Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lifespan of modifications--its not kid stuff

Because of In Your Home's consistently high ratings on Angie's List, we are getting a lot of calls from folks from outside our specialty--growing families who are looking to modify their home to accommodate the kids. Adding extra space, adding or updating a bathroom, removing hazardous conditions. Lots of similarity to what we do for our target population and we do often take these projects on. After all, business is business. But while we have long questioned why families are willing to modify for children and not for adults, a new thought struck. Comparatively, how long can we expect these modifications to be useful?

If we modify a room for a nursery, it's appropriate for five to 10 years, depending on how many children we have and at what intervals. By the time we get around to adding a separate bedroom or bathroom, maybe we get 15 years of active use. Same for a playroom.

But what if we are in our late 50's, our 60's or 70's and looking to modify the home for the long term? That playroom converted to an adult entertainment area, hobby or exercise space could easily serve us for over 20 years. A bathroom modified to be safer and supportive for adults will easily get 10 to 20 years of useful life. And, not only will these mods add value to the home (if done attractively and well,) but they have a higher payback since they can help us stay more independent and healthy so we can avoid the expense of assisted living and long or short term nursing care. And we can enjoy them so much--most people do tend to spend more time in their homes as they age, so its all the more important that the home environment be attractive and supportive for maintaining the activities we love--hobbies, cooking, gardening, etc. The earlier we do it, but more we will benefit from it.

You could easily say that you will get as many or more useful years from aging-in-place modifications, which indicates a better financial justification. Of course, we don't remodel for our young families just because of financial payback--we do it because we want things to be the best they can be during that phase of our lives. But many of us have this dismal thought that we are getting old and aren't worth investing in. Or it's that old refusal to acknowledge that while we feel 40 we are past 60 and need to think ahead. If we get past those thoughts, then the value of adding a shop, changing a floor plan or modifying a bathroom can make things the best the can be at these new phases of life. That makes a lot of sense--financially and otherwise.