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Auriens in The News: This is Money

Sunday Roast in Culfords restaurant
27 March 2024
We recently welcomed journalist Adele Cooke to visit Auriens Chelsea. Dive into her insightful reflections and thoughts about us in her feature in This is Money.

At first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking Auriens is one of the capital's most luxurious hotels. Beyond its elegant, marble-floored atrium is a tranquil pool and spa, art-deco speakeasy bar, wood-panelled cinema and fine-dining restaurant. But, the £250 million development is one of a new wave of luxury retirement communities that promise the gold standard in later life living — complete with a chef, chauffeur and concierge.

Just a stone's throw from London's trendy King's Road, Auriens is home to 56 apartments for residents aged 65 plus with discerning tastes and deep pockets. Among its residents is 82-year-old former Vogue cover star Paulene Stone, while Bafta Award winner Bill Nighy was a guest at a recent book launch.

The cost of care is soaring in the UK, with a place in a care home now costing around £800 a week on average, according to the charity Age UK, and a nursing home £1,078.

Auriens prices are among the higher end, to reflect the luxury lifestyle they afford. One bedroom apartments start at £2,750,000, while two-bedroom homes can be purchased for £3,995,000. Those who would rather rent can expect to pay £18,650 per month, or an eye-watering £223,800 a year, for a one bedroom. In need of a bit of extra space? Expect to pay £24,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment.

Inside the soft-lit atrium, an easel displays a list of the upcoming events, which include an evening with former cricketer Alec Stewart OBE and jazz dinner with musician Ian Shaw in onsite restaurant Culfords. A small group of residents are chatting about next week's menu with the concierge while sipping loose-leaf tea from fine China cups. I can hear the sound of the residents' choir wafting up the wood-panelled staircase as they rehearse downstairs in the library.

The Library at Auriens Chelsea

Little wonder Auriens feels almost like an outpost of Claridge's: many of the staff were previously employed at some of London's most prestigious five-star hotels. Head chef Matthaios Tsistrakis joined the team from The Savoy, while restaurant manager Francisco Martinez swapped private member's club Annabel's for Auriens.

Henry Lumby, the sales director, says: 'We train our staff in the art of knowing, anticipating our residents' every need before they even ask.

One of our residents broke down while driving to see her daughter. Rather than calling the AA she rang the concierge.

Most Auriens residents move in after downsizing from smart London addresses, freeing up wealth which can then be enjoyed in their golden years. Downsizers in England and Wales can unlock £305,090 on average by moving from a four-bed to a two-bed home, according to estate agent Savills. Yet around 1.3 million homeowners aged 65 and over still live in four-bedroom homes, as the cost of stamp duty and lack of appropriate retirement homes blocks them from moving. This country lags behind the concept of retirement communities, with only 0.6 per cent of Britons living in one compared with at least 5-6 per cent in New Zealand, Australia and the US, according to the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO).

Auriens residents are 78 years old on average when they move into the community, but with each apartment designed with ageing in mind, they can be adapted to residents' requirements.

We know how residents like their eggs, where they sit in the morning and which newspapers they read

Henry Lumby, Auriens Director

Swimming pool at Auriens Chelsea

Riverstone Living similarly offers the standard of a hotel with the feeling of home to the residents of its two luxury retirement communities in Kensington and Fulham, West London. Founded in 2019 with the backing of investment bank Goldman Sachs, Riverstone saw a gap in the market for later-living villages for well-to-do over-65s who want to downsize but stay in the capital. Before they move in, residents can discuss modifications to their apartment with the company's 'wellbeing ambassador'.

Want new wallpaper or carpets? Of course. Staff are available 24/7 and there's also an intimate private cinema, sumptuous wood-panelled club room, library, brasserie serving seasonal produce and seafood, plus an on site bar. One-bedroom apartments at its Kensington address start at £785,000, or £922 a week if renting, plus a £1,388-a-month maintenance fee.

Elysian Residences has places in London and the Home Counties and the firm seems to have touched on a sweet spot for older buyers with its sell: 'A zest for life. A passion for culture. A taste for the finer things. These are not qualities that diminish with age. In fact, quite the reverse.'

A chestnut-lined drive leads up to Wildernesse House in Sevenoaks, Kent, a huge stately pile in 24 landscaped acres which has all the five-star hotel facilities a resident could want. Plus you can bring your dog or cat if you're buying one of the 23 apartments or eight new mews homes. Prices from £1,050,000 for apartments in the main house, £1,200,000 for mews houses and £595,000 for modern apartments.

At Audley Sunningdale Park in Ascot, Berkshire, staff know the names of each of the 39 owners and their tipple of choice at happy hour every Friday.

