Some baby boomers are reluctant to remodel their homes to add wide hallways or curbless showers, but thinking ahead about these “universal design” features can help seniors who want to age in place, and contractors who do home remodeling are hoping to get a large piece of the action, says a Bloomberg Businessweek article.
Features designed to make homes more accessible for seniors aging in place do not have to give off a sterile, hospital environment, the article says. Designers and contractors are combining practical features such as enhanced lighting and ramps with modern, sleek design elements. Contractors who can effectively incorporate seniors’ needs into an aesthetically pleasing design can benefit from boomers who are often in a good financial situation to pay for these upgrades and remodels, according to Bloomberg.
“There are incremental things that can be done to improve a home, not giving it a medicinal environment but making it an open, sunny, low-maintenance place where life is easy for everyone,” says Deborah Pierce, Newton architect and principal at Pierce Lamb Architects.
Older, established homeowners are also often better able to foot the bill for upgrades, says Sal Alfano, editorial director of Remodeling, a business magazine directed at professional contractors. “Boomers with higher incomes and home values often pay cash for these projects,” he says. “As they continue into retirement, a significant percentage are going to want to update their homes and make them trendy. It looks like they are set for one final remodeling binge over the next 10 to 15 years.”
Adding universal design elements to new construction and remodel jobs does not have to break the bank. “It’s not necessarily exorbitant, unless you’re adding something huge like an elevator, which can run $30,000,” Alfano says. “The challenge for the contractor is to help customers define priorities and perhaps phase things in.” For instance, clients replacing showers may not want grab bars immediately, but they can put blocking in place while walls are open to accommodate bars eventually. They may not need open space under a kitchen sink to allow for wheelchair access, but they can remodel cabinets to allow for that space in 10 or 15 years.
Contractors aware of these priorities are in a better position to win new jobs. “If I can hold myself out as an expert who can offer sound advice on a homeowners’ future needs, I appear to be a stronger candidate in a clients’ eyes,” Alfano says. “That can make all the difference, particularly in this really competitive environment.”
Read the full article here.
Written by Erin Hegarty
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