Fantasies are so easily dashed. In particular, the dream of a move to the countryside or the coast to find a new stress-free lifestyle can easily come to nothing.
The main reason is that buying in a beauty spot costs serious money. The average price of a home in North Cornwall’s Padstow, for example, is an eye-watering £563,000, according to Rightmove.
That doesn’t square with the sale price of the average UK house which is only £275,000. So, what to do?
Friendly: Park home sites often have good community spirit and can be a way to realise your countryside dreams for less money
Raoul Fraser, the founder of Lovat Parks, believes that swapping suburbia for a lodge on a residential park is the answer. Fraser’s company run three park sites, in Cornwall, Kent and Suffolk — all catering for residents aged over 50.
‘Apart from the gorgeous surroundings our residents love the sense of community and the safety of being with others of a similar age,’ says Fraser. ‘It is also an ideal way to supplement a pension.’
The units on Lovat sites cost between £120,000 and £250,000, depending on location. Residents are categorised as Council Tax Band A and they pay for their own electricity and gas, which is metered.
There is a pitch fee of £1,200 to £3,000 a year and this, thanks to the Mobile Homes Act of 2013, is allowed only to increase annually by the rate of inflation (RPI).
It is an arrangement that suits Jackie Winter, who moved to the Lovat site outside Minster-on-Sea, Kent from Rochester two years ago.
It’s fantastic here — like being permanently on holiday
Lovat Parks resident Jackie Winter
‘It’s fantastic here — like being permanently on holiday,’ says Jackie, 54, who is disabled. ‘The grounds are looked after immaculately and I can see the sea from my front step.’
Another company, Haulfryn, offer a variety of sites for specific age groups in five locations — Berkshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Kent or Surrey. Starting prices for its homes is £175,000 for a one-bedroom lodge in Hampshire.
Gail and Peter Wilkinson, in their mid 60s, moved from their four-bedroom semi-detached in Frimley, Surrey to a newly-built lodge with two bedrooms and two bathrooms in Haulfryn’s Oaktree Park near Ringwood in Hampshire, to be nearer to the coast and mortgage free.
‘As the lodge is newly built and fully furnished we could move in without doing anything to it,’ says Gail, who helps out as a volunteer in a charity shop. ‘The best thing about life here is the friendly, supportive community.’
Fans of residential parks say that they offer holiday-like experience and a sense of community
Watch out for sneaky fees
Yet it would be wrong to say that everything is rosy in the world of residential parks. There are some 180,000 people living in park homes in the UK and although most park owners, like Haulfryn and Lovat, are reputable, some residents get a bad deal.
‘The park home sector is as much a snake pit as residential leasehold, with similar laws,’ says Sebastian O’Kelly, trustee at the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership.
Unscrupulous park owners use a variety of scams to cheat residents. Some publish glossy sales brochures which show manicured grounds bearing no similarity to the actual site.
Others will state a lodge’s price, without including ‘siting fees’ which can amount to as much as £50,000. It is a case, then, of buyer beware. It’s crucial to look into the career history of the site owner.
Check with the area’s local authority Licensing Department that there have been no disputes with residents in the past.
Consult a solicitor to check the site licence, written agreement and park rules and get a survey done.
Ask whether the park is affiliated to the British Holiday & Home Park Association and ensure the park complies with British Standard BS3632, which means the homes are suitable for use as permanent residences.
Make sure you visit the site several times before buying. As for the home itself, bear in mind that 2005 was the year that current insulation standards were incorporated into the British Standard for Park Homes. A home built after 2005 may cost more but it will also be warmer.
Although there are shady dealers about, many thousands of people are glad they bought into a residential park.
‘We have a club house and a swimming pool and my grandchildren love coming to visit,’ says Jackie Winter. ‘I wish I’d moved here years ago.’