Posted May 13, 2018 in Special Features

Rian Davis, Clark County WA real estate agent

While the concept of finding a single level home as an empty nester is nothing new, a new set of design standards referred to as Universal Design allow your home to potentially accommodate your needs for a longer period of time, as well as those of visitors and family members. Universal Design is built around the concept of creating a space which accommodates a variety of needs, whether it be wheelchair access, visual impairment, or reduced mobility.

When you begin to incorporate Universal Design elements, it starts with “visitability”. When a home is built to this standard, its intent is to allow the resident to welcome visitors who may have a variety of needs or impaired mobility. Areas of adjustment to the home would include wider and flush doorways (to allow a wheelchair to enter relatively easily), as well as an accessible bathroom. Many times, these elements are seen as welcoming to all, and could go unnoticed by those not specifically needing the accessibility accommodations, but are very much appreciated by those that do.

If the need for accessibility is greater, perhaps for someone living in the home or a regular visitor, there are a variety of other design elements and materials that can be implemented. Design features such as counter height, light switch location, non-slip floors, and blocking for grab bars further enhance the homeowner’s ability to accommodate a variety of needs, whether they be for themselves, a family member, or a visitor. Generally those focused on universal design have one level homes without steps, or incorporate ramps, lifts, or even elevators to accommodate various needs.

So why would a homeowner pursue Universal Design elements? Well, besides being able to accommodate visitors with accessibility issues, it also can allow them to stay in their home as they age for a longer period of time. A common concern for homeowners, whether they are building new construction or remodeling, is whether these design elements will be a distraction or give the feel of a care facility, rather than a traditional home. The great news is that as Universal Design has gained popularity, the designs and materials used to accommodate the standards have kept up  with latest trends. Many may not even notice walking into a home with no step up at the front door, and may even enjoy wider hallways and doors. There are beautiful non-slip flooring options on the market, as well as fixtures that would allow for easier operation that incorporate current style preferences. Blocking can be installed for current or future grab bar installation in  bathrooms, as well as easily accessible showers and baths.

As buyer preferences continue to evolve with a focus on aging in place, it would be a smart decision to incorporate Universal Design concepts in new construction and remodeling projects in today’s market. Not only would it allow you to potentially stay in your own home for longer, but would allow you to accommodate visitors and family members who may have accessibility needs, while still providing the look and feel that you desire in your home.

Rian Davis
Public Affairs Director
Clark County Association of REALTORS®