By: Barbara Ballinger
Homeowners’ needs change as they ramble through life. One minute a two-story house with a landscaped yard fits their family’s needs. Before too long, they’re empty nesters who find it hard to navigate stairs and handle maintenance. They begin contemplating a condo with a small deck.
Help your buyers match the type of house that will bring them joy with three of life’s stages.
Aging in Place
More than 77% of adults aged 50 and older want to remain in their homes, termed “aging in place,” according to AARP’s Home and Community Preferences Survey. To make life easier and safer, share tips from designer Lisa M. Cini of Mosaic Design Studio, who’s authored books on the topic, including Boom: The baby boomers guide to leveraging technology, so that you can preserve your independent lifestyle & thrive.
Cini recommends technological aids to help with everything from cleaning to helping seniors remember things like medications and turning off appliances. Examples of this tech include:
- Household robots
- Personal assistants like Alexa or Google Home
- Wearable smartwatches and activity trackers
- Safety doorbell and camera systems
- Smart thermometers
- Apps that shut off a range to avoid a fire and alert homeowners that it’s time to take meds
She also cites the importance of adapting a house for older years with things that last longer and improve safety:
- LED lighting
- Slip-resistant floors
- Zero threshold showers
- Grab bars
- ADA-compliant hallways
Her book Hive: The Simple Guide to Multigenerational Living shares helpful ideas for multigenerational living, which is a quickly growing trend across the U.S. Storage remains a priority as well. “Although most are downsizing, they still hold on to too much,” says Boston-based salesperson Jody Dinan with Coldwell Banker Realty.
Raising Young Children
Babies quickly turn into crawlers who quickly turn into fast-moving toddlers. All of these stages require adaptability and a focus on ever-changing safety needs. If your homebuyer also happens to be a new parent or someone small children, there are a number of safety features you can suggest:
- Placing gates in front of stairs
- Baby-proof cabinets with locks
- Window guards/alarms
- Anti-scald devices at faucets
- Outlet protectors
- Cordless blinds
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a guide to childproofing a home that makes a good reference. Dinan, who has young children, says a dedicated room for kids to play is also helpful. If your client has extra room in their budget, it might be prudent to suggest looking at properties that might have extra space that can be converted to a playroom. She also recommends toys designed to help expend energy— like a small trampoline, balance beam and chalk or paint walls—to use during the colder months. In good weather, an outdoor area encourages lots more play.
Single Female Homeowners
According to research by the Urban Institute, households owned by single women are on the rise. This is one of life’s stages that might be overlooked in the home-buying process but it is incredibly important. This cohort wants many features other homebuyers do but also has its own wish list. NewHomeSource reports that single women who own their homes want a great kitchen to prep and cook healthy meals instead of buying takeout, a flex room for study, exercise, or guests and an open plan.
Safety is another top priority, says Dinan, meaning location is important. Single women homebuyers are generally looking for condos above ground level, any home in a neighborhood where they can come home late or walk the dog at night without worry, or someplace their parents will approve of them living alone (especially if they are first-time homebuyers).
According to Ilona Bray’s article in NOLO, a legal publication, other key safety features are solid doors with good locks and well-illuminated paths free of overgrown shrubbery.
Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).