Friday, July 30, 2010

The Ideal Housing-Linked-to-Services Choice

by PJ Wade

Housing linked to services is gaining popularity with boomers and everybody else. There’s growing interest in loving where you live and doing fewer and fewer daily chores—housing linked to services. This means shopping for a new home may include evaluating services and support delivery in general. How much experience have you had with that in your previous real estate searches?

Housing-linked-to-services choices range from elegant hotel-style highrises for busy professionals and liberated boomers to leisure-focused communities of condominium-style suites or detached bungalows. The services may include a variety of concierge-style support and could include medical, wellness, laundry, valet parking, car use and other services that are paid for individually, included in buy-in costs, or included in monthly fees. The limit is only what residents consider essential and are willing to pay for.

Food services may involve communal dining rooms, room service, or alternatives based on both. Residents may be entitled to 2 or 3 meals a day for a flat monthly fee, or pay monthly based on what they eat and which services they use. There are as many variations on service delivery as there are places that offer real estate with meals.

Whether it is choice or necessity that drives you to search out meal services, this is very different research than deciding which restaurant to go to for dinner or choosing a place with great take-out. You’d like the equivalent of great restaurant dining every night without going out. This may be possible, but not automatically. Those who expect to demand a lot from the food services they decide on, but do little research into what the services guarantee over time, may be disappointed in many ways. For instance, management’s experience in service delivery and its plans for maintaining quality over the years will dictate what will appear on the menu and how services are carried out.

You may have concerns like the amount of meal repetition and the overall cost, but here are more issues to consider. To ensure you select a satisfying, fulfilling housing-linked-to-services alternative that makes the fees you pay for services seem like a great investment in pleasure, consider these issues:

1. Reasonable expectations: Separate marketing and promotion claims from what is in the contract. For instance, high-profile chefs are common draws, but who will work the kitchen a year or two down the road? Some facilities have found that living up to their marketing promises is a challenge because they did not do their homework on the practicality of their planned offerings.

2. Independence: Whatever form it takes, this is your home. Building layout, in-house amenities, available professional services, management style, and almost every other aspect of the facility should be focused on preserving and enhancing individual tastes and independence.

3. Mental stimulation: Even lovely food can get boring if you eat in the same place with the same people every night. Social events, learning programs like wine tasting, visiting chefs, and theme activities may be part of the plan to infuse variety into your life. Interaction with the community at large is also important to a creative lifestyle. Does this appeal to you? Who will have a say on which socializing is included with meals? Not everyone wants to be entertained the same way, if at all.

4. Variety, the spice of life: Routines save time and money for staff, but they can bring on deadly boredom for residents. Service delivery designed around residents’ lives, instead of for staff convenience or cost-cutting, are just the beginning of creating a vibrant community within any facility or complex.

5. Return appeal: If one spouse requires additional medical services, will the couple still be able to live in the same suite or unit? Often, if medical needs surface, spouses can be forced to live separately. Also, if you want friends and family to visit often, choose a building that is in a desired locale or they consider a “destination” location. If parking is inconvenient, or the environs depressing, your visitors may lose interest after the novelty wears off. You may be too busy with your new life to notice, but if this is a concern, involve key individuals in your research, so you can blend their impressions with yours.

Boomers and their families are already hooked on convenience and are used to paying for it. Succeeding generations may take this convenience for granted but their habits of consumption have a distinct green edge and an emphasis on value. Watch for continued growth in housing linked to services for all lifestyles and housing styles as you search for your ideal new home.

Room service anyone?

Published: July 27, 2010

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