The Art of Negotiation: Care Home Fees

Ray Hart, founding director of Valuing Care FM introduces the art of negotiation for care home fees.

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For most expenses in life, we try to negotiate; who doesn’t like to get a good deal?  Some people may be better at it than others, and yet we’ve all had a dabble at some stage or another, be it for a car, a house, or even a hotel room. We all want to receive value for money.

Moving yourself or a loved one into a residential or nursing home is one of the largest financial decisions that people make in their lifetime. Few of us would accept the first quote received for a new car, and yet the majority of self-funders accept the first quote for a care home placement without question.

Many purchases have an element of emotion attached, but probably no more so than when people are faced with choosing a care home for a loved one.  It is a complex sea of emotions, which often arises at a time of crisis.  Hence people make quick, panic decisions.  After all, the last thing on people’s minds is whether a few pounds can be saved.

In reality savings can amount to thousands of pounds.  At £500 per week, the average length of stay in a residential home would total £60,000. Even a £50 per week reduction could save £6,000 over the duration of the placement.

So isn’t it time we started to explore the idea of negotiating care home fees, and leverage the negotiation skills we use for other purchases to this sector?

Brushing up your skills

Most people only go through the process of placing a relative in a care home once or twice in their lifetimes, and have limited understanding of the social care sector.  Self-funders are usually unaware of whether they are receiving value for money and don’t feel confident enough to challenge the fees.  In fact anyone can negotiate, it is no different to trying to agree a better deal with other purchases; the principles are the same.

The first step is to undertake thorough background research, and know the price range for the area. Free comparator tools such as Valuing Care Fees (Click here to download) help here by calculating whether the fee you’ve received is value for money.  Alternatively, you could approach your local council to establish the rate paid to care providers as a benchmark guide.

Be mindful that fees vary widely according to location.  For instance, expect to pay more for care in the South East than perhaps the North East; in a similar fashion as house prices differ. Equally, staffing costs differ widely across the country.  So, if you have an aged and lonely parent, living in a built-up area some distance from you, and in need of full-time residential care, it might make sense to move them to an equidistant or closer area that offers greater tranquillity and lower fees.

Consider the market conditions too; the odds of securing a better deal are greater in a market where supply is high and demand low than vice versa.  The South-West of England is an example of an area with higher demand than supply.  It is a traditional retirement location which may be one of the reasons why market prices there are higher than average.

Furthermore, don’t limit yourself to just one option.  Ensure a broad selection of care homes that meet the needs of the individual and are located in the desired area, appear on your list, and use this as a bargaining point during negotiations.  Consider adding locations near relatives too as this may open up the number of care homes available.  Websites such as have searchable lists of relevant care homes.

Also try to get a sample contract so you know exactly what is being charged for the different elements; in theory it should be possible to view a breakdown of all costs.  For instance, if your relative requires specialist nursing care it may be useful to understand how much the nursing element, such as staffing and equipment, costs on top of the standard residential care.

The next step, once you are equipped with the facts and figures, and know the price you should be paying is to approach the care home manager and negotiate directly.  Care home providers may be more flexible on costs than you envisaged, particularly if you suggest a realistic price.  Remember this is not an aggressive pitch, or a time to alienate people, it’s a time to build relationships.

The goal is to achieve value for money, nobody wants to drive the price so far down that it puts the care home in financial difficulty, so the negotiation needs to conclude in a fair, mutually satisfactory outcome.

Bear in mind also that if the care home is unable to budge on fees, it may be possible to explore other areas and secure extras such as a larger room, a television or private phone in the room, daily newspapers, laundry, and so on.

Not everyone is comfortable with negotiating fees, and in these instances it may be better to turn to an expert for advice, such as a care fees negotiator who can sensitively manage the negotiation on your behalf.

Negotiation impacts all areas of our lives, at home and at work, with colleagues, and family, and even complete strangers.  We have all negotiated at some point, whether we realised it at the time or not.  In a time of austerity, the art of negotiation is a skill that self-funders should certainly master.

Valuing Care Fees Calculator can be downloaded from the iOS App store

Alternatively, it is available online at or

About Valuing Care FM

Valuing Care FM is the market leader in analysing and negotiating value for money costs for care packages.

With extensive experience in purchasing, analysing and negotiating care rates with the independent sector across all aspects and health and social care, the company provides a range of services for both self funders (people looking for care homes for friends and relatives) and purchasing organisations (local authorities looking to purchase care home places):

  • Valuing Care Fees Calculator – a free easy-to-use tool for self funders, available online and via an app, which assesses whether an individual has been quoted a value for money rate for a care home
  • Data and information services – Available for commissioners to help set authority wide care rates and providers to plan and deliver value for money services
  • MyCareCosts –a service for purchasing organisations designed to review the cost of existing care home placements
  • Direct negotiation – manage and negotiate care home fees on behalf of both self funders and purchasing organisations
  • Knowledge sharing workshops – Designed to provide knowledge and tools to help purchasing organisations make better purchasing decisions and negotiations

For further information visit