Over the years, Marvellous PR has worked with many Retirement Property Developers including Renaissance Villages and Churchill Retirement Living. It’s a growing market, with a vast potential target audience and consequently has huge revenue potential. But there are some underlying growth frustrations – which is why PR can be of valuable assistance.
Everyone is agreed that older people who wish to move should be able to choose from a wide range of housing to accommodate their needs and preferences. However, there is a shortage of desirable mainstream, accessible and specialist housing and bungalows in both the private and social sectors.
Which is why we have been involved with the HBF and Third Age Group campaign to lobby the government with regards to policies for creating adequate housing for the elderly. Like any other age group, older people are diverse and their housing needs and options are similarly varied, reflecting their age, tenure, geographical location, income, equity, health and individual preferences.
According to Age UK, there are currently 9.3 million households headed by a person over retirement age. By 2033, this is expected to increase to 13 million.
In fact, the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has projected that older households over 65 will represent almost half (48%) of all household growth up to 2026.
Based on those demographic trends, specialist housing will need to increase by between 35% and 75% just to keep pace with demand. At the moment, retirement housing makes up just 5–6% of all older people’s housing. Research indicates that many more older people might consider downsizing if alternatives were available, although not just retirement housing schemes.
By 2026, official projections show there will be nearly 12 million people aged 65 or over in England. As the older population rises, the amount of the time spent in ‘retirement’ will also lengthen. This underlines the increasing demand for Retirement Housing.
Some 25% of over-55’s would consider downsizing; or moving into some sort of retirement, or purpose-built, accommodation, according to Knight Frank research. Again, the gap between this potential pool of demand and current supply is stark.
So as a property developer, your target audience is out there. But do they know about you and what you can provide for them?
Up until now, the market has been very much dominated by a few players who have been in it for a while and some of whom are pretty much synonymous with retirement housing; McCarthy and Stone (for whom we worked on several PR projects), Churchill Retirement Living, Beechcroft, etc. But there’s a huge scope for smaller, conscientious developers to strategically build a brand and be very, very successful.
It is mentioned time and again in the press that we are not building enough sheltered and retirement housing to meet projected demand. That retirement housing could have a more prominent role in helping older people free up family housing, with benefits for local housing markets. That more retirement flats and communities are needed, as well as a range of different types of housing suitable for older people.
As a developer building your brand, you may want to let buyers – and the families of those buyers – know that you are going to address issues around poor design, unfair contracts and excessive service charges that are likely to discourage older people. How are you going to do that? PR.
At the moment those big players in the market are the ones that your buyers look to when they are ready to move because they, and a few others, have good PR and so the buyers recognise and trust in the brand – and we all buy from people we know like and trust, don’t we? Possibly even more so if you are an older person looking for a safe, relaxed, comfortable place to live.
So how do these market leaders in the retirement development game get their dominance, and remain in the forefront of the minds of 3.5m potential buyers? They use a lot of different PR techniques.
For over 16 years we have been ensconced in the retirement property market, across all levels, and our understanding has been honed of the key audience, how they think, when, why and how they buy.
We know that someone in that age bracket is not looking to buy off-plan, which can equally cause difficulty for any developer in terms of cash flow and funds for development. That’s where PR techniques work so well – and within most small to medium sized developer’s budgets too.
Founder of Marvellous PR, Lucy Matthews, did the PR for Churchill Retirement Living for 10 years until they decided to put all their advertising and PR into one umbrella company because they could see what a great impact it was having – we have always been a PR-only business. When she started with them they were little known. Now, CEO Spencer McCarthy says; “Churchill Retirement Living has become a nationwide success story.” A lot of that is down to her successful PR campaigns at the very beginning.
Similarly, Lucy also worked with Renaissance Villages from the start of their first development, Bramshott Place Village where she was personally responsible for all of their major PR activities.
Here’s what Bill Gair, chairman at the time of Renaissance Villages, said about her; “Lucy has secured coverage for our company and its developments in many national press features and commentary in relevant property trade publications, as well as a stream of local editorial, which has helped us positively project our business and its development projects and constantly raise our profile in the very competitive retirement housing market. She has been able to accomplish this through very tough times.”
“Although it is sometimes difficult to gauge the success of a PR campaign, we keep a close eye on where our enquiries and sales come from and I am confident that the sheer number of column inches, interviews, both press and radio, Lucy has achieved for us has been a major contribution to our continuing sales success.”
So here are 5 reasons Property Developers Need PR to Ease the Ageing Population’s Housing Crisis:
- PR can help you demonstrate that you are sensitive to local circumstances and conditions. That you can reflect the changing needs and aspirations of all older people.
- You can establish yourself as a go-to expert of independent information and advice on older people’s housing and care options.
- You could become a voice in the lobbying of Government to find a fairer housing deal for all generations. To help fight for an overall increase in the supply of new homes and measures to ensure that those on low to modest incomes have access to them.
- PR can help you to create a portal of information for your buyers such as ‘places to take Grandchildren for a day out close to our developments’, or advantages to choosing one property over another.
- PR can act as a bolt on to marketing, reaching out across social media with targeted campaigns, crafting articles and comment in local and national press, writing and creating Q&A’s, arranging photography – and so much more!