“Retirement Housing Review – McCarthy & Stone”

I started this thread about retirement housing when I wrote a post a few weeks ago on a very upmarket scheme in London.    Following that I wrote about the key issues that are driving the future of this market (you can see my earlier posts by clicking on “Retirement Housing” in the Topics list).

This is my second in-depth look at one of the major providers in the retirement housing sector:-

McCarthy & Stone

This organisation has been the private sector market leader in retirement housing for many years.    They were the first house-builder to move into the sheltered housing sector over 40 years ago.   What is somewhat surprising is that their market offer has hardly changed in all that time and is still essentially selling the same product.   They now have sub-divided their products into three basic divisions.  “Retirement Living” which seems to be their original offer and is still the majority of their schemes.   Secondly “Assisted Living” which is an enhanced offer which provides some degree of support.  Finally, what seems to be a re-branded model obscurely referred to as “Ortus Homes”, which although it’s claimed to be a pioneering concept, seems only to be a stripped down version of their original sheltered housing model.

Their website is very substantial which you would expect from such a large organisation.   They provide a lot of the information you might need to consider purchasing one of their properties, but you do have to be fairly adept at searching the website to find it.   Here are some of the key facts drawn from their website:-

  • Their schemes are provided over a wide area of the UK although annoyingly you can’t find a map showing you where they are all located.   The retirement living schemes and the new Ortus projects are typically between 20 and 40 units.  The assisted living units, which are similar to Category II sheltered housing tend to be around 50-60 units.
  • Communal facilities in the retirement living schemes are fairly basic but generally have a communal lounge and a guest room.   The assisted living projects would also include a restaurant and lounge areas.  The Ortus Homes projects seem to have taken out all these communal facilities and only offer a basic independent living option which to me appears to be a backward step.
  • Individual properties are generally a mixture of one and two-bedroom apartments.   Strangely although they provide individual plans and room sizes, there’s no reference to the overall size of the flats.   I suspect that the earlier retirement living accommodation and possibly also the assisted living flats are quite small.  No doubt the new Ortus Homes which are described as luxury “right sized accommodation” are significantly larger.
  • Purchase prices vary with each scheme location and when they were built.   Here are some of the one and two-bedroom apartments currently available:-
    • Wolverhampton – one bed          £160k to £200k        Retirement Living
    •                                – two bed          £240k to £255k        Retirement Living
    • Ashby                    – one bed          £170k to £200k        Retirement Living
    •                                 – two bed         £245k to £260k        Retirement Living
    • Swindon                – one bed         £205k                          Retirement Living
    •                                 – two bed         £301k                          Retirement Living
    • Leicester               – one bed         £200k to £211k          Retirement Living
    •                                 – two bed        £281k to £286k          Retirement Living
    •                 Leicester                – one bed        £143k to £163k           Assisted Living
    •                                                  – two bed        £238k to £288k         Assisted Living
    •                 Nottingham           – one bed        £227k to £300k         Assisted Living
    •                                                  – two bed        £278k to £481k          Assisted Living
    •                 Harrogate              – one bed         £264k to £274k         Ortus Luxury Homes
    •                 Swanage                 – one bed        £350k to £400k         Ortus Luxury Homes
    •                                                  – two bed        £421k to £526k          Ortus Luxury Homes
    •                 Buckinghamshire – two bed       £575k to £595k          Ortus Luxury Homes
    •                 Essex                      – two bed        £620k                          Ortus Luxury Homes
    •                 Hampshire            – two bed        £380k to £650k        Ortus Luxury Homes
    •                 Poole                      – two bed        £595k to £769k         Ortus Luxury Homes
    •                                                 – three bed     £1,425k                        Ortus Luxury Homes

In addition you pay an annual ground rent of circa £500.   They also have a 1% of capital charge on resale plus a small sales admin fee of £324.

  • Service charges vary from scheme to scheme but seem to average around £200 per month.   One hour of domestic support is provided within the service charge for assisted living.   You may also pay an extra charge for a parking space.
  • Domiciliary Care and Support.  A firm called YourLife provides care and support in the assisted living schemes.   It is provided on an individual basis but there’s no indication on the website as to how much these charges are likely to be.

Overall McCarthy and Stone still seem to be trading on their historical market leader position.   Their new brand of Ortus Homes seems to have abandoned any pretension of providing of any degree of communal living so I’m rather confused as to how this accommodation can in any way be described as pioneering in terms of retirement housing.  What is obvious is the intention to move upmarket with better located sites in terms of “sea views” and presumably, but not clearly, larger size accommodation.

