Issue 28 – Life Leases

Charlie, Hazel and Catherine reviewed the material that had been presented to them by the lady that was seated across from them. At first, Charlie and Hazel had wanted to attend the appointment alone, but John had insisted that his sister go along too. The siblings had conferenced by phone a few days prior to develop a list of questions that should be asked on their parents’ behalf. Hazel had phoned John announcing that they were going to meet with a sales agent to discuss purchasing a two bedroom unit at a seniors community in Edmonton that was currently under construction.

“I like that you have a doctor’s office right on site,” Hazel beamed at the agent. “That will be so convenient.”

“I’m still seeing Dr. Ollie in Stony Plain. There’s nothing wrong with him.” Charlie huffed.

“Except for the fact that he’s in Stony Plain and you have no way of getting out to see him unless I give you a ride, and I’m not doing that!” Hazel snapped.

Catherine attempted to interrupt her parents’ argument by turning attention to the matter at hand. “So, I must admit, I’m a tad confused. Mom and dad had told us that they wanted to purchase a condo unit, and it’s marketed that way in all your brochures and on your website, but this paperwork here says it’s a… a life lease? I’m not even sure what that is, but I do know that a lease and a purchase are not the same thing.”

Charlie and Hazel were still arguing, comparing Dr. Ollie now to a doctor they had never even met, but who Hazel was certain had more specialization with seniors than their current doctor on the basis he worked in a seniors residence…as if that somehow qualified him undoubtedly in geriatric medicine.

Catherine was beginning to fluster. She hated feeling ill informed and listening to her parents bicker made her head spin.

“Yes, a life lease is a little different than a straight purchase. With a life lease, you ensure the unit is yours for life, however unlike a purchase, ownership remains with the building provider. It keeps costs down for the purchaser, and the family won’t have to worry about reselling the unit when their parents are no longer around.” The sales agent made a strange face when she spoke the last words. She was young, and obviously a bit uncomfortable talking about such things.

“Right. We wouldn’t have to worry about selling the unit at the end, because my parents wouldn’t own it. You just take their money and us kids are left with nothing. I see how this works.”

“It’s actually a better investment than renting. And what you just said is not entirely…,” the sales agent tried to continue, but Catherine just kept going.

“And I see here you charge something called an entrance fee…and then there’s this other charge here…a pre-lease payment fee…,” Catherine was cut off by the young woman. “We charge that fee because the building is not complete yet, so it secures your unit during the…,” Catherine rudely interrupted again, completely ignoring the woman. “I don’t care! If this isn’t a purchase, we aren’t interested and I think we’d be best leaving.” At that point, Charlie stopped arguing with Hazel and turned his attention to his daughter and the young lady.

“We JUST got here!” Charlie protested. “Have you even listened to anything the sales lady is explaining, or are you once again assuming to know everything? Since when did you become an expert in all this cockadoodle? We let you come with us as a courtesy to your brothers. You are not here to make the decisions for us!”

The agent was doing everything she could to not make eye contact with anyone. There was a great deal of tension in the room.

“We’ve done all our research on life leases, Catherine.” Hazel said all of a sudden and very matter-of-factly. “Your dad and I talked to a real estate lawyer two days ago and he explained how it all works. It’s actually a fantastic option for us. It’s a fairly new thing in Alberta, and has been extremely successful elsewhere. People are finding it cheaper to do this than purchase. Sometimes, you can even get part of your investment back. It also protects us more than if we were renting. But what we liked about it is that it will save us lots of money in comparison to purchasing a two bedroom condo.” Hazel was trying very hard to get through to Catherine, who simply was not willing to even try to understand. “The other great thing is that we can remain in the unit indefinitely if our health care needs don’t change. If they do, then we can move next door to the Long Term Care site.”

Catherine took a breath and realized that perhaps she didn’t know everything. “Ok, let’s take this information back with us, and discuss it as a family. I still don’t feel like I fully understand.” Then she sighed. “I’m only trying to make sure that you are doing the best thing in the long run.”

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Life leasing can be a very viable option for mid-income seniors looking for more affordable options, especially if they are looking to downsize from home ownership. While Catherine does have some valid concerns, Hazel seems to have done her research, particularly around what might happen if their care needs change.

What are your thoughts? Be sure to share them below.

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