The Telegraph

FeaturesIn retirement, the world's your oysterJane Slade 1373 words31 August 2019The Daily TelegraphDT1; National4,5EnglishThe Daily Telegraph © 2019. Telegraph Media Group Ltd.

British pensioners are looking further afield for their places in the sun, writes Jane Slade

The dream of taking your nest-egg savings and heading for sunnier climes in retirement has not lost its allure amid the UK's political uncertainty. In fact, pioneering developers are looking to entice the grey pound by building developments with a home-from-home feel in far-flung destinations.

In Thailand, Michaelis Boyd, the architect of the fashionable Cotswolds members' club Soho Farmhouse, has been hired to design Asia's first luxury retirement village. Some 149 homes will be carved into the sloping tropical hinterland by Kamala Beach on the west coast of Phuket within a 200-acre private estate.

Properties at Otium Phuket, designed for people aged over 60, will include 26 villas with vaulted ceilings and private pools, and 123 apartments. Properties are being sold on 30-year renewable leases, priced from £435,000 to £2million for a five-bedroom hilltop villa. "We are not property developers but lifestyle developers," says Daniel Holmes, Otium's chief executive. "This is the first retirement village of its kind in south-east Asia, and we are planning to build two more in Bangkok and others further afield."

Facilities include an 80ft lap pool, naturopathic well-being centre, a 24-seater cinema, and an outdoor drive-in-style movie amphitheatre. "Otium Phuket has to be a fun and uplifting place to live," adds Holmes. "There will be no alarm buttons or pull cords; we don't want people to feel old." The supersized village, which covers 20 acres and is due for completion next year, will offer sculpted walking trails, restaurants, an art studio and a medical centre. It also has a homely feel: Phuket has a Marks & Spencer and a Boots, as well as chichi shops and restaurants.

Otium Phuket is for British expats who don't want to return to Blighty, and UK-based Britons who want to retire to a tropical paradise. The idea behind hiring Michaelis Boyd is to create a cosy community that is packed with the kind of cool design you wouldn't expect at a retirement home.

"Some people will live here full time," adds Holmes. "For others it will be a parttime base, which they can rent out." But most British retirees living overseas choose countries closer to home; they want to be in proximity to the UK to visit family and friends, but live somewhere warmer. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, 39 per cent of Britons living in Portugal are retirees; that figure goes up to 41 per cent in Spain, making up 100,000 people aged over 65.

Many have been lured by Spain's 'golden visa' scheme, available to anyone who invests €500,000 (£453,000) or more in property. The visa can be renewed every two years, and after five years of living there, owners can apply for permanent residency. The Costa del Sol has been a magnet for older sunshine seekers for decades, but now the market is shifting. Retirees want to live in larger homes in smaller, low-rise developments away from the tower blocks and tourists.

Retired flight engineer Tom Flett, 76, and his wife Isabel, 74, are hoping to sell their three-bedroom home in Bedfordshire in September and move into a three-bedroom apartment near Estepona at the western end of the southern coast of Spain.

"The main Costa del Sol is too busy for us," says Flett, who has previously lived in Hong Kong and Australia. "We have bought an apartment at Alcazaba Lagoon, which has several swimming pools, three man-made sandy beaches, and a restaurant and beach bar.

"All the apartment blocks are lowdensity, which we like. There aren't the high-rise hotels where we are, so it doesn't attract the hordes of European holidaymakers."

This coast has a microclimate due to the mountains protecting the coastline. "It means that summers are not too hot and winters are not too cold, which is ideal for retirees," says Chloe Williams of the Spanish Estate Agent.

Another attraction of Spain is its healthcare system, which was ranked eighth best in the world by The Healthcare Access and Quality Index of medical journal The Lancet.

There's an agreement in place already between the UK and the 27 EU member states on legal residence, healthcare and pensions for the Brexit transitional period, up to Dec 31 2020, says Jason Porter of Blevins Franks, a wealth manager. Although this will not be the case if there is no deal.

Richard Heaney, the founder of high-end specialist Elan Palma, reports a surge in younger retirees looking to buy large properties on the Spanish island of Majorca. "We've always worked with many couples in their 60s, but lately we're seeing an increase in the number of younger retirees in their early to mid-50s," he says. "Retirement has changed, and people retire so they can be even more active." Property prices on the sunny island have increased almost fourfold in the past 10 years, and forecasts of six per cent year-on-year growth are predicted for at least the next four years.

The Mediterranean island of Malta, which has an established year-round expat community, is another hotspot for retirees. Its retirement programme offers incentives that include a flat tax rate of 15 per cent on foreign-sourced income for those who buy a home for €275,000 or more. Stamp duty is also low, there are no property or wealth taxes, and pensions are easily transferable.

Portugal's tax-efficient 'golden visa' programme, which offers holders visafree entry to Schengen area countries, will be certainly by attractive to Britons whether there is a Brexit deal or not. Access to Portuguese healthcare is set to boost its British retiree population, providing that applicants can fulfil the criteria of buying a home worth at least €500,000. All this adds up to a great bet: the Retire Overseas Index voted the Algarve the best place to retire in the world.

HOW OVER-60S CAN GET A MORTGAGE

OVERSEAS SPAIN The maximum age you can get a mortgage is 75 years, higher than some UK lenders (although many have no upper limit). Applicants over the age of 65 will need a bigger deposit, and if life insurance is compulsory it could become expensive. Pension income (after tax) may be acceptable in some cases.

United STATES There is no age cap on a mortgage in the USA, although some lenders are introducing limits from 65 to 75 years. The maximum mortgage term is 30 years. In most cases, there are no early redemption penalties, so a mortgage can be cleared at any time during the term agreement, such as with an annuity.

France and Switzerland In France and Switzerland the age cap is 80, and lenders base the mortgage agreement on the age of the oldest borrower. There is also a minimum mortgage term of five years. Various incomes are taken into account and can include 100 per cent of an applicant's pension income.

Turkish banks will normally allow a mortgage to be repaid until the 75th birthday of the oldest applicant. The maximum mortgage term is generally lower in Turkey than other countries, but banks can consider pension income for repayments.

By overseas property expert Simon Conn

SPAIN MAJORCA Within minutes of three golf courses is this two-bedroom apartment in Nova Santa Ponsa.

Guide Price: €600,000 Agent: Engel & Völkers (0034 971 69 90 63; engelvoelkers.com) PORTUGAL ALGARVE This apartment in Vilamoura has four bedrooms and is good as a "lock up and leave".

Guide Price: €900,000 Agent: Engel & Völkers (00 351 913 747 727; engelvoelkers.com) S PA I N COSTA DEL SOL La Floresta Sur in Elviria has apartments with sea and mountain views.

Guide Price: from €222,000 Agent: Taylor Wimpey Spain (0034 971 70 69 72; taylorwimpeyspain.com) M A LTA VALLETTA This newly renovated two-bedroom duplex penthouse has a balcony and views over the Grand Harbour.

Guide Price: €695,000 Agent: Cluttons (020 7408 1010; cluttons.com)

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