While this is still important, the emphasis has shifted. Adding to value generally happens with an improvement anyway, but rather than focus on the economic aspect of any improvements, remodeling projects are being considered and envisioned for use.
Allowing people to remain in their homes - at any age - is our concern as aging in place professionals. We know that there are many potential improvements that can be done to a property that are going to enhance accessibility regardless of what it means to the home's value. The value will follow, but the improvements lead the way. Contrast this with the idea of considering which improvements produce the highest yield or return on investment, whether the homeowner actually desired them or not.
We are looking at people determining - often with our help - what can enhance the use of their home rather than just looking at what the real estate marketplace desires. There's a concern also as to just how homogeneous the real estate market is.
Some people desire eat-in kitchens, some like carpeted floors, some prefer hardwood or other easy maintenance, hard-surface flooring such as tile, some must have a bathtub for personal use or for children, and others don't need or care if a bathtub comes with the home.
All that said, how can we suggest and make improvements that enhance the use of the home and add to the value at the same time? Physical improvements to a home generally are going to enhance the property value, but there is not a schedule that can be reviewed of what spending a dollar in a specific area of the home will mean in terms of future resale value. Also, real estate is local so what applies in one area may not be true in another.
Current thinking largely is looking at how the home can be improved to enhance access mobility or other aging in place concerns, and if it happens to increase the value of the home at the same time, that's an added benefit. Notice the paradigm shift from one of doing an improvement - not even a necessary desired one - just to enhance the potential selling price of a home versus making renovations to allow people to function more effectively in their living space.
It's possible that the outcome will be the same - that doing an aging in place improvement such as remodeling the kitchen, entrance, flooring, of shower space will dramatically increase the value of a home. This is particularly true for older structures. Consider what adding an elevator might do both for current usage needs and for future value.
When someone contacts us or meets with us and begins the conversation with what the improvements will mean for the value of the home, we should redirect the conversation to what their current needs are. Home values will follow, but addressing needs comes first. Even for someone interested only in improving their value without any real need for addressing physical concerns, we can still design renovations with a universal or visitable appeal that accomplished both - improving the space and appealing to a wider audience.
Aging in place renovations and improvements have the benefit of addressing current needs and the added plus of appealing to a future audience (meaning potentially higher resale value) unless they are specific accessible improvements that don't carry the market appeal of general accessibility, safety, comfort, convenience or other types of improvements.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master 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. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.