How to Create a Forever Home with High Resale Value

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There’s a common misconception that senior-friendly, forever home, age in place home renovations will decrease property resale value and yield no return on investment (ROI). In some cases it could reduce value, but if done right, tremendous value now and at resale can be realized.  

Before making any home renovations, most people want to know if the modifications they plan will be a good return on investment (ROI). Many people believe that home modifications designed to help an older person continue living independently in their home would not yield positive ROI and even decrease resale value.

Home modifications helpful to all

I firmly believe that most remodeling done to make a home more functional for the needs of an older adult has benefits for ALL people.  A home renovated with Universal Design concepts and aesthetic value in mind has tremendous value to a wide array of potential home buyers. 

Consider these examples:

  • Open concept living spaces
  • First floor bedroom and bathroom
  • Good lighting
  • No step entrance 
  • Elevator 
  • Kitchen with countertops of various heights 
  • Shower without a step to enter

A home having these features would attract most potential buyers, not just Baby Boomers.  Anyone of any age who is forward-thinking and plans to live in the home for many years and possibly forever, will find great benefit in these types of modifications.  The upgrades will make living there easier as well as assist guests and visitors.

Senior-friendly homes in high demand, but short supply

Properties with senior friendly features are going to be in even higher demand in the coming decades.  According to the 2010 US Census, households with people age 65 or over will increase by nearly 75% from 2010 to 2030.  Demand for homes with universal design and age in place readiness is going to be very strong for the foreseeable future. 

With demand comes increased value. The resale value of universally designed homes is going to rise as the Baby Boomers compete to purchase this small stock of homes.  Younger people who are educated and want a “forever home” will also see the value of a house that is more comfortable, convenient, efficient, and safe at any stage of life.  Homes with attractive AND universal features that appeal to a wide array of potential buyers are and will be a hot commodity. 

Few homes are accessible and age in place ready

Most homes are not ready for a senior to safely age in place.  This is why new retirement communities are springing up almost everywhere.  Current senior housing developments are expanding as fast as they can. The need for accessible and affordable homes for the swelling Baby Boomer population far exceeds the supply.  Demand is rising sharply and much faster than units can be built. 

But not every older person wants to live in a retirement community… least not yet.  The cost of a retirement community is also prohibitive for many.  Most people want to live in a convenient home for as long as possible and are looking for features to support this choice. They may not be buying because they need these features right now, but it’s a good insurance plan for the future if and when the need for increased accessibility arises.

According to the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies Aging in Place Report of 2015, most of the current housing stock doesn’t even have the most basic accessibility features  including:

  • At least one no step entrance to the first level  
  • Bedroom and bathroom on the first level 

The presence of these elements doesn’t mean that a person could actually access the bedroom and bath unless hallways and doorways are wide enough to fit through with a walker or wheelchair.  

I am a home health Physical Therapist who has visited hundreds of different homes. I can confidently tell you that very few houses, either older or newly built, have the necessary accessibility features that are and will continue to be in such high demand.  

I see a lot of homes where renovations and modifications were done as an afterthought.  In some cases, this is necessary for time or cost.  These homes generally look more institutional or hospital-like and the modifications don’t usually blend in well with the decor.  These modifications may not appeal to most buyers and may ultimately decrease home value.  In these situations, it is wise to consider whether some modifications should be removed prior to listing the home for sale.  

Property value variability & considerations

A home modification that yields no additional property value in one location may increase it significantly elsewhere.  There are many factors at play.

  • Current home value 
  • Neighborhood home values 
  • Overall housing market in the area (eg. a hot versus stagnant market)
  • Time from renovation until selling the property 
  • Quality of the renovation projects
  • Aesthetic appearance of the modifications

Consulting with several local realtors to discuss the above topics will give you a much better idea whether the remodeling you are considering will increase, decrease or maintain property value. Installing a $50,000 elevator in a home that is worth $200,000 will certainly not yield the same return as in a home worth $800,000.  

Kitchen & bath remodeling ROI

According to Renovation Magazine, in a hot housing market, a kitchen and bath remodel can have a return on investment (ROI) of almost 100%.  Kitchen and baths are the rooms where most people spend a lot of time so they become the focus of buyers.  They are also the rooms that usually require the most renovation for the home to become age in place ready. 

Kitchens and baths also tend to be the most expensive rooms to remodel.  Plumbing, electrical and cabinetry costs can add up quickly.  This is why doing your research, knowing what elements will make your home work well for you and what different cost saving options are available will be critical. It will take some time and effort but the financial payoff can be huge. 

When home modifications are planned well in advance of when they are actually needed, they may result in a more thorough, attractive and financially beneficial outcome.  If you wait until a crisis occurs, such as when someone has a stroke, the planning will need to be done quickly so there is less chance that the project will be well researched.  

Personal vs resale value

Perhaps you are not very concerned with your home’s resale value.  For some, finances are not an issue. People who find tremendous personal value in being able to continue living in the home they love for as long as possible, are also not as worried about home resale value.  Saving potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars as compared to moving to a retirement community, may be the financial incentive someone is seeking.   

Everyone’s situation and motivation is different.  Luckily, for those on a budget, there are many building, decorating, fixture, and appliance choices available today so finding attractive age friendly elements for a home is easier than it has ever been.  These products are becoming more readily available and affordable to average homeowners and local contractors, not just reserved for high-end architects and designers.

Functional + attractive modification = ROI & increased property value

I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t want a really well functioning home.  Almost all potential home buyers will appreciate functional features that are beautiful and blend in well with the rest of the decor. The shortage of senior friendly homes combined with sharply rising demand will increase the likelihood of increasing property value.  

Again, before making any home renovation decisions, it’s always a good idea to talk to a local realtor to see what buyers in your area are looking for.  Combine what buyers are seeking and your personal needs and preferences to produce a win-win situation! 

About the Author

As a home health Physical Therapist for over 20 years, I help clients solve home dilemmas so they can live their best life.

I'm here to use that same problem-solving expertise and training as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help you create an optimized home that's forward-thinking and future-ready to support you and your loved ones well for a lifetime.

Ready to discover your Golden Girl strategy for a retirement-ready home?