These guys have long become followers not the market leaders they once were.

I maybe doing them a disservice so I will endeavour to go and see some of their newer schemes in the next few months and I will report back after that.


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59 Responses to “Retirement Housing Review – McCarthy & Stone”

  1. no comments here. This was not for me, for a variety of reasons-It is down to ones personal choice, and what the Elderly/retirement/down=sizing industry has to offer is as true today as it was yesterday.
    I cannot smile, maybe wryly with scepticism.

  2. PDHulme says:

    After McCarthy & Stone were featured on Channel 4 Dispatches programme about their selling tactics, the producer of this programme contacted me for further comment. I told him I see a bigger story than the initial sales of the units which is the resale values of these properties.

    In a recent Retirement Development I was involved with, I researched local competition and McCarthy & Stone had a scheme which was around 4 years old in close proximity. Looking at publicly available Land Registry data for the last 12 resales in that development resulted in an AVERAGE 50% loss on initial purchase price.

    I know that very recently McCarthy & Stone has begun their own Resales agency and are offering more support in this area which I see as a critical part of their marketing message. No one wants to make an investment which is bound to lose.

    I have advised a family friend on their purchase of a brand new McCarthy & Stone apartment in Leicestershire and made them very aware that their property may not be worth what they paid for it.

    • john graham says:

      Thanks for the additional information. I had a similar experience when I resold a property in a McCarthy and Stone scheme in Gloucester. It took two years and lost 25% of its original value.
      I think this is a problem with lots of retirement properties, especially when other properties in the project are up for sale at the same time. What’s more the resales agents take advantage of this to drive prices down further.

  3. Amara says:

    Thanks for these helpful reviews. Alot of elderly people prefere to live at home and as a result theamount of retirement homes available are increasing. Very helpful for elderly people looking for retirement homes and will help alot of people make the right choices. It will be good to see if your views change after a few months.

  4. keithmansfield says:

    Thanks so much for posting this report. One thing I’ve found very different is that the Nottingham service charges (for a 2 bed) are about £9,000 a year, so four times the £200pcm you quote. If I recall the 1 beds are about £7,500). This seems very expensive considering you have most of your bills still to pay on top.

  5. Jeremy Beales says:

    In Worthing the Mcarthy Stone assisted living flats were obviously sold at a grossly inflated price compared to similar new build flats in the area. This doesn’t make sense as the service charge (itself high) covers the costs of the additional services – the flat shouldn’t cost any more than a normal flat. Currently 25% of the flats are up for sale. My mother’s is priced currently at a 20% loss but other flats are looking to lose more than this.
    I think the key point is that no-one should buy these flats unless the price is similar to other flats in the area. And don’t expect to participate in any general property price rise as this is a specialized market. I think these schemes are relying on the better off (those who own houses) and their children wanting to keep an equity stake when really they should be worrying about their long term care needs. Mixing property ownership and care together is a mistake.

    • john graham says:

      Thank you for that useful feedback, I had a similar experience when I sold my uncles McCarthy and Stone flat in Gloucester a few years ago. If there are lots of other retirement houses in the same area their flats don’t hold their value in the market.
      They are generally more expensive to construct because of the additional facilities usually included in the scheme. McCarthy and Stone should offer a buy back scheme otherwise they will find the service charges do not cover the cost of running the whole project. I am aware that they pass these costs to individual owners, but it creates great distress if resales are difficult and will eventually damage the viability of their financial model.

  6. Mel Smith says:

    Made a visit to new development at Walmsley Place, Bishop’s Waltham some time ago. Shortly afterwards received a call from them when I informed them that I thought the detached homes were poorly constructed and hugely overpriced for what they were. I asked to be taken off their register but continued to receive correspondence from them. This week I telephoned to request them cease sending material to me, only to be informed that I could not be traced on their mailing list and that a third party organisation called Experian would have been responsible for this. Clearly I am not at all happy that my details have been passed on without my authority, and distinctly unhappy that nobody has phoned back despite my request for escalation, having been advised by staff that they have referred. Perhaps Hayley Bailey, Steve Scoley?, David Bridges or Clive Fenton could call me depending on how serious they are about their public, and potential buyers, image.

