Features such as pull-away faucets and sitting areas in the laundry, vanity areas and in the kitchen, where people can sit while cooking or preparing foods, are examples of how comfort can enhance the home “experience.” Special lighting such as multi-task, automatic sensor and natural day lighting are important, too, because they can reduce physical and mental strain while enhancing safety and security. Peace of mind is a coveted experience that, once achieved, becomes a priceless comfort.
Can everyone enter and move through major living areas of your homes without having to manage stairs or surface elevation changes? Provide the “experience” with step-free entries, a multi-generational kitchen and an owners’ suite on the main floor with a spa-like spacious bathroom large enough and maneuverable enough to accommodate a caregiver, if needed.
Open space with clear vision lines will also bring ample maneuverability not only for buyers who may require walkers or wheelchairs over time, but also for visiting family members with baby carriages.
Do your homes offer improved ergonomic access through reduced stepping, bending, climbing, reaching, lifting and carrying? Are you providing cabinetry and appliances that can be easily reached by all users, whatever their height? Is each leg of your kitchen triangle useable by grandparents, parents and kids — and less than nine feet long so it eliminates extra steps?
Can appliances and fixtures be used by all based on their placement or type? Pop-open windows with crank handles keep things within reach. Raised washers, dryers and dishwashers eliminate some bending. Provide moving drawers, shelves and carts for convenience, too.
Since baby boomers will have more leisure time and want to reinvent themselves, include spaces for this challenge. A well designed home promotes multiple uses and flex space can be shared by various family members as well as guests. For instance, consider a family studio with open knee space beneath or within cabinetry for seated activities, lowered sinks and work surfaces, and built in components so customers can manage a home business or do crafts.
Raise the bar for what your home owners will come to expect. Creativity is implementing standard items in new ways — adjustable closet rods, pop-up electrical outlets on counter surfaces and recessed storage.
Home buyers have hundreds of options from which to choose — and these options will become increasingly popular if they allow the buyers to live out their evolving life “experiences.” Through greater connectivity with family, friends and even re-discovering themselves, home buyers will devote leisure time to enhancing their lifestyles with these features. They will make their lives easier, healthier and more flexible and entertaining while they “grow” into retirement. Expand your options list often and they will marvel at the selection and want what their neighbors have — or more.
Help your home buyers live life to the fullest, without the hassle of maintenance, adaptation and bother. They want homes for a lifetime. And, since they are so choosy, they may even want two or three homes to suit their expanding lives. Choice has no boundaries.
Identify Their Needs So They Can Age in Place
If you are ready to sell to this targeted market, plan to identify their needs and build homes that will allow them to “age in place.” By providing a home environment, both inside and outside, with features and elements to be used to the maximum extent possible, regardless of age, size, strength and ability, you can provide a total “experience,” a universal design experience.
- Your design can be seamless, invisible, practical and beautiful.
- Your homes will have appeal that is useful and marketable to all.
- The innovations you create will meet and exceed your home buyers' expectations
- Act now, rather than later, and you will probably be ahead of your competition. You’ll also be solidifying your brand as a builder who delivers what customers want.
- Package your options. It is more profitable and it will differentiate you from your competition.
- By shaping homes for your customers’ future, you will have created a win-win business arrangement. Your customers will be happy, and you will have created a foundation for referrals for years to come as well as a personal sense of pride and accomplishment.
Universal Design Now, Or Higher Home Owner Costs Later
Universal design amounts to barely 2% of new construction costs, versus 25%-27% for retrofitting an existing home. The cost savings are stacked in your favor if you can offer a home that will meet ever-changing needs and provide the “experience” this graying population will demand.
If you haven’t begun to sell to this market, or even considered it, you might want to reconsider because the demographics speak for themselves. Never before has focusing on simple, logical design brought so much unlimited opportunity to the table.
Universal design is good design. Incorporating these features, perhaps before home buyers even recognize what their needs may be, puts you in a unique, credible position, and your homes will be in the best shape for selling.
In this Information Age, the right knowledge and its implementation are the answers to capturing this growing market. Learn all you can about this market, what is meaningful to them and how universal design is the unfound treasure for which they are searching. And, you will be creating milestones for our future.
Rebecca Stahr, ASID, CAPS, is president of LifeSpring Environs, Inc. of Atlanta, and consults with housing industry innovators to promote their growth in the 50+ market. She is a Registered Interior Designer and Certified Aging in Place Specialist delivering aging-in-place environments for both commercial and residential projects nationally. Stahr is a board member of the EasyLiving Home Coalition, Georgia's first voluntary visitable builder certification program, and is active in NAHB's Seniors Housing Council and Remodelors™ Council. For more information, e-mail Stahr at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 678-762-3330.
Attend the 2005 Seniors Housing Symposium in Metro Washington, DC, Area
Do you want to learn more about the fastest-growing segment of the housing market? Make your plans to attend Building for Boomers & Beyond: Seniors Housing Symposium 2005, the premier educational and networking event for industry professionals who serve the burgeoning 50+ market. For more information, click here.
'Marketing Seniors Housing' Available at BuilderBooks.com
"Marketing Seniors Housing," available at BuilderBooks.com, contains a wealth of proven tools, techniques and non-traditional strategies to successfully market within the new and still-evolving seniors housing market. From learning 'Senior Speak' to developing unique promotional events, Marketing Seniors Housing will help prepare you to successfully enter this market niche. To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665 to order.
Learn More About Seniors Housing Through the Seniors Housing Council
To learn more about seniors housing, join the NAHB Seniors Housing Council. The council provides information, education, networking and recognition opportunities for its members and represents NAHB on seniors housing issues. For more details, e-mail Jeff Jenkins or call him at 800-368-5242 x8292.
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