When the American Institute of Architects reports on emerging trends, sooner or later they’ll be showing up in the listings. That’s been true of one trend the AIA started reporting in 2010: the move to ever-larger square footages.
But now a more interesting finding is developing. It’s one of the principal findings in the AIA’s 2014 Home Design Trends Survey—one that falls into the category of “emerging home characteristics”—one likely to become more commonplace in coming years. Combining several different attributes, it is best summarized by the single term “accessibility.”
“Residential architects report that the most significant trend in home layouts is improving accessibility,” writes Kermit Baker, the AIA’s Chief Economist. With a large segment of the population reaching retirement age and beyond, concern about the physical demands of daily living concerns more and more homeowners. Predictably, baby boomers will prefer to remain in their own homes as long as possible, creating both a huge market for remodeling design ideas that increase ease of use without losing attractiveness, and a resale market for the homes thus improved.
Almost two-thirds of responding architects report increasing popularity for interior accessibility designs: things like wider hallways and fewer steps. And more than half of the respondents said the same for accessible homes sporting on-grade entrances or ramps: features that make getting into and out of the house easier.
The Wall Street Journal just published a report on the same phenomenon. Its story, “Luxury Homes Accessible to All,” accentuated the desire by some homeowners for accessible designs “before they actually need them, with an eye to the future.” One Asheville, N.C. couple, although only entering their sixties, shaped their new home to accommodate their needs in case they someday need special assistance. With every doorway 4 feet wide, hardwood floors, a lighted interior staircase and curbless shower stalls, it’s estimated that the extra elements cost about 3% of total construction costs.
Does this mean that accessible homes will increasingly dot the listings? I bet we can count on it. But, as The Journal also points out, when it comes to selling psychology, words count. They quote one consumer housing specialist who says that in listings across the country, handicap and disabled/disability may be growing in prominence—but descriptors like wide hallways or open floor plan will “better attract buyers who are in the market for such homes.” If you are in the market for one ofaccessible homes—or will be listing one that fits the bill—I hope you’ll give me a call. It’s a growing market that promises great new solutions to an age-old problem!