Accessibility Features in a Rental Property

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Baby Boomers are quickly approaching retirement age, and with that change the United States is seeing a rise in the elderly population that will only continue for the next twenty years or more. 

As a result, we are entering a time then when accessibility features may actually increase the value of your home

Rising Demand for Accessibility

The Population Reference Bureau indicates that “the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise from 16 percent to 23 percent.” 

Combine that with the fact that 72% of homeowners over the age of 65 have indicated they want to remain in their home in their old age, and you  can expect a continuing increase  in the demand for  housing  with accessibility features for the near future. In fact, market thus suggests that desire for accessible homes will only rise over the next 40 years.  

Demand is increased by the growing number of children who are taking elderly family members into their own homes.The Panel Survey of Income Dynamics shows a 20 percent rise between 1988 and 2007 in the number of middle-aged women (who tend to be caregivers for the elderly) who had both a child and a parent under their care.  

Additionally, because Boomers are more likely to have divorced than other generations, there is a higher percentage of elderly men and women who live alone and may eventually need their child as a caregiver.  

Universal Design Benefits Accessibility

When thinking of renovating your home for accessibility, many people make standard modifications such as ramps for wheelchair access, widening doorways to 36 inches, installing grab bars near toilets and showers, and lowering light switches.  While these features can be value added changes to your home, there’s a whole additional world of accessibility renovations that can increase resale value.

 “Universal design” has become the term for fashionable new features that make sense not just for the elderly or disabled, but also for any homeowner.  

Thresholds that are even with the floor, for example, create easier wheelchair access, but also reduce tripping hazards for any homeowner.  Additionally, lever door handles and rocker light switches are designed for easier use and are actually a popular trend in today’s homes.  Even increased size of door openings fit well into the continued popularity of the open floor plans of today’s homes (and who hasn’t had trouble fitting some piece of furniture through a door?).  And because wheelchairs move more easily on harder floors, that change to hardwood or tile isn’t just an upgrade; it’s universal design.

Accessibility features in a living room.

You should also consider the number of innovative technological features, such as automatic faucets and lighting, that have become the cutting edge of home design.  These “new age” features not only make the home more accessible, but also create added benefit in energy savings.  

Features designed to protect those who are frail or absent-minded are just as likely to protect, say, children.  Induction stoves, for example, only heat the metal of the pan, so users are less likely to burn themselves on a burner left on, nor is the fire hazard nearly as high.

Weighing Your Accessibility Options

We are moving toward a period where accessibility is in demand.  Single story houses are already in higher demand than the market can support.  

In fact, according to one realty company’s survey exploring accessibility features, 55 percent responded they sought  at least one bedroom on the main floor, and 39 percent added they’d like wider hallways and grab bars in the bathroom.  That’s demand!

If you are considering adding accessibility features to your home and are trying to decide if it’s a good investment, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. 

First is what we’ve already covered: do the features I add offer use beyond that of accessibility?  Large walk-in shower with lipless entry are all the rage in home design and can be fitted with removable benches for the elderly.  

Accessibility features in a bathroom

There are so many wonderful accessibility options today that don’t even have to be built in.  Lift chairs, shower seats, and even rails can now be installed with either no impact on the structure of your home, or only some small amount of installation that is easily reversible.

With that being said, the second thing you might consider is how easily reversible your renovations are should a potential home-buyer want to change them.  Lowered light switches (for wheelchair accessibility), for example, can be reset at a fairly low cost while lowered countertops and sinks will be more expensive to reverse.  

Finally, you will want to consider the demand for accessibility in your area.  In the Midwest, for example, accessibility features may increase your  home’s value since that area’s market is defined by elderly homeowners whose kids have moved away. On the other hand, if you live in a starter home neighborhood where young families tend to buy, accessibility features may not increase home value.

In Conclusion: Are Accessibility Features Worth the Investment?

There’s no reason today, with the rise of universal design, that you can’t create an accessible home that is comfortable for all ages and is also a wise investment.  Modifications to a home that are completed tastefully and in tune with the overall decor of the house can increase value, particularly if you find the right buyer.  Research suggests that buyers 35-55 are in the prime range to see universal design features as a boon.  So assess your needs, investigate the best ways to incorporate your desires, understand your area’s market, and create a home that will suit you and appeal to a future buyer when the time comes to sell your home.

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