  7. Steve says:

    I bought a flat in Glasgow for a family member. It’s been a nightmare like many of those above and dealing with the company has been horrific. We were missold the idea of assisted living and the concept of private luxury. The reality bears only a passing resemblance to the description from the sales agent There were lots of construction issues that blighted the development and the operation of the restaurant and associated facilities have been really poor. The management company has little interest in anything other than making profit and there was a culture of harassment and bullying from management. It’s been a real nightmare for the family and if you want privacy and peace in your latter years don’t buy a M&C appartmrnt. Complaining to management is slow , time consuming and seems to be legally focused. There is little compassion for the residents or interest in their wellbeing. In terms of value it’s absolutely disastrous – we have probably lost 25-30% after four years against a local market that has been rather buoyant. This was partly driven by overpaying at the outset and undoubtedly by the dreadful reputation that the facility has with local people. Lots of complaints and lawyers intervening seems to be the reality of McCarthy Stone assisted living.

  8. A Hobbs says:

    Linlithgow development has NO parking for carers, doctors, nurses, prescription delivery, family or anyone else except 10 spaces for residents. As a builder of over 60s accommodation surely this type of support should have been catered for. POOR PLANNING.

    • john graham says:

      Thank you for your comment. I don’t know this particular scheme, so I looked at the website and it seems to show a lot more than 10 car parking spaces. With 35 apartments I would expect around 35 spaces for cars. Although having built a lot of retirement housing I know that there is always difficulty providing enough visitors parking.

  9. Susan says:

    I bought a McCarthy & Stone apartment (built 2002/3 on the A38 in Birmingham and now managed by First Port) – nearly two years ago with the assurance that there was parking available – it was a lie. There are 77 apartments and 23 parking spaces, the problem exacerbated by flats still being sold to car owners and we now park 3 and 4 abreast. There is no parking for visitors, carers, maintenance companies etc. This is a ludicrous situation and potentially isolates residents from family and friends, restricts residents’ mobility and is problematic for carers and emergency vehicles. This is a negative aspect of moving to a retirement property and should be included in the glossy and hyped selling materials.

  10. john graham says:

    Thank you for your comment Susan. Car parking has been restricted by planning guidelines for many years, all in a move to promote public transport and reduce carbon emissions. This is a nonsense when you properly consider the mobility needs of older people.

  11. Maeve says:

    Have obtained copy of draft lease of new-build apartment which I’ve reserved. Assume a template is employed, but terms seem heavily weighted in favour of Landlord. Now having second thoughts about proceeding with the purchase.

  12. RachelWoolington says:

    My dad’s set his heart on a 2017 Mccarthy and Stone retirement flat and we currently have one on hold. My dad’s recent hospitalisation has stalled the sale, and now his memory is rapidly declining to the point of sometimes bizarre behaviour. If he was to become more poorly or suffer dementia, can he be evicted? how accommodating will the company be of his increasing medical needs? When I gently enquired, the sales rep flippantly replied that they had a mobility scooter facility in anticipation for their residents becoming elderly.

    • S says:

      I would not go near them. Once my mother in law deteriorated the manager of the complex did all she could to chase her out- it was heartbreaking and very stressful. The sales people way over committ

    • john graham says:

      I can’t speak for McArthy & Stone but any form of sheltered housing may not be a good long term option if your farther has dementia. His confusion may be due to a number of causes, so it is important to get a clear diagnosis before committing to housing that may not be able to offer appropriate care and support..
      My best wishes to you and you father.

  13. RachelWoolington says:

    Thank you for your comments! As I suspected! – I’ve already got cold feet. The trouble is that Mccarthy and Stone are now offering him an even more desirable flat at a reduced price on proviso he completes within 4wks. They want an answer before the end of the week. Why the haste? I’m desperate to walk away but he’s even keener.

    • Joby says:

      Rachel, I sympathise with your dlilemma. One of the questions must be, what are the alternatives? If he doesn’t buy this flat could he/you buy in help for him in his current home? Or would the alternative be an old people’s home?
      But another issue is, if he buys the M&S flat and then needs to spend a while in hospital or a care home, he/you will still have to pay the M&S services charges.
      My Mum has set her heart on a new M&S flat and the problem is, if we don’t go through with it, there doesn’t seem to be any acceptable alternative in her neighbourhood, which she needs to stay in to maintain her activities, social networks etc and therefore her wellbeing and independence.

      • Joby says:

        Rachel, sorry, just looked at the date of your post and realised you/he must have made your decision some months ago! Would love to hear what your decision was, and how’s it working out?

  14. Steve Grimble says:

    A new development in Bawtry, (near Doncaster), the two bed apartments are on the market for £290k to £350k.
    You can buy a two bed detached bungalow for £180k, they tried to tell me that the apartments are good value.

