Living Choice is a retirement specialist with a well-earned reputation for building quality retirement villages in premier locations across the country. “Our retirement villages are more like lifestyle resorts,” says Graham Hobbs, Director. “We invite you to explore our website www.livingchoice.com.au to see how Living Choice is setting new standards in retirement living.”
Hobbs co-owns Living Choice with his business partner, Ian Tregoning. The company as a whole was established in 1992, and the pair got involved in late 2003. Prior to joining Living Choice, they had been primarily involved in hospitality business ventures and hotel investments. Their first exposure to the retirement living market occurred in 2000, when they acquired a village in Sydney.
“We thought we’d get further wet,” Hobbs recounts. “We dipped our toe in the water with that village, and acquired some business expertise in relation to retirement village operation. Then we decided to expand that part of our business.”
After some initial inquiries, Hobbs and Tregoning came across Living Choice. They were attracted to the company because it had a portfolio of assets that suited their expertise, and had a mix of established villages and development opportunities that they could pursue and complete. Indeed, since they came on board, all of Living Choice’s villages have become much more advanced and developed.
Living Choice stands apart in the marketplace for a number of reasons. Near the top of that list is the company’s ownership structure. Despite how large it is in terms of developments, only two people – Hobbs and Tregoning – own and operate it. “There are not many retirement village companies of our size that have such a small privately owned structure. I think that’s what makes us unique,” Hobbs says.
The company has also been able to keep its financing strong, which certainly sets it apart. “We have about 1200 developed independent living units, with considerably more in the pipeline,” Hobbs says. “We’ve been able to simply rely on our own financing to continue development, whereas there’s been significant consolidation in the industry and some of that consolidation has been caused by an inability to finance new projects.”
Living Choice employs a large number of staff members, a count that includes both contractors and employees. Each village alone has a staff that includes managers, carers, gardeners, maintenance people, nurses, and more. When it comes to the employee-company relationship, Hobbs describes it as caring and concerned. That’s important, he says, because having a happy staff is an important part of making their residents happy.
“The employees know that their employers are concerned for their welfare, and their employers continually challenge them to improve and enhance the life experience of our residents,” he explains. “I think that’s probably reflected in the high degree of resident satisfaction that we register at our villages.”
The other important factor to having a close relationship with residents, explains Hobbs, is constant communication. By establishing a sense of mutual trust between the residents and the owners, they ensure residents can appreciate that the village’s success is also their own success.
“If we’re able to run a successful village, then that improves the value of the single most important asset that they have, which is their independent living unit within the village,” Hobbs says. “That’s something that we particularly stress with our residents – we really aren’t at opposite ends of the spectrum and we’re not in competition with each other. We’re really in this as a joint business venture,” he adds. “It’s very much in our interests to meet the satisfaction level of our residents because that in turn enhances our bottom line. Happy residents mean referrals of new residents to our villages and that keeps our occupancy rate at high levels.”
An exciting future
In addition to continually enhancing their established villages, Living Choice has plans to develop further sites. In that arena, Hobbs says there are two particularly exciting ventures in the works. One is a village in Adelaide, called Living Choice Fullarton. There they have approval to build a six-level retirement village close to the city, with excellent views across the city and hills.
“It’s a 5-star facility and we believe that it sets us apart from any other competitive model, particularly in Adelaide. We’re marketing that village at the moment,” Hobbs says. So far, Living Choice Fullarton has proven to be very successful, and Hobbs and Tregoning have been pleasantly surprised with the demand. “That’s the first major development in which we hope to start turning the soil within the next three months,” he says.
The second major development in the pipeline is on a site on the Sunshine Coast, in an area called Sunshine Cove. Living Choice has acquired a six hectare site there and has proposed to build a vertical retirement village which encompasses aged care facilities. They see that as being of “an up-market style.”
“The next 20 years are going to very exciting for the retirement village industry,” Hobbs concludes. “The demographics show that a very significant portion of Australia’s population will be our target market. We’re fully anticipating that there will be and continue to be a significant demand for the type of product that we have.”
Meeting that demand will involve a continual policy of improvement, where they will be consistently upgrading their facilities to ensure they meet contemporary standards. “That’s an ongoing process that most retirement village companies have to embrace,” Hobbs says. “We’re happy to meet that challenge, and any other challenges that arise.”