Not surprisingly people talk about buying their first home as being a life changing event and it is. However, in the past it has been rare for people to talk so excitedly about moving into some form of retirement living.

Given that sooner or later a lot of us are likely to have to deal with this issue either because we are assisting our parents, another family member or friend in making the transition from their home to a retirement community or because we are considering such a move for ourselves, it is important to know what your options are and to understand the legal and financial implications that come with this type of move.


Things on the aged care front have changed considerably in the last decade and there is now a wider choice of accommodation options available than ever before.

Choices range from  apartment complexes for the “Over 55” community through to multi-functional retirement communities where a variety of accommodation and services are provided on the one site ranging from independent living right through to around the clock nursing care of the more traditional nursing home variety.

Things to think about

The key to any successful life change usually starts with learning about the options available and understanding the legal and financial obligations that come with each option, so get out and start looking at what is available in the area where you or the person you are assisting would like to live. Then once you have an idea what is available in the area and price range you are looking for start considering the legal and financial issues that go hand in hand with the more emotional part of the process.

Remember not all retirement communities are created equal

First up ask “Is this the right retirement community for me?” If you are helping someone else it might not be right for you personally but is it what they are looking for?

Now this may sound like an obvious question, but it is important not to be dazzled by a new fancy fit out if on closer inspection the retirement community does not offer the range of services needed or if it is so far from family and friends that visitors will be few and far between and social isolation is likely to occur.

Just as every suburb and neighbourhood has its own quirks every retirement community is different and this is definitely not a case of one size fits all.

Some important things to think about

Making a move into a retirement community is a significant life change and there are emotional, financial and legal issues that will come up along the way.

Some things to consider before signing any paperwork and making a commitment of this kind include:

  • Do I need to sell my home first before I can afford to move?
  • If I buy into a retirement community what exactly am I buying?
  • Is the property strata or community titled or does some other form of ownership apply?
  • Does the property I am buying form part of my estate after I die or does ownership revert to some other entity (such as the company that operates the retirement community)?
  • Exactly what does the contract say – what are my rights and responsibilities under the contract?
  • Are there any ongoing fees and charges in addition to the purchase price?
  • What other costs do I need to factor in when I move? Don’t forget to include moving costs and possibly storage costs if you won’t be able to take all your possessions with you and are not yet ready to part with things you cannot fit into your new home.
  • Do I have to pay the whole price upfront or can you pay a portion of the cost and then pay the balance in ongoing instalments? Are they any other payment options such as pension sacrifice available?
  • Will the move into a retirement community affect any pension or rent assistance currently received?
  • Is the facility able to provide a higher level of care later on if your needs change or would you need to move to a different facility if your care needs increased?
  • What costs are associated with any care provided?

Ask for help

This type of move can prove to be a challenging one for both the person involved and anyone assisting them and it is important to understand exactly what is involved legally and financially before entering into any contracts.

If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice on the legal aspects of moving into a retirement community, please contact us on 1800 618 869 or email [email protected].