Is “Visitable” the New “SEX” in Housing?

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Well it SELLS, doesn’t it?  We all know the advertising and marketing mantra “sex sells”.  Some statistics say that 20% of ALL advertising is selling S-E-X nowadays, including everything from vegetable oil, hamburgers, and even internet access.  (seeSexSells-Reebok the link above, but at your own discretion… there’s some racy stuff in those ads!)

So if ramblers (single floor / main floor living) are all the buzz currently related to the real estate agents I know in the Seattle area in regard to what is flying off the market quickest (lower DOM “Days on Market”) and they are going pending first (along with “Master on the Main Floor” designs), then is “visitable” the new “sex”?  Are the two-story developer specs the “granny panties” of housing for the next 3 decades?  Let’s take a look…

There are many angles to look at this question from, and in the end I’m sure there is no true scripted answers that meets a “one size fits all” (pun intended) response to the question of “which sells better or holds it’s value better, a one or two story home”.  So many variables come into play when looking at a home.  Location, price point / range, your own personal situation & needs (family, kids, parents, pets?  yard, transportation, topography, schools?  Lot size, House size, number of bedrooms / baths that fits your own need… etc. etc. – the list is endless.)  But statistically, it does appear that ONE STORY homes are on the rise as the preferred trend.

Visitability is a movement to change home construction practices so that virtually all new homes — not merely those custom-built for occupants who currently have disabilities — offer a few specific features making the home easier for mobility-impaired people to live in and visit.

The Design Goals, in very general concept, are:

  • At least one zero-step entrance approached by an accessible route on a firm surface no steeper than 1:12, proceeding from a driveway or public sidewalk
  • Wide passage doors (to accommodate the use of mobility assistance devices)
  • At least a half bath/powder room on the main floor (bathing ability preferred)

“About 90% of homeowners 45 and older say they want to age in place in their existing home, according to a study by the 50+ Housing Council of the NAHB and the MetLife Mature Market Institute. And by 2020, nearly 45% of households will include someone 55 or older.”

So the subsequent logical question is, “Are builders paying attention?”

Ranch-House-Trendy“In 1973, one-story homes made up 67% of new-home construction. That dropped to 43% in 2006, before reversing course and rising to 46% in 2011”, said Stephen Melman, director of economic services for the National Association of Home Builders, citing Census Bureau information.

Wow, that’s GREAT… maybe they ARE starting to notice!  When I spoke at the Washington State BIAW conference last fall, only 2 of the 30+ people in our “50+ Forum” session were builders (new construction) vs. remodelers, so I’m glad to see this statistical change!  I’m still concerned it isn’t high enough, fast enough, to keep up… but I digress.

Any home, when compared to the cost of CCRC facilities (like assisted living or a nursing home) is worth remodeling to create a successful “Aging in Place” scenario for you or your family / loved ones.  If you need to take bedroom 3 or 4 and create the space for an elevator (if your master bedroom / bath are on the 2nd floor), even if it costs $30-50,000 (costs vary due to existing conditions of houses and location, elevator size and style, etc.) to design and install one, that would be a “break even” in LESS THAN A YEAR when you consider the typical $5-8,000 per MONTH that it would cost NOT to redesign your home, fall and be injured, and end up in a CCRC setting.  Not to mention it was, in that scenario, not your PLAN for your housing solution.  Now what if that elevator (or UD – “Universal Design” kitchen, or zero-threshold shower, or new ramp that replaces the exterior stairs) can keep you in your OWN HOME for another 5, 10, 15 years?  That is a SERIOUS R.O.I. (Return on Investment) where, as we explain in our presentation, “Spending a dime NOW can save you a DOLLAR later”.  It just MAKES SENSE to PLAN.

The vast majority of us would prefer to remain in our own homes and communities as long as possible. That takes PLANNING.  If you don’t, decisions get made for you, in PANIC MODE, by family members, sometimes from across the country.  That doesn’t sound like Empowering Housing solutions designed BY YOU for YOU and YOUR FUTURE.

That is why, as an Architect, a “Certified Aging in Place Specialist”, and a national authorAgeFriendly-CoupleOnBench / speaker on the subject, we passionately share this message with the public all the time.  We want you to be EMPOWERED.  We want you and your family to SUCCEED in this new 1/3 of life longevity we have ahead of us for the first time.

The “Silver Tsunami” of Boomers is here, and the demographic and population statistics are going places we’ve never been as percentages… and those new stats of more older people than younger people is HERE TO STAY.  Housing needs to change to accommodate this.  Design needs to change.  Thinking needs to change.  Healthcare and collaborative solutions need to change.  Silos need to come down, professionals need to come together.  Urban planning and neighborhood design needs to change.  WE NEED CHANGE, to succeed at “Aging in Place” in the decades ahead.

Are YOU ready to PLAN your FUTURE?

Image Credits:
Reebok Ad – 
Rambler House –

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