McCarthy and Stone – Report Back

Friday September 6th 2019,
ADAM MOOIJ Deputy Regional Managing Director (North West) of McCarthy & Stone.

A wonderfully diverse group gathered for our first meeting of the autumn, from a 16-year-old apprentice in her first week to others much older (but possibly no wiser). Our topic, The Grey Pound and the Last Time Buyer attracted a lot of interest, and many questions.

Our speaker Adam Mooij grew up in Derby, trained as an accountant with PwC, and joined McCarthy & Stone, the UK’s leading developer and manager of retirement communities, in 2016, rising to MD North West last year. He posed a question himself: in the USA, around 15% of over 60s live in purpose-built accommodation and in Australia it’s 18%. In the UK however, it’s only about 1%. Is that a shortage of land? Is it cultural..?

It’s got to be a growth market, with 11.8 million Brits aged 65 and over now, expecting to rise to over 17 million in under two decades. McCarthy & Stone provide around 70% of our current specialist building so they’re by far the market leaders, which begs the question why others aren’t piling in.
Overall there’s no shortage of housing, Adam said, with 28.3 million properties and 27.4 million households. But the imbalance between types of need is striking: around 30,000 new retirement properties a year are needed but only about 6,000 were built in 2018, and only 162,000 owner-occupied retirement properties exist in the whole UK. The Help to Buy scheme for the first-time buyer forgets that encouraging the last-time buyer, for example with a stamp duty holiday, could release a lot of housing to help everyone else.

Their typical client is elderly (average age on moving is 79), has become isolated, and is troubled by the burden of maintenance of a 3 or 4 bedroomed house. In their new flat they’ll often be close to all amenities, have access to carers, can make new friends. The House Manager’s job is to foster a sense of community, as their advertising emphasises.

Approval ratings from Homeowners are sky-high, once they can overcome their reluctance to move.  A guest suite at £20 per night is available for visitors, so some Homeowners are not at home, but trotting round the country staying in McCarthy & Stone guest suites from Edinburgh to Penzance.
The company held a strategic review last year and began to emphasise the flexibility, affordability and choice of their developments. Some bungalows as well as flats are now being built, some rentals as well as part ownership are available. Homeowners can buy ‘units’ of care service to suit themselves; in the Extra Care developments, a lot of support is available while independent living is maintained. All care is now provided in house (problems with standards have bedevilled this sector historically); at a typical £120/£160pw (depending on number of beds, 1 or 2) , that’s obviously a whole lot cheaper than a care home. The new Buxton development on the old bottling site on Station Road will be an Extra Care offer of 70 apartments, expected to be ready mid to late 2021, and as with other locations, they’d expect to sell around half of them even before it’s open.

And yet… some of our members were doubtful. Lounges still have high back chairs typical of care homes. The ads show sleek older models, but they don’t seem to be doing very much. If you’re advertising Buxton, for instance, we’d expect it to start with fit oldies climbing Kinder Scout, yes? Or off to play golf, or riding a bike (maybe an electric one), swinging in dance classes, heading to the Opera House in a plug-in car. People in their 60s and 70s these days are the most adventurous and savvy generation ever. They’re more likely to be ageing rockers than in rocking chairs.

The American offering is quite different. Oldies playing tennis? Tick. Fashionable and edgy? You bet.. Romance? Of course. The leisure activities come first, with the apartments as a bolt-on. That implies whole villages, not just a single apartment block. In Britain we still culturally see older people as frail and needy. Some are, of course, but millions – often those with more capital – are not.

That said, the average age of customers for their “Extra Care” developments is 83 at purchase, so maybe this is aimed for the next generation up with greater needs.

I looked out of the window at our beautiful rolling hills. Now if McCarthy & Stone were to buy a local golf course, put in a swimming pool with a gym, a bar and a plush small cinema, I might be interested in a spruce new flat on site. Zumba classes, anyone?

For more information about McCarthy & Stone or to discuss their coming Buxton development more specifically, please contact Michelle Treece-Birch on 0161 926 3362 or 07826 670 053.