  15. Jennifer West says:

    If you buy a new McCarthy & Stone retirement flat, pay out for a full survey. Several residents of this new development in the south west have been affected by construction problems, mainly water based. Faulty drainage is the main problem, often on balconies above and coming down outside walls then spreading across the ceiling of a bedroom below, or seeping through from unsealed wetroom showers etc. The building was put up in a wet summer with much pressure on the sales force to sell. While the flats are well designed, in a nice location and with lovely neighbours and house manager, just don’t believe the wording on the advertisements of maintenance free retirement. It has been very stressful and time consuming getting repairs, with no compensation or even an apology.

    • Joby says:

      Jennifer, sounds awful. But, if you buy off-plan into a new development you have to exchange contracts before your flat is ready to live in. I wonder if, at that stage, a survey would have revealed the problems you describe? Sounds as though the leaks would only have become apparent once people are living there, if the main source is water use in other flats. Ho hum, what can you do- if you want to buy into a very popular development, as my mother does, the only way to get a flat is to buy off-plan. It’s disappointing to hear that M&S weren’t helpful with regard to dealing with the issues. What was the attitude of the House Manager? He/she must have had to deal with residents’ grumbles every day!

  16. Jill Meakin says:

    Try living in one of these properties with a nightmare of a house a manager.

  17. Graham Nunn says:

    Ten years ago my Mother was persuaded by hard sell techniques to part-exchange her bungalow for a one-bed M&Stone “apartment” in Reading, Berks. I could go into details but suffice to say ABSOLUTELY DONT BUY A MCARTHY & STONE APARTMENT. YOU WILL LIVE TO REGRET IT, GUARANTEED.

  18. Joby says:

    Graham, if you were willing to mention some details, I’d really appreciate it. My Mum has just reserved off-plan in a M&S new-build ‘retirement’ development, and has her heart set on it. The timescale for completion is 4 months and she has to sell her house. They recommend we use their Smooth Move scheme for selling her house. I’m a bit worried about pressure to sell it at an undervalue. OTOH I don’t want her to lose her ‘dream flat’. (I know part-exchange will result in a sale at undervalue of about 10% they told me, so we don’t plan to do that.) Did your mother have problems living there? If so what were they and did it outweigh the benefits of the lifestyle- company and support, no worries about external maintenance etc? Which type of development was it? Thanks!

    • Steve Grimble says:

      Sorry do not live in a M S site, but do your research.
      Usually overpriced so if you sell could be in negative equity.
      High monthly service charges.
      They keep a commission on any future sales.
      That was the deal on the property we look at, not sure if all sites are the same.
      I am sure that they offer many benefits but just be aware

  19. Joby says:

    GrumbleSmiles: did you go back to visit any M&S developments and have you published any further comments?

    • john graham says:

      No Joby I haven’t visited any M&S schemes recently. But the comments on my initial post do raise a few common concerns about slow response to repairs. Also be prepared for significant losses on resale. However,on a more positive note the scheme manager can be a very significant help in most projects, so make sure you meet him/her, at the earliest opportunity.

  20. Jen west says:

    We have been living in our M&S seaside development in the southwest for nearly 2 years now. M&S are still doing some outside work because of water ingress and replacing the shower flooring in 25 flats….! However, the community is great, especially for single people. There is no intrusion if you don’t want it and some residents are rarely seen as they are busy with their own activities. But there are people to chat to when you meet in corridors, in the laundry room, at coffee mornings. Some have got together to go walking, play Scrabble etc etc. A few miss their gardens but we all have balconies and on the whole I think the company, proximity to shops, and knowing help is always at hand more than makes up for it. Families come to stay in the hotel style guest room and we get to know each other’s kids. Friends from the flats we used to live in comment on the loneliness in winter as they have no communal meeting places, other than on the stairs or in the car park. Ref the money side, there have been some resales and I understand prices have held up, perhaps because there is little competition round here. Moving to a retirement flat may not always be the absolutely best deal but as your mum or dad gets older just think where would they best be for a few more years. In a lovely bungalow but where they only see the neighbours when they are out in their garden in summer, and maybe worry about the dark winter nights? Or with friends raising a glass at a get together just down the corridor?

    • Elise says:

      Do you know the reason 25 units are having shower room floors replaced? My parents in law live in a M&S building and we’re finding the tile surround of the shower room quite slippery.

      • Jen says:

        Elise, the shower floors here are being replaced because of shoddy workmanship. Apparently they are not tanked properly which means when pushed or stood upon they ‘bounce’ slightly and the grouting becomes loose, with potential for seepage to the flat below. But if your in laws’ shower room floor is at all slippery it should be replaced, for free if they are within the two year time limit for a new build. Don’t be shy of mentioning health and safety and getting professional advice if you feel it warrants it.

