Top trend: Ageing-in-place opens new doors for home sellers

The concept of “ageing in place” has been around for many years now, and with affordable retirement accommodation being in short supply, it continues to gain ground in SA, says Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group.

“Extensive research has also shown that there are many potential health and social benefits in deciding to remain in your existing home and community as you grow older – as long as the property is easy to live in and easy to maintain,” he says.

“And, as in other parts of the world, this is driving a trend in SA towards home alterations and improvements that not only facilitate ‘ease of living’ in the present but will also assist owners to age in place safely, comfortably and independently.”

This trend is explored, he says, in the latest Ageing in Place report from HomeAdvisor which points out that many homeowners are in fact choosing to lay the groundwork for ageing-in-place rather than make aesthetic improvements when it comes to home projects. “They would rather lay a new, level pathway, for example, than install a new water feature, and rather have self-cleaning gutters than change the colour of the roof tiles.

“Smart home-management and security systems are also popular choices, as are energy and cost-saving measures, with the overall message being that ‘ease of living’ is paving the way for ‘ease of ageing’ – even when homeowners don’t especially want to think about growing old and needing grab-bars, wheelchair ramps and shower benches.” 

Meanwhile, Everitt notes, there is a growing awareness among home buyers in their 50s and 60s that the properties they choose now may well be their “forever homes”, and it is definitely changing their priorities and the value they place on certain features and area amenities.

“For example, many will think twice now about buying a very large home with an extensive garden because they are worried about the difficulty of maintaining it as they age, or the cost of hiring other people to do so. Consequently, those who are selling such properties would often do better to target family buyers in their late 30s and 40s.

“Accessibility is also an increasingly important consideration, driving a preference among older buyers for single-level homes with spacious, open layouts and such features as walk-in showers, good lighting, long-lasting finishes and plenty of easy-to reach storage. This is already influencing home design in the upmarket new estates that are aimed at this age group.”

On the other hand, he says, many over-50s are now actively looking for apartments and smaller homes in urban live/ work/ play areas that are within walking distance of shops, restaurants, sports venues and medical facilities, as well as offices and public transport, in anticipation of the time when they no longer wish to drive.

“This is opening up a whole new market for property sellers in these areas - which have traditionally been the haunts of much younger residents – as well as in suburbs which have demonstrably strong communities and offer a variety of safe places to meet up and be social, such as parks, libraries, museums, coffee shops and places of worship, or community centres with interesting classes, events, and volunteer opportunities.

“Consequently, owners in such areas who are preparing their homes for sale should seriously consider ‘ease of living’ improvements that will appeal to all buyers, but especially to those in the over-50 age bracket, as these are likely to generate the best returns.”

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