Monday, May 16, 2016

"Let's Be Careful That We Don't Scare Consumers Into Non-Action On Renovations"

As aging-in-place professionals, we need to guard against consumers being unduly influenced by articles and news releases that scare them. In reading these articles about aging-in-place solutions, they easily can get the wrong impression that the work needed to enhance their living space is too expensive and too intense for them to consider. As a result, they do nothing or they end up moving - both contrary to the objective we seek.

The articles are probably not intended to be scary - likely thought to be realistic - but they are mostly over-the-top. Telling people that they need to plan on spending up to $40,000 for a bathroom remodel - without ever seeing what they have now, the relative condition and age of it, what they require in terms of a viable space, and what their physical needs are - is irresponsible.

You'll recall from the CAPS training that we want to refrain from giving high estimates when we don't know exactly what needs to be done. This is precisely what is being done in these articles that are becoming more prevalent online and in-print. While the thought might be that people want an indication of what a remodel might entail, a large 5-figure number will do nothing but scare them unless they are living in a large, fairly expensive home already and have a significant income or savings account.

While it is true that a $40,000 or more investment when compared to upwards of $100,000 annually to move into a retirement center or nursing home is a bargain, it still has to be framed properly and make sense. Just presented as a supposedly authoritative number that someone might spend on a renovation is a major disconnect with consumers that need our services and have a more modest budget in mind (if they have even given any thought about what something might cost). They might only need to spend a tenth of that. We'd have to evaluate each case to determine what is needed and how extensive it is.

Seeing big numbers like this is a little like someone reading that they need to plan on spending $30,000 for a new car. Do new cars run this much? Yes, and even more. Can a new car be obtained for less? Yes to that also. How about a well-maintained used car? Even less. So, that number means nothing until we know what our customers want to achieve - in purchasing a car or in contemplating a renovation.

The real danger is not in telling someone that a potential renovation might cost that much - when it really might be, based on our assessment and evaluation - it's that there is no way for someone to make intelligent plans for their future well-being based on a number just floated out there without any context.

When consumers who need our services, but may be quite budget-conscious about undertaking them, read that a large expenditure might be required - without ever comparing or relating that number to what they actually need or require - they may just shut down and determine not to make any changes. They rationalize that they can't afford them and that they have been managing OK so far.

Consumers have a lot to process when it comes to changes they might need or require and then who to use to make it happen and how to pay for it. They might be some price reluctance, and when there is, we need to know how to shift gears and get the absolute minimum done with people. We can't let price be a reason for people coping with unsafe or unhealthy conditions.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.