  21. Joby says:

    Jen, Thanks very much for writing about your experiences. The company and sense of community is exactly what my mother wants. She doesn’t want to downsize to a flat in an ordinary block where most people go out to work and she may not meet anyone, and there’s no-one to help her change a lightbulb. The cost of the new M&S flat is at least £100K maybe £150K more than an equivalent size ‘used’ flat. But any new-build will cost more, and in a M&S development you’re also paying for the club lounge, landscaped garden, property manager who not only looks after the building but also organises coffee mornings etc. It IS a lot of extra money to spend (in addition to probably being forced to sell her home at an undervalue to fit into the M&S schedule) but thankfully I’m not dependent on an inheritance and as far as I’m concerned it will be worth it IF she lives there stress-free and with people who are good company and look out for each other. What scares me are the stories above about serious maintenance/building issues that M&S do nothing about. It’s good to hear that the issues in your development are being addressed although it must be distressing for those whose flats are affected.

    Jen, as a matter of interest, did you use the M&S ‘Smooth Move’ scheme for selling your previous home and if so what was your experience of that? Were you pressured to accept a low offer in order to sell quickly?

    • Jen says:

      Hi Joby, I am not really sure what the Smooth Move entails as they change the names of the ‘deals’ over time. Our deal was one just for August 2016, with the end of M&S’s financial year, December, in view. If we sold within four months they offered a £10,000 package whereby they would pay for moving costs, stamp duty, legal fees, but we must use two estate agents chosen by them. We were a bit peeved as our favoured estate agent suggested a higher market price for our old flat, but in the end we sold in time and it made it all fairly painless as the price for old and new flats more or less equated. However, I have no doubt they play on older people wanting a smooth move rather than the complications that can happen if you do it all yourself! I was initially not sure I wanted to move, it was husband that was keen, but I was happy here from day one, other than having to exert quite a bit of pressure on M&S to right a building fault. (You learn a lot from other residents about how to handle things like that and our house manager is supportive. You have two years to report problems and get them rectified). I hope your mother does make the move and settles well.

      • Joby says:

        Thanks Jen. The deal now is that M&S engage New Homes Group to act as agents (for them). They engage 3 estate agents, they recommend our sale price, and then M&S will only allow us a 5% margin over that. I have no doubt it is a tool to get us to accept a lower offer in a shorter time. However the alternative is that I instruct our preferred agents, try to get a higher price, but risk something going wrong. It could of course go wrong even with their package as buyers can always mess you about. I’m assuming that if that happens and we are within the hands of the M&S recommended New Homes Group, doing it their way, they would have to be a bit more accommodating if there’s a hitch that delays our sale. Whereas if we do our own thing I suspect they would be quick to cancel the reservation if we fail to keep to their timetable. So I’m convincing myself that going with their deal is worth it for peace of mind and in the interests of my Mum getting the flat, even if we lose some money. Just hoping it’s not too large a sum!
        Thanks again for your comments.
        By the way, there’s a M&S development nearby that was built in 2014 and a flat there that was sold new for £380,000 has just sold for £499,000 after a short time on the market. So that seems encouraging as far as holding its value is concerned!

      • Ros says:

        How much clout does your House Manager have? Do you have adequate cover in his/her absence?

  22. Jen says:

    Dear Ros – The House Manager in this Retirement Living development is here five days a week. Entry age for RL is 55 years up and we are apparently the younger, independent and active end of the market – although residents are actually between 60 and 92 years of age. The assisted schemes – Retirement Living Plus – have staff permanently on site. When the manager is not on site the red call buttons around the place put us through to Tunstall who are helpful and alert the fire brigade or ambulance service for emergencies. An M&S out of hours phone number is available in a book and we have volunteer wardens amongst the residents should there be a fire but who can sometimes help on other matters too.

    Our House Manager is a very caring and knowledgeable local lady who has worked for M&S for several years in various roles. She can deal with many issues and passes on maintenance requests etc but inevitably she is only the interface between us and regional HQ where building services, customer relations, management services are located. ‘Clout’ is therefore limited but she did give me the email address of the top dog regional director when I grew increasingly frustrated with lack of acknowledgement of our building problem. That did produce the right result and action – or maybe it was when I mentioned the Press…. trying to be nice and follow the prescribed route only works for so long, as I have learned when fighting battles to get a fair deal for my disabled brother. We have experience of living on new developments elsewhere too pre-retirement and sadly have noted many instances of appalling build quality, with subcontractors usually blamed and with the same reluctance to return to make good.