'A lot of our owners lived in a big house and were lonely,' says general manager Patrick Letham. 'Many just want to pre-empt the need to move again five or ten years down the line by future-proofing themselves. Now they have a community. Everything they need is on tap and they no longer have to worry.'

Do owners ever feel claustrophobic living in such a confined community, I ask.

'We have owners who keep to themselves and don't come to coffee mornings or events,' he says.

Downsizing was one of the main reasons owner Lynn Whiteman, 74, moved to Sunningdale after she became a widow. The former British Airways Concorde flight attendant had been living locally when she became one of the first residents to buy a property off-plan at Sunningdale. Since moving in, she says she's never been so busy. 'I take part in Pilates classes and go to the coffee mornings.'

There is also archery, wildlife photography, painting and beekeeping on offer.

'I love that I can have my own life but also feel part of something,' she says.

Today, Tricia Brooking, 73, has a 10am Pilates class, lunch, then a brisk walk with a friend.

The mother of two downsized to Sunningdale with husband Roger after her four-bedroom detached house in Maidenhead became unmanageable.

'We knew we needed to move 18 months ago and this was the best move we have ever made. I keep telling my friends that they should move in too.'

Other Sunningdale owners are retired surgeons, pilots and captains of industry. Widows or women who have had to take on additional caring responsibilities for their partner seem to particularly benefit from moving into such a community where friendship groups thrive.

Nationally, there are four times more widows aged over 80 than widowers, according to retirement specialist Just Group. And figures from City, University of London agree, with studies showing that moving into a retirement villages can boost the longevity of women by as much as five years.

Prices to buy a home at Sunningdale start from £739,950 but can exceed £1 million for larger apartments in Northcote House, the Grade II-listed 1930s mansion previously used as a party pad by industrialist Sir Hugo Cunliffe-Owen. There is also a monthly £1,272 service charge.

Once a part of Windsor Great Park, home to the royals, Northcote House is now home to the village's bistro, bar and health club, with pool, sauna and steam room. Inside, the capacious drawing rooms are adorned with equestrian paintings, horse head busts and racing silks paying homage to nearby Ascot and Royal Windsor racecourses.

The enormous horseshoe-shaped bar at the centre of the property bears a striking resemblance to The Ivy brasserie in London's Covent Garden. The espresso machine sits on the very spot that the Sunningdale Agreement was signed in 1973. (Northern Ireland's first attempt to implement a power-sharing executive government.) Perched at the bar is Mary, 92, who enjoys a cool glass of wine after a trip to her local Waitrose in Windsor. 'I love living at Audley with my husband,' she tells me with a wink. Soon she's lost in conversation with other residents as they enjoy a late morning tipple or coffee.

Sunningdale is one of 20 Audley villages, with other communities located in Kent, Devon, Yorkshire and the Midlands. At Audley Binswood, Royal Leamington Spa, 114 properties are centred around the striking Binswood Hall, a Grade II-listed Victorian Gothic Mansion.

The lavish million-pound spa complex with fitness studio, heated swimming pool and gym has stained glass windows. Prices start at £320,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and there is a £1,108 monthly service charge, which covers maintenance of the property.

Meanwhile, Audley Inglewood, near Kintbury in Berkshire, boasts a fine-dining restaurant which was awarded an AA rosette in 2018. The 91 apartments and cottages are surrounded by 39 acres of countryside which forms part of a large Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. One-bedroom apartments start at £325,000. There are catches, of course. So before downsizing to a retirement community make sure that you are aware of additional and ongoing fees.

Most retirement villages offer properties as leasehold, which means that you own the building for a set period of time and rent the land on which it is built. Each year you will be charged ground rent, which is typically a few hundred pounds annually. Your maintenance fees may also fluctuate depending on the cost of major repairs or renovations to communal areas, which can quickly add up.

Most retirement villages also charge a deferred management fee, which is payable when you sell your property or pass away.

At Auriens, the deferred management fee is calculated as a percentage of your property's sale price. It is at 3 per cent for each year that you own your apartment, up to a maximum of 15 per cent of the sale price or market value of the property, depending on which is higher.

At Audley, residents can choose between two payment plans with different exit fees. In the first plan you pay an additional 1 per cent in deferred management fees for each year that you have lived in an Audley property. For a home worth £400,000 this would be equivalent to £52,191 after ten years.

In the second plan you pay half price ongoing monthly maintenance fees but must pay back 2 per cent in deferred management fees for every year that you have lived in the retirement community. For the same home worth £400,000 this would be equivalent to 20 per cent, or £104,382, after ten years.

Back in the dining room at Auriens, lacquered walnut tables that wouldn't look out of place in a Mayfair restaurant are being set for tomorrow's breakfast, with jam or marmalade laid out based on residents' preferences.

'We know how residents like their eggs, where they sit in the morning and which newspapers they read,' says Lumby. It's these close relationships that set luxury retirement communities apart.

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