that makes it hard for us to let go of our ‘castles’ and downsize.

I also think the words ‘assisted living’, ‘domiciliary care’ and 'age-dedicated housing’ don’t sound very alluring or relevant to a fit, affluent and young-at-heart generation who may be still working. We need to think more about selling retirement property as a lifestyle rather than bricks and mortar. I’ve yet to meet someone who regrets downsizing!

What do you think are the most important qualities that buyers should look for in a retirement property?

Location is key – deciding whether you want to live near your family or friends? Close to the shops, near good transport facilities? Country or town? Depending on your budget do you want a retirement village with lots of facilities or an independent-living apartment with an owner’s lounge. What about care and support? You need to an anticipate future needs too and whether you would be willing to move again if you need a high level of care.

How can potential buyers make the most of a visit to a specialist retirement development?

Meet the staff and fellow owners and interrogate them! See if the development offers a ‘try before you buy’ option where you can spend a weekend trying out the facilities and getting to know the residents – make a list of things you want to find out before you go, such as exit fees, maintenance charges, care services or space to walk your dog!

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