Home construction is an exciting field. Taking a raw piece of land and turning it into a place that someone can live and remain in long-term, if they so desire, is an amazing achievement. The building doesn’t get there on its own. There are dozens of people involved at the scene and many more times that number behind the scenes in architect’s studios, law firms, warehousing, manufacturing plants, trucking, and other aspects of creating the successful residence.
In its simplest form, new home construction is pure free enterprise. A builder or developer sees a piece of property – possibly looking nothing at the time like the way it is envisioned after completion – and decides that it can be fashioned and retooled into a very desirable place for dozens or hundreds (depending on its size and the type of dwellings that are created) of people and families to live and enjoy as their home.
Once the initial work of deciding on a piece of raw property (farmland or pasture, parking lot, unused warehouse or factory building, infill urban redevelopment area, mobile home park, some other type of residential use that can be changed, declining motel or hotel property, abandoned airstrip, or vacant land never developed), the builder or developer begins analyzing how that property can be transformed into a saleable residential venture. Early in the process, when there is some indication that it can work, the builder or developer enters into an agreement with the owner to purchase the property.
A series of meetings, tests, renderings, and other behind the scenes work unfolds before the builder or developer closes on the property (or walks away from it) and begins to market it in earnest. Target market, sales price, features, amenities, competition, demand, and many other factors and variables will have been considered before putting a “Coming Soon” sign on the property.
Once the new venture has cleared all of its hurdles (the builder or developer giving it a thumbs-up, the local government passing the site plan along with zoning or other requirements, and any other prelaunch conditions being met), the property can begin to take shape as the new residential or mixed-use community it will become.
That is truly exciting, but new homes aren’t for everyone for many reasons. Someone may have a home they like and that they want to remain in (the essence of aging in place), it may not be the location that they want, the price point may not match what they desire or what they can reasonably afford, and the amenity package may be less or more than what they are looking for in a location in which to live and remain.
Builders can’t know in advance what the physical characteristics or personal preferences will be for each prospective new homeowner – unless it is a custom home built just for that customer. Therefore, new homes, as great as they are, will only appeal to certain parts of the homebuying population, irrespective of targeted demographics or market segments.
This brings us to remodeling – fashioning an existing home into something more functional, desirable, useful, or advantageous for the current occupants of a home. Since this is National Remodeling Month anyway, this is a great time to contrast new home construction with remodeling. Often the same basic trades that work on a new home can be utilized in remodeling a home to meet someone’s mobility, sensory, cognitive, or general aging needs. The key difference is that the home doesn’t need to have general marketplace appeal but only needs to meet the specific requirements of the occupants of that home.
In remodeling – especially that done for aging in place solutions – we are interested in keeping people in their present home (indefinitely) and having that home be safe, comfortable, accessible, and enjoyable. It is not being created for an unknown buyer that might come along, and it is not necessarily taking into consideration the needs of a future owner. It is being done for the present and for the anticipated needs of the people in this household.
Going from the generic or the general to the specific is empowering because we only have to serve one client and get it right for them – no one else. We know (or should learn) going into the project what the needs are of the client and other members of their household and how to address them effectively based on such factors as their ability and needs, the age and condition of the home, and their budget.