There are two customer groups when it comes to selling the aging-in-place or universal design.
Group One consists of the people who need it or may need it and can afford it but don’t want it — that is, baby boomers with bucks.
Group Two — call them “people with issues” — are coming from a completely different place. They need and want this type of renovation now, and if they can afford it the only question may be whether you’re the contractor who can provide the solutions they need.
Louis Tenenbaum, remodeling consultant and author of Aging in Place 2.1: Rethinking Solutions to the Home Care Challenge, calls Group Two “the holy grail” when it comes to this type of remodeling. The problem: Only some of these homeowners can afford the work.
Group One — still healthy, still mobile — may want to remodel for space or aesthetics. They’ll probably resist the suggestion that the project include some of the functional changes — grab bars, wider doorways, higher toilets — associated with aging or infirmity. “It equates to institutional aesthetics,” explains interior designer Michael Thomas of The Design Collective Group, in Palm Springs, Calif., and co-author of Residential Design for Aging in Place. You may need to indirectly suggest such changes.
With Group Two, on the other hand, prepare for a sales process that may involve extra visits and the possibility of bringing in medical professionals so you can secure client approval of your design and move forward to build.
Negotiating stairs becomes an issue for those with arthritic or failing hips and knees, and it’s out of the question for the wheelchair-bound.
One option is suggesting that clients consolidate living space onto a single floor. But “Why have a three-story house when you can only use one floor?” is the question Peggy Mackowski of Quality Design & Construction had to ask herself and her wheelchair-bound client. For that client, the solution was a home elevator.
According to Home Elevators, home elevator sales have doubled in the last five years. Two trends have driven that growth: improved technology and an expanded market.
Costs can range from $20,000 to $100,000, depending on the product — size and weight capacity are two key elements — and the spatial limitations you’re up against in the home when deciding where to place the elevator shaft.
Home elevators are not cheap, and they’re not for every house. Mark Scott, owner of Mark IV Builders, in Bethesda, Md., went to the Remodeling Show in Baltimore last October and talked with three home elevator vendors, called all their contractor referrals, and then presented all three models to his client. The client ultimately went with the company that Scott recommended, even though that elevator cost $5,000 more. It took three weeks to install in a 6,600-square-foot townhouse.