    • Stephen glancey says:

      My experience was very different. The house manager had run a council nursing home, she treated the residents as if they were lucky to be staying at her establishment. Her style was entirely unsuitable and she bullied residents. Despite meetings with directors at MCCARTHY & Stone very little happened although she was eventually fired. In between all of that we had to move my mother in law out of the house as she had become frightened to leave the apartment because of this last. So don’t be fooled by the sales pitch the reality is quite quite different as far as McCarthy and stone are concerned

  23. Jen says:

    That was a horrific story, Stephen, and certainly a very poor choice by whoever at M&S did the interviewing and gave her the job – they should be sacked too. Having seen a succession of managers at my brother’s Churchill development, I think what seems relatively easy looking after us old dears does require a specific type. You certainly need to be a tolerant people person who doesn’t mind being interrupted several times a day with knocks on the office door.

    • Ros says:

      Dear Jen and Stephen, Thanks so much for your candour. I wonder where the House Manager’s loyalties lie? Employed by M & S, but salary underwritten by residents!

  24. Ros says:

    What is the M & S take on properties being occupied as a second/holiday home, ie not on a full-time basis?

  25. Jen says:

    Ros, I don’t actually know, but as long as you purchase and pay full maintenance and other service charges etc it might be ok. Only downside is that if too many flat owners are part time it breaks up the important community feel; in other apartment blocks in seaside towns like ours there are instances of just one or two flats being occupied year round, which can make for a lonely existence in winter for the permanent residents. In our development we have some keen travellers going on cruises or to see relatives in far flung parts but most will be here for, say, eight months of the year.

  26. Larissa Chambers says:

    My parents are downsizing – both got health problems – almost 80 – the dilemma is to go for MCS which I sorta feel uneasy about – I think they take away some independence and money, or a 2 bed bungalow which is also closer to me – their only daughter. I just want best for them, and seems they are more worried about care etc if one of them declines, or passes away. So dilemma – whats best for long term – just don’t feel right about mcs xxx

  27. Jen says:

    Dear Larissa

    M&S costs and like many builders and developers, there are things we think are definitely less than 100% value and certainly not the dream as advertised.

    However, there are upsides. You do not lose independence – you can live a quiet life with just an occasional greeting to a neighbour in the corridor, or you can join in the coffee mornings, bridge games, or film nights, while some residents maintain a full agenda in the outside world. But one often finds there is a lot of shared history once you start talking which is nice and we don’t have to go outside to find it – though being able to sit in the garden with friends in summer is a bonus. Our House Manager just likes to check people are ok if she hasn’t seen them for a while and needs to know if you are away for the night for fire safety reasons. She is here five days a week. Obviously some residents have health problems, may buy in outside domestic help and a few have a carer or nurse coming in at particular times.

    Retirement Living Plus developments cost more as some staff live on site and they have extra facilities like a cafe, library/games room, perhaps hairdressers calling in and help you can buy/they provide as needed, whether domestic or caring. They are geared more fully for the over 75s. I visited one briefly and thought it was a good idea that a couple, say, could be reassured that they could probably stay in their own flat together rather than one needing to go to a nursing home as problems arose, with the financial outlay that would entail.

    Having seen my own parents age, with one becoming ill, the other didn’t drive, neighbours stopped calling etc and noting the ensuing loneliness, lack of stimulation etc when I couldn’t be there, I would emphasise that social connections with safety have to rise up the list of needs. While most people here have family living within easy driving distance, often they can only come in once a week and, particularly in winter, that can be a long time. We and other residents here are visiting a neighbour in hospital because her relatives are even older or live upcountry.

    All develoments need carefully checking – house manager, facilities inside and out, age of building and residents etc. Talk to residents if you can. Often they find they have been to school together. With some developments you can try before you buy by staying in the guest room for a couple of nights. Good luck at this difficult time!

  28. Malcolm Steward says:

    We have been here in Sykes Court Huddersfield for 7years and It was undoubtedly the best decision we have ever made. The manager is perfect and as others say you can be just as involved as you wish. Everyone looks out for everyone else. It may well be that our children may not get quite so much as they would if we had bought a bungalow or whatever but we could not wish for anything better so far

    • Joby says:

      Malcolm, so glad to hear that. I’d gladly lose some of my inheritance to see my Mum happy, secure and independent (which I hope she will be in a few months time in her new M&S retirement flat, if all goes to plan). It will also mean peace of mind for me- less worrying about her alone in a house and garden that’s got too difficult for her to manage. Whether it actually results in less inheritance for me and my siblings (and your children) is anyway impossible to predict. If it saves my mother from needing to go into a care home, or helps her stay independent for longer, the loss might be less than paying for care home fees. I wish you many more happy years in Sykes Court!

