This is an article from Hook Law Center (https://www.hooklawcenter.com) in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that we thought others may find helpful.
Many individuals want to stay in their home through old age. Frequently, our clients are concerned that their home is a poor place to age in place because it is two-story, split-level, or simply old. Also, many are unwilling to move to a new home in order to accommodate decreased mobility due to their connection with their home or the lack of affordable options for relocation. Finally, our clients worry that any remodeling to accommodate disability would hurt their home value and result in their home appearing “clinical” like the nursing homes they are trying to avoid. Fortunately, the concept of “Universal Design” has been adopted by many contractors, architects, and designers, to create more accessible homes while maintaining stylish and appealing homes. Often such a remodel can create a better home environment for our clients and enable them to age in place.
What is Universal Design?
Universal Design incorporates subtle, but important, features that benefit disabled individuals of all ages who live in the home. Simple changes such as widened doorways and levered door handles instead of knobs create a more accessible home without detracting from the home’s aesthetics. Additionally, the positioning of cabinetry, switches, and outlets significantly affects a home’s accessibility. The goal of Universal Design is to provide a livable home for individuals in all stages of life and mobility. In addition to older individuals seeking to age in place, these design concepts benefit children and younger disabled individuals.
By using Universal Design principles, a remodeling project will provide more utility while the owner keeps the home, and, because the design is meant to be aesthetically pleasing, the marketability of the home will not be affected. In fact, the home will be marketable to buyers with young children or disabled family members who may not have considered it previously. If accessibility is created without using Universal Design or aesthetically pleasing methods, many prospective purchasers will want to reverse the renovations. Accordingly, the home will likely be less marketable when it is eventually sold.
If you are building a new home or considering remodeling your home to be more accessible, you should consider using professionals familiar with Universal Design concepts. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (“NARI”) certifies remodelers as Universal Design Certified Professionals (“UDCP”). This certification means that the individual has at least taken a course and passed a test on Universal Design principals. Avoid using remodelers who are not familiar with Universal Design concepts, because they may not think beyond widening hallways and limiting stairs and incorporate aesthetic concerns that many remodels for accessibility simply do not address. Universal Design is mostly felt in the details of the home such as the location of towel hooks, the types of faucets used, and choices in flooring. While any remodeler or contractor can create a wider hallway, if they are unfamiliar with the subtle changes required to make a home truly accessible and aesthetically appealing, the result will be a slightly more functional home that may be less marketable.
If you are considering the significant step of remodeling your home for accessibility concerns, it is likely a good time to review your plan for long-term care and incapacity. Meeting with an estate planning/elder law attorney can help walk you through what the financial and medical changes you are experiencing mean for your retirement and estate plans.