Buying & Selling Homes

Senior Moment: Boost Home Value by Enabling Independent Living

Kaldewei's oversize, floor-level shower responds to the "universal design" trend.

Not much has been guaranteed in the housing industry in the past seven years, but there's one trend that is sure to reinforce the market value: the aging population.

Baby boomers will live longer than prior generations and are expected to insist on staying put in their houses, but it will cost them: their single biggest expense, housing will claiming 35% of retirees' budgets.

Properties whose amenities and design let seniors live independently will become increasingly more marketable as boomers downshift into their final homes. It's almost like an annuity for home equity.

But cashing in on retirees' needs means more than one-floor living and grab bars in bathrooms. The Center for Housing Policy's new report “Housing an Aging Population” outlines key characteristics that you can integrate into your house to increase its appeal for retirees.

Low maintenance costs. Fixed incomes erode, and the looming Social Security crisis has many retirees and pre-retirees worried. Features that minimize carrying and maintenance costs will be major selling points. That means energy efficiency, easy-care finishes, updated systems, and sturdy entrances.

Broadband connectivity. Single seniors will increasingly rely on email, texting, and emergency notification systems, not to mention long-distance health monitoring communications. The internet is more than entertainment-it's a lifeline.

Public transit. A home located near easy, reliable transit will enable an elderly owner to maintain car-free independence. When seniors with sight and mobility impairments can get to grocery stores, meetings, and medical appointments via public transit, the location of the house minimizes their transportation expenses.

Universal design. A quarter of all retiree households include a member with a disability. Universal design such as no-threshold shower stalls enable wheelchairs to roll in, while simply looking modern and convenient to all buyers. Extra-wide halls and doorways allow for assisted mobility. Plenty of kitchen drawers make it easier to access cooking gear. If you are renovating or building from scratch, add structural reinforcements, so that extra-strong handrails can be added later. And be sure to include blueprints that show these features in home marketing materials.

For more on home resale, consider:

Money Matters Monday: Every Home's a Stage
The Language of Listings: Words to Sell By
Fee for All: How to Keep More Equity