      • Malcolm Steward says:

        Dear joby
        If her new home is anywhere as good as this then you can rest easy. I suspect much depends on the house manager and if ours hasn’t won manager of the year yet there must be a lot of absolute angels out there
        All the best to you and your mum

  29. Joby says:

    Thanks Malcolm. We’ve reserved a flat off-plan. The challenge now is to sell her current home within the timescale required by M&S. We have 6 weeks marketing time to get it sold subject to contract. Two weeks on, we’ve had several viewers but no offers. It’s worrying as there’s not much more we can do, and we don’t know how quick M&S will be to enforce their threat to cancel her reservation or put up the price. If we can get past this stage, I’m hopeful that she’ll be very happy there!

  30. Jennifer West says:

    I said in an earlier reply there are definitely a few things less than 100% value and not the dream as advertised. We still like living here in this McCarthy and Stone development, with our great location and community, but these downsides have become a problem now………
    1. The basic Retirement Living model has many pluses for the elderly like a room for storing and recharging mobility scooters, wide corridors and the usual rails and alarms in bathrooms. Disgracefully what they do not have is any help for the hard of hearing, the invisible disability, affecting probably a good half of the residents over 70 and some younger. Most new builds in the retirement market these days have a loop system installed in the communal lounge where it is most needed. We brought the need for something like that here to the attention of the area director but after a year of pushing we just got an inexpensive microphone for social events, often inadequate for those wearing hearing aids. Result = some residents stop attending and become more isolated. If you pay more money to go into a Retirement Living Plus a loop system is installed. A shameful discrimination driven purely by ignorance and money.
    2. This building has had construction problems since it was built and it seemed the contractors brought in to repair were getting on top of things. However, it was recently revealed that all 44 flats now need their en suite walk in shower floors replaced because of faulty tanking. It takes three days for each one, with accompanying noise. We have been instructed we shall be booked into a local hotel on a rota system. Nice hotel a few minutes away on the sea front, all meals paid for, but we are not on holiday. As usual, no sighting of senior management, no letter of apology for the inconvenience from them, just a note from our lovely house manager. Hence residents feel as if we are being herded around en masse like kids in a boarding school, not home owners who have paid an average of £300k for our flats.

    • Joby says:

      Jennifer, I do hope your faulty showers have all been fixed now and you’re enjoying your new home?

      After reading your very useful post last October, I wrote to the M&S sales executive asking if a loop system was going to be built into the communal lounge in the Retirement Living development my mother has reserved a flat in. She (astonishingly I thought for a person who works in this sector) didn’t know what a loop system was, but after I explained it to her she made enquiries and confirmed that there will be one.

      Bearing in mind your experiences with water leaks, I also engaged a surveyor to do a snagging survey shortly before exchanging contracts but was refused access by M&S on the grounds that its contractors are still working in the flat and it won’t be finished until completion day. I’m not at all happy about that, as it seems unreasonable to refuse access for this purpose. However, we’re still going ahead with the purchase as (a) my mother has set her heart on it and (b) we know the lady who has moved in next door and she’s very happy with her flat and (c) I suspect that problems like water leaks wouldn’t become apparent until she’s been living there a while so a survey at this stage might be of limited use (even if we were allowed to have one). Wish us luck!

      • Jen says:

        I am sure your mother will enjoy her flat and the company. The company is a big plus and several real friendships have formed here for shopping outings, lunches and even a cruise, while for others just seeing people downstairs in the laundry room for a laugh and chat is enough. It is a bonus too knowing we don’t have to mow lawns or to worry about strangers prowling outside.
        I guess your mother might be moving into a Retirement Living Plus if they have a loop installed. Loops work very well when there is a speaker giving a talk, but unfortunately not when several people are chatting at once.
        We still have plumbers in the building, 2+ years since the first residents moved in. The plumbers told us each shower tray was a different size (!) but eventually they were all sorted by the end of last month. At least the problems in flats are shared so one has morale boosting back up if a frustrating irritation occurs. Now I think it is water seeping through the lounge ceiling again…..

        Good luck, Joby, I hope the move goes smoothly.


