When buying your first home, you may have many things on your mind, but one thing you probably are not focused on is if your home will be liveable through every stage of your life. Afterall for just married couples there are a lot of steps to go through before retirement! Modern home buying trends have shown that people typically purchase homes in 2-3 stages (starter, move-up, retirement). However, with the aging population on the rise, trends today are saying 87% of people are considering aging in place. And even though your retirement years might be a long way off, you can lay the groundwork now for a forever home that will make sense design wise and be durable enough to last you through your senior years.
If you’re ready to think long-term, building or buying a home to fit every stage in your life takes planning and consideration. They key experts say is to approach things in phases, keeping the big picture in mind. Start by planning out any renovations so you are not redoing work later in life, adding costs. Some key considerations include:
• Location: Where you build your home is important in all stages of life, but especially so when you are in it for the long haul. Shopping, schools, hospitals, a downtown core, freeway accessibility are all important factors in each life stage.
• Money: Since your financial needs will change with age, you’ll think differently about your household finances when you retire. Remember you’ll need less than you think when you are first starting out and then again when you retire. The more expensive the house, the less money you have to enjoy your free time.
• Flexibility: Purchasing or building a home in an area that allows for flexibility in changes to your home is important. Start with the basics—kitchen, laundry, living spaces, required bedrooms and baths, and some storage. Then hire an architect who can tailor a design to fit your needs and a contractor who understands available low-maintenance, long-term materials and costs. Work with them to identify spaces that can have multiple functions depending on where you are in your family life.
• Invest: Be sure to invest in places that you’ll need to last for years to come. Roofing solutions, solar, doors and windows, infrastructure, kitchen and bath design and landscaping are a few examples where the right investment up front will save you money in the long run.
The Family Life Cycle & Construction Suggestions
The family life cycle consists of several stages of development that your family will experience. Typically it starts after being single, when a young couple starts living together. Eventually, they might welcome children into the family, and will go through all the different stages of parenting and ages of children. Then as children grow and move away, the couple enters the phase of retired adults. All these stages mean different elements and design ideas can be considered when building a home with a long term plan in mind.
Any home built to last through different life stages should be accessible and adaptable so that only minor changes are needed to accommodate the changing family cycles. Some elements to consider when planning construction needs in a “forever home:”
• Traffic patterns; how do people move through the house.
• Room arrangements: not only the size