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Real estate for retirees

16:32 13/12/2013
With real estate agencies focused on working professionals, retired expats find themselves under-served.

The bulk of Brussels’ expat community is here to work, be it for European institutions, international NGOs, multinationals or Belgian businesses. So it’s only natural that the bulk of expat-oriented real estate services is targeted to this demographic, whose professional requirements present certain opportunities. (This is, after all, one of the best salaried slices of the capital’s population pie) as well as certain challenges. Brussels working professionals generally seek digs that are well-situated, pre-furnished and short-term.

Not everybody leaves town once their contract is up, however. Some expats stay on even after their working days are done. It’s neither Florida nor Spain but, yes, many expats retire and remain in Belgium. This is an area that public authorities address as a matter of course but private enterprise neglects, no doubt in favour of the big money.

That said, although municipal, district, regional and national governments provide information and support (Websenior, for example, is a comprehensive internet resource), their programmes are tailored to local constituencies who have different experiences and needs.

This oversight was noticed by six retired expats, who pooled their strength and formed the Brussels Retired Expatriates Group. Brats’ primary focus is estate planning and end-of-life issues but its members have also researched residence, leisure and health-care issues. Their project yielded the book Retiring in Belgium: A Guide for Expats, which was published last year and is available at the English bookshop Waterstones.

There is still a great need for private, expat-oriented agencies to provide listings for retiree-friendly properties. For the moment, the City of Brussels, which prides itself on being one of the World Health Organization’s “age-friendly cities”, offers an online Senior Service. This is perhaps the best up-to-the-minute resource for information, including a list of retirement residences.

The international online database www.retirementhomes.com allows users to filter searches according to specific criteria such as lifestyle and care type. Its Belgian listings are extensive, but individual entries are often incomplete and unverified.

Written by Georgio Valentino