  31. Robert George says:

    Thinking of buying a McCarthy & Stone property? – “Caveat emptor”
    In August 2015, McC & S opened a new development on the east coast of England. The high rise, balconied property is right on the seafront, with magnificent views over the North Sea. Some friends of mine moved in at that time. Almost immediately, problems with the building became apparent. There were excessive draughts and water ingress through the lounge and bedroom picture windows which opened onto the balconies in many apartments. Flats on the upper floors had water ingress through the ceilings. Workmen were ever present but the problems remained unsolved. In the summer of 2018, residents were informed that the cladding on the front of the building had to be renewed. By September, the development was shrouded in scaffolding. The work was due to be finished by February 2019. The cladding came off as soon as the scaffolding was up, it is yet to be replaced. McC & S can no longer predict a date the work will finish. The window
    problems with water ingress are yet to be resolved.

    Since September, residents have not been allowed to use their balconies, for which they paid a premium, sea views have gone as has privacy as the balconies are used by workmen to move from one side of the building to the other passing within feet of the picture windows. The landscaped gardens have become a builders’ yard. In effect, the residents are having to live on an active building site, with the consequential noise, dirt and inconvenience this brings. Information from McC & S appears to be kept to a minimum. I know my friends and other residents feel under increasing stress and the situation is becoming intolerable.
    So much for the hassle-free retirement living promised in McCarthy & Stone advertisements.

  32. GERTRUDE COODY says:


  33. Jen West says:

    The house manager should be the first port of call but depends on how user friendly he/she is. We had most success when emailing direct to the area director – think it is director, but too dog for your region. Customer services made noises but weren’t much help if it is a big or continuing problem. Good luck, Jen

  34. Jarle says:

    Retirement Living Plus by McCarthy & Stone is a mirage created by PR companies and sales people. As with all mirages it takes time to recognize what is in front of you. In meantime there will be casualties and most that entered this world will be one, some will realize this and some will never. Latest mirage is After Sales.
    McC&S has been in business for over 40 years. As there presently are no bodies effectively regulating this business nothing will change. There is slight hope after Lord Best inquiry recommending a new regulatory body to be established. This at present awaiting available parliamentary time. There is some hope of better future but it will take time.

    • Joby says:

      Sorry to hear you (or someone you know?) have had a bad experience with Retirement Living Plus by McCarthy & Stone. Could you possibly give readers some idea of what the problem is/was? Is it specific to the ‘Plus’ part of the offering (ie the personal care and restaurant facilities) or could it apply to any Retirement Living development as well? I’m interested as my mother has recently moved into a Retirement Living development. There have been teething problems but so far most of them have been addressed, albeit it has taken a long time in some instances. However it is still early days and not all flats are sold yet.

  35. Jen says:

    I see I wrote in October 2018 about problems with the ensuite shower trays fitted in 2016 in our then new Cornish seaside development, a McCarthy&Stone basic retirement place for the independent and active over 55s, albeit with a majority over 80 and a number needing carers, mobility scooters…… but a happy, lively place. Mc&S on that occasion sent residents to a hotel on the seafront for three days while the work was done.

    In autumn 2019 we noticed a hairline crack in that replacement shower tray. Eventually, yet another new one was ordered; this time it cost the firm £500 because our ensuite shower cubicle apparently is not a standard length – the bog standard 2018 replacement tray simply had the end sawn off!

    A very good outside contractor, Jamie, came to fit this second replacement. While fitting he noticed a damp patch showing under the protective plastic put down on the bedroom carpet outside the ensuite. He tracked this to the adjacent built in wardrobe and removed the boxes on the floor. Sure enough the wardrobe carpet was damp too. The other side of wardrobe wall is the cloakroom with a shower too, which his initial investigation showed was not properly sealed underneath and that underside was black with mould.

    I have asthma and some sensitivity to various chemical and environmental smells; Jamie deemed it an emergency needing repair immediately and sealed it shut. Work has started a week later, today, as another emergency took priority. By moving things around we have toughed it out but In the intervening week the the smell of the damp has given me breathing problems and nosebleeds. I asked our lovely manager if Mc&St would pay for alternative accommodation if this is to go on much longer, as they had back in 2018 when they sent everyone to a hotel.

    We gather those staff have been cut back and at the moment it is unlikely the company will pay. We know they have cut back on the building programme too. But they continue to take, as they did in 2018, the full service and maintenance charges of £250+. And while various repairs are still going on in a few more flats too, not many of us want to move. All we need is decency and accountability.

  36. Having purchased one of their apartment’s, much to my regret, and then re-selling,at a loss of course, I would rather live in a shed than be deceived by their totally hidden marketing, purchasing,valuation and ongoing costing process.
    Best decision, to get out of this apartment, worst, to purchase this in the fist place.

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