How to Score Free Stuff at Retirement Communities

In case you missed it the first time, here are some thoughts on negotiating the best deal at a CCRC:
I recently listened to a Planet Money interview with former Harvard professor Gary Loveman, who is now the CEO of Caesar’s Casino in Las Vegas.  Although the interview covers a number of different topics, there was something he said about getting “perks” that I found applicable to seniors housing.

In Loveman’s casino, the cost of providing benefits to consumers varies.  For instance, giving visitors a free meal at the casino’s five-star restaurant costs almost as much as the meal itself, but giving a free hotel room for the night costs a fraction of the price that most guests pay.  In other words, consumers are much more likely to get free services if those services are inexpensive for the hotel to provide.

In senior housing, there are a number of incentive programs designed to get seniors in the door.  These include free rent, apartment upgrades, and others.  As the economy worsens, these deals are likely to get even sweeter. If you’re in the market for an apartment at a senior housing community, consider some of the other benefits that you might be able to negotiate into your move-in cost:

Meals.  Sort of like how it’s cheaper to cook for a family than it is to cook for one person, it’s much cheaper for senior living communities to make your breakfast, lunch and dinner, than it is for you to make it yourself.  For instance, while it might cost you $10 to prepare a nice meal (not to mention cleaning the kitchen afterwards), it probably only costs the community about $4 to make the exact same thing.

Covered parking. In most communities, half of the parking spaces are already covered.  They typically charge an extra $35 to $40 a month for you to park in these spots, with the uncovered ones being “included” with your rent.  Since it costs the community almost nothing to provide this service, communities are likely to provide several months or even a year of free covered parking in an effort to get someone to sign a contract.

Linen service or washer/dryer.  Most communities offer some sort of laundry or linen service, but they often charge service beyond the basic once a month cleaning.  Also, some older communities do not offer washer and dryers as standard amenities in their apartments.  Depending on the community, you might be able to negotiate either an apartment that has been renovated to include the hookups or additional laundry service as part of your rent.

For new communities, consider asking for upgrades like free customized closets, stainless steel appliances, or a customized office space.  In these situations, there are already contractors on site.  Therefore, the cost of adding these amenities is very low.  If nothing else, you might be able to get a discount on these amenities.

During the negotiations, your main goal should be to find a product or service that would mean quite a bit to you and that they can provide at low cost to them.  You may not always be able to get them to agree to provide the benefit, but it can’t hurt to try.  Additionally, in this economy, most providers will do whatever they can to fill their apartments.  They want you to move in, and most will do what it takes to seal the deal.