Senior citizens looking for a retirement community in the Washington area will have a new financing option available to them next year: a fully refundable entry fee to preserve assets while reducing monthly costs.
Harkins Associates, a development company based in Silver Spring, will offer the new financing option for two new projects on which construction is slated to begin in two weeks: Victory House in Silver Spring and Battery Lane in Bethesda. Construction on both projects should take one year, which means they would be available for occupancy in late 1986.
The financing package developed by Harkins Associates requires prospective tenants to put an entry fee in the neighborhood of $50,000 into an escrow account. Interest on the account will be used by the development company to defray mortgage and operating costs of the buildings, thereby reducing the monthly rental costs for tenants.
For example, tenants who post the entry fee would be able to reduce a monthly payment of $1,000 to about $600, which is a much more manageable sum for most senior citizens, according to Peter Crouch of Harkins Associates.
He said that the entry-fee concept is particularly appealing to moderate-income senior citizens who have built up a lot of equity in their homes but are living on a fixed monthly income and cannot afford high monthly payments.
Crouch said that not many housing options are available to moderate-income elderly partly because of a drastic reduction in funds available from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He added that senior citizens at both the upper and lower end of the financial spectrum continue to have several options available to them -- upper-income senior citizens by virtue of their wealth and lower-income senior citizens through federally subsidized programs.
To make the entry-fee approach more appealing to moderate-income senior citizens, Harkins Associates is offering full refunds to tenants who decide to move out, Crouch said. If they choose to stay, their money will be left intact for their heirs, he said.
According to Katie Sloan, a housing specialist for the American Association of Retired Persons, the concept of high entry fees for retirement homes has been around for a long time, but the idea for a fully refundable entry fee is rather new. She advised anyone considering a community with a high-entry-fee requirement to make a careful study of the contract with family members and trusted financial advisers to fully understand where the money will be placed, how it will be used and how long it will take to be refunded.
Although the concept of a fully refundable entry fee is new to the Washington area, it has been in use for nearly 1 1/2 years at the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville, Md.
Thomas Brod, executive director of Catonsville Community, said sales and reservations for phase one of the retirement project, which opened Dec. 19, 1983, were much higher than originally anticipated. He attributed much of the success to the community's policy of offering a 100 percent refund of the entry fees, which range from $29,000 for efficiencies to more than $100,000 for town-house units. "We want our residents to feel free to leave if they want," Brod said. Monthly fees at Catonsville Community range from about $450 for a one-bedroom apartment to about $900 for a two-bedroom unit. Residents would have to pay a significantly higher monthly fee if they did not pay an entry fee, he said.
Harkins Associates already has begun taking reservations for the two new senior-citizen facilities in Montgomery County. Designed by Grimm & Parker Architects of Greenbelt, Victory House in Silver Spring will have 110 self-contained living units, and Battery Lane in Bethesda will have 90. Each building will have equal numbers of one- and two-bedroom units.
The buildings are designed so that two or more one-bedroom units can be combined easily to make one larger living unit, depending on the demand, said architect Steve Parker, a partner of Grimm & Parker. In addition, both facilities will offer two types of two-bedroom layouts, one designed for a married couple and the other for two single adults, Parker said.
Parker said that the firm, which specializes in facilities for the elderly, has included certain features for them in the buildings. Among them are consistent lighting levels in corridors, eye-level graphics, and shades of colors in corridors and common-use areas rather than different colors with the same intensity, he said.
Both facilities will offer such common-use areas as health suites for visiting doctors and nurses, libraries, game rooms, sewing rooms, multi-purpose rooms, greenhouses and tool shops. Services available for residents will include meals, housekeeping, utilities and social activities.