Renting was once considered to be the bastion of those who could not afford to get on the housing ladder - at least in the UK.
Now it is beginning to be seen as more of a lifestyle choice for those who want more flexibility - and less hassle - in their living arrangements.
With this in mind, perhaps it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that industry commentators are seeing signs of more retirees on the lookout for rental properties to downsize into.
At Retirement Homesearch, we have recently been part of a team advising a northern-based developer on a new site for 100 retirement apartments. But interestingly, the developer is looking at rental - rather than sales - options for the majority of its stock. With institutional investment in the private rented sector increasing, we anticipate we will begin to see more examples of investment in rental retirement developments, further strengthening the market.
Meanwhile, another of our partner companies, Girlings Retirement Rentals, witnessed a sizeable increase in enquiries in 2015, with the most sought-after locations for retirement apartments appearing in the south of England. The top five locations for enquiries were Bournemouth, London, Cheltenham, Eastbourne and Portsmouth. Looking further back, Girlings has seen 7% year-on-year rises in retirement rental enquiries since 2012.
In a further indication that the retirement rental market is growing more active, we are also seeing increased interest in our part-exchange service, RHS Assured, whereby it is possible to be in a new property within six weeks of agreeing to sell. The appeal of this service stems from the growing mentality of retirees who want to avoid the hassles and long procedures that can often come with housebuying.
We know that the majority of individuals looking to downsize have already bought and moved houses a number of times in their lives. They are typically experienced and savvy, and know what they want - which can often be more freedom and the ability to keep their equity invested and let someone else worry about property maintenance and upkeep.
However, renting in retirement is not just being driven by lifestyle choices; it is also a way for retired people to release income, either to boost a pension pot, fund an investment or lend or gift money to children or family members.
Whether driven by lifestyle or necessity, this shift towards renting may have long-term implications for the wider property market and the transfer of wealth from the older generation to the younger one.
Nick Freeth, managing director, Retirement Homesearch