Guide to Buying a Retirement Home

1st April 2016


by Iain Grimes, Managing Partner, Head of Conveyancing

The Need for Advice

Buying a house for your retirement is an extremely important decision and it is important to get advice from a qualified lawyer to help you avoid possible problems and to protect your interests at each stage of the process, from making an initial offer to moving in. Using the services of a local solicitors firm such as Fraser Dawbarns should ensure you avoid any legal pitfalls and have a trouble free purchase of your new home.

This guide describes the stages of the purchase process and the advice you should receive from us.

Our Service and Costs

At Fraser Dawbarns, we have over a 100 years experience helping clients buy and sell their homes. We understand the need to keep you informed at every stage of the sale or purchase process. Our highly trained lawyers will keep you informed of the progress through a method of your choice; this could be by email or post. With offices across the region, we are close by if you need to meet face to face to discuss an urgent issue or call in to sign and pick up documents to save postal delays.

We provide a fixed cost for our service but remember you will need to pay a variety of other expenses such as stamp duty land tax, Land Registry fees, VAT and search fees.

What We Will Need from You

We will require a variety of documents and details if we are instructed to act for you, these could include the following:

  • personal identification;
  • confirmation of your age e.g. birth certificate and passport;
  • a copy of the energy performance certificate (EPC) for the property if there is one;
  • anything that may influence the exact time you need to buy the property; and
  • how you intend to pay for the property.

We will also need to know if:

  • you plan to do some work on the property;
  • you are buying with another person; and
  • you have a property to sell.

Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

Before a house or flat can be offered for sale, it is necessary to have someone prepare an energy performance certificate for the property.
This provides a rating for the energy performance of the property, and recommendation for improving it. We can tell you more about this when we discuss the purchase of your new house or flat.

The Need for a Survey

We recommend appointing your own surveyor to carry out a survey or prepare a home buyers report on the property. It is very important to make sure the property is structurally sound before you buy it. If the survey identifies any work that is required, you need to tell us. You may also wish to renegotiate the price with the seller.

Making Contact with the Seller’s Lawyer

Having asked us to act for you in the purchase of your new house or flat, we will contact the seller’s lawyer, who will give us a draft contract and any other items we request. This will include a list of fixtures and fittings which you will need to check through carefully.


We will make a number of searches on your behalf including enquiries to the local authority.
The searches will help to uncover any planning issues which might affect the property, for example, road improvements and any planning permissions granted on the property. These searches will provide information about the property itself rather than neighbouring properties. If any of these searches reveal matters of concern then we will let you know.

Retirement Properties

If you are purchasing a property within a sheltered housing complex or a warden controlled apartment block you will usually be buying on a leasehold basis. There will be detailed lease terms and conditions for us to explain to you.
It is often the case that age restrictions are included in the lease agreement, meaning if you are below 60 years of age, you cannot be an owner of the property. This can of course affect the saleability of the property in the future as it limits the number of people who can purchase the property.
We will check these detailed terms and conditions and also make enquiries with the seller’s lawyer or the managing agents of the property and advise what service charges and management costs you will have to pay.
Very often with retirement properties the annual service charge will cover items such as the maintenance of common parts of the building e.g. communal lounge, garden areas, buildings insurance and the costs of the on-site warden.

Signing the Contract

Once we have reported back to you on all the enquiries we have made and you are still happy to go ahead, we will finish the terms of the contract and explain it to you. You will then sign the contract and provide a deposit which is normally between 5 and 10% of the purchase price.

Exchanging the Contracts

This is the critical point between you and the seller. We will exchange the contracts with the seller’s lawyer so you have the contract the seller has signed and they have the contract you have signed. A date will be set for completing the sale at this stage. The deal is now binding for completion at the agreed date.

Final Balance

After exchanging contracts but before completion, we will require the balance of the purchase money from you. This will include costs, VAT, Land Registry fees and stamp duty land tax (if it applies) and any necessary service charge which we will agree with the seller’s solicitor on your behalf. We will carry out final searches and work with the seller’s lawyer to pay off any mortgages that may exist on the property. We will prepare a transfer deed and send it to the seller’s lawyer for signing.


This the last stage in the buying (sometimes called conveyancing) process when we transfer the money to the seller and the keys are given to you. We will also pay the Land Registry fees and any stamp duty land tax on your behalf. We then record you as the new legal owner of the property and register the interest of your mortgage lender, if you have one.

Other Things to Consider

Buying a flat may give rise to other related matters which need advice from a solicitor’s firm such as us, for example:

  • If you have a will then it may need updating to reflect the purchase of your new home
  • If you do not have a will it may be worth considering having one to ensure your property is left to the right person
  • If a husband and wife are buying in joint names it may be worth considering who will own the property if one of you dies
  • If you are buying with a person who you are not married to, you may need to enter into a ‘deed of trust’ to identify what share of the property is owned by each person.

If you require advice about any of these areas, or any other legal matter, do not hesitate to contact us by email

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*We are recommended for the following practice areas: Corporate and Commercial, Debt Recovery, Employment, Personal Injury: Claimant, Agriculture and Estates, Contentious Trusts and Probate, Family, Personal Tax, Trusts and Probate & Commercial Property.

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