Universal Design: Why Building Accessible Homes Is a Solid Real-Estate Investment

Throughout the history of architecture, theorists have spoken about the good that it can do: how it can remold societies, increase social progress, and change culture. And it’s very true that the real estate that you build, rehab, or flip will impact the people who ultimately live in it. This means that considering the future inhabitants of your property is crucial to your business success. The concept of universal design is a great example of this. Making your properties friendly for the disabled isn’t just a good thing to do – it can also be a great business strategy.

What Is Universal Design?

“Universal design” is the idea that homes, buildings, and other facilities should be built to be usable by everyone, as much as is possible, with the least amount of modifications or specialization.

Picture it this way. Imagine you have a room, and in front of that room is a brick wall, about seven feet high. The very agile could get over it with no problems, a fair amount of people could probably struggle their way over it, and some people would be out of luck. But if you add a door, most people can get in with no problems. And if you add an automatic door, make sure the entry isn’t slippery, too narrow, or poorly-angled, then practically everyone can get in. That’s the spirit of universal design.

This is an increasingly important issue in building as America’s population gets older and requires more housing that they can easily utilize. Real estate investors who are building new properties or rehabbing existing properties should take these principles into account, especially if they’re building in California. It’s the best way to make your property relevant and profitable.

Baby Boomers and the Rush for Disabled-Friendly Housing

Like just about everything else in the last 60 years, it boils down to the Baby Boom generation. It’s no secret that the trends of that enormous generation impacted culture, politics, commerce, and everything else. Now, as they move closer to retirement, they are impacting building regulations for the better.

Millennials might be overtaking Boomers, but they don’t have the buying power to make a dramatic impact on the real estate market. Boomers do, however, and 60% of them want to move out of their current homes as they age and settle into something more comfortable and manageable. There are over 8 million boomers living in California alone. This means a huge shift in the housing market. After they move, 69% of Baby Boomers expect to renovate their future homes to meet their specific needs.

These needs dovetail with those of the handicapped in many ways. The aging and the disabled want houses that allow them freedom, independence, and access. They want to be able to get in and out, and handle things on their own. They want their houses to be able to be used by everyone. This is the heart of universal design.

Understanding Universal Design and the Future of California Real Estate

Universal design is becoming law in California, so smart builders should try to get ahead of the curve. The most in-demand universal design elements for people with mobility issues include:

  • Wide Doorways and Hallways – This allows for easier movement throughout the home.
  • Smart Home Features – These features are growing in demand for all buyers and renters. In terms of functionality and ease, a “smart” home is better connected, making it easier for people with mobility issues (a future article will deal with the details of smart homes).
  • Non-slip Surfaces – Floors, countertops, and bathtubs that provide better traction are better suited for people with mobility issues.
  • Ample Lighting – Eyesight declines with age, but good lighting also increases safety for people of all ages.
  • No-Step Entry – This is an entry that requires no steps to get into the house. It can be a ramp or a door that is level with the ground. This doesn’t have to be the main entrance, though that is ideal.

As a society, we’ve frequently struggled with accommodating the elderly and the disabled. But as care has gotten better and more and more folks are seeking an independence that wasn’t previously possible, it’s important that we start building homes to promote that independence without compromising safety.

Universal design is a huge part of that and a smart real estate investor will find a way to incorporate these elements into their California projects. There is an aging population who is going to need help with their mobility. With a hard money loan, you can help make the later years as enjoyable as the beginning. Who said buildings couldn’t change people’s lives?

Your real estate assets are your best investments for the future. At Socotra Capital, we’re proud to be the premier direct hard money lender for California real estate. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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