“We Need To Help People Have Homes That Suit Them Rather Than Future Owners”

As aging in place specialists, our emphasis needs to be helping people – both with and without conditions that affect how well they can use their homes and move about within them – to get the most from their homes now. We need to move their focus off of how well some unknown future owner may like something they are thinking of doing and get them to consider how it will make their lives better currently.
As such, there has been a major paradigm shift in how homeowners view improvements to their homes. Until fairly recently, people would consider whether remodeling their kitchen or bath, modernizing their bedroom, finishing the basement, adding a pool, or enclosing the carport would mean money in their pocket when it came time to sell.
People often sought ways to make their homes more appealing to the next owner than to themselves. While they might get a couple of years of enjoyment out of the improvements or renovations they were contemplating and then having completed, the main concern was how much such projects would directly impact the value of their homes through what they might realize in profit when it came time to sell.
People were willing to undertake a major investment in their home if they thought that a planned improvement would bring even more money when the home was sold. Of course, not all improvements needed to be a significant expenditure, but people sought advice on just what they did need to spend and which improvements would generate the most interest among future buyers.
Again, the idea was making the home ready to sell – as an investment – rather than how to make it more livable and desirable for the present. While people were able to derive some satisfaction out of the improvements they were making, the changes were primarily done as a way of adding value to the home.
Choices of colors, finishes, design, and layout were done with the specific intent of appealing to the potential home buyer who might be interested in living in that type of home or that neighborhood at some not-so-distant future date. Sometimes, there would only be a very brief time between the completion of the project and putting the home on the market – meaning the owners and their households got little benefit from living with the benefit of those improvements.
Now, this thought process has shifted. While people are still interested in what additional value they might be adding to their home when they consider making improvements to their living space, they are more concerned with how it will enable them to live more safely and comfortably in their home than in how much more inherent value it might be adding.
Homes definitely will increase in value with the addition of more visitable improvements, the use of universal design components, and adding many safety-oriented aging-in-place improvements. It’s just that the reason these changes are being done is to allow people to remain in their homes rather than getting them ready to sell and then cashing out and moving on.
Unless improvements are being done to accommodate a specific need or condition, the changes being accomplished to make the homes safer, more enjoyable, and more usable will be appreciated by the people living in them now as well as potential future occupants. Additionally, the homes will be more marketable to a wider audience because they now have the ability to appeal to a much broader cross-section of people in the market.
This paradigm shift is real. It’s not absolute – not everyone is approaching home improvements this way, but many people are. It’s a matter of perspective, with the prevailing attitude until recently being what improvements could be made (even if the current occupants didn’t really like or desire them) to bring more money at the time of sale. Now, it’s making homes more desirable for the foreseeable future, and that generally is allowing them to be more desirable to future buyers as well.
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