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April 21, 2008


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You are, unfortunately, so correct. I have been evangelizing the word of Universal Design for the last 4 years in the real estate industry, and have been thankful for income derived from traditional real estate to pay the bills. In the frantic world of real estate for the past few years, builders were too busy building spec housing to take time to think about the long-term. The ones that survive will be anxious to find a niche where the can differentiate themselves. Likewise, most Boomers (like me) have not yet come to grips with the fact that we are, or ever will be, old. The one common thread that I have noticed though is that the vast majority of us are now dealing with our parents hitting this wall at full speed. It is very easy to talk to our generation about various solutions to their parent's dilemma, which includes the options of ‘Aging-in-Place’, or ‘Auxiliary Dwelling Units’ for bringing our parents to live with us. As long as continue to present our ideas in terms of ‘Universal Design’ and not ‘accessible’ or ‘handicapped’ solutions, we have a unique opportunity to actually demonstrate the functionality and transparency of UD to this generation without trying to “sell” the idea at all. The intelligence of their decision to remodel should become apparent simply because of the feeling of their living space, and the functionality simply becomes a very beneficial by-product.
According to all of the demographic studies I have read, our generation is leaning toward downsizing, but upscaling in terms of quality and will have the money to support it. This is one of the reasons that it makes sense to drive this trend to the higher end clients. Trends will always come down the social ladder, but will never go up it! Appealing to their desire to make a statement also gives us a great opportunity to slide UD into their life like giving medicine to a child in a spoonful of Jam. A designer friend of mine no longer refers to “roll-in” showers, but describes them as “European” showers. Suddenly, it is a must-have with all of her discerning clients. And of course, when the remodel is complete, they all want to show their friends their upgraded homes and boast not only of its beauty, but of their vision in thinking about their future needs as well. It is now their idea, and as such, they are more than willing to evangelize the benefits to others for us.

Real Estate

Either the real estate is long term or short term, a perfect real estate investor has ability to invest in real estate at right time.

Bill Slease

As a pre-boomer homebuilder/remodeler I agree with your comments and concerns. My wife and I are both fully mobile but as students of UD and Aging in Place concepts when we built our "last" home we wanted it to include a wide range of these ideas, "just in case." Secondarily, we wanted to be able to model these concepts to those who might have an interest.

Over the past two years we have been discovered by the media (see our webpage www.tapestrycustomhomes.com) and as a result, I have had many opportunities to speak to Realtors, builders, designers and the general public. I have formed several convictions that I leave with my audiences.

1. Those who have experienced a disability themselves or with a friend or family member understand it immediately. The rest of the population (85%?) are either in denial or completely uninformed. As a result, builders will not respond until this group requests/demands that builders pay attention to their needs. I think this is beginning to occur but it may be 5 years or more until boomers recognize they can ask and receive what they want from builders.

2. I've visited a number of 55+ or active adult developments and I have one word of advice for those considering buying. Stay active, the options aren't pretty.

3. With UD it is not necessary to sacrifice beauty for funtionality. But it can't be done in a hurry. It requires planning.

4. I've heard one lament over and over, "if I had only known I could have asked my builder....."

5. It costs a fraction to do it right on the front end compared to the major surgery required to refit a home to be accessible.

Thanks for allowing me to contribute my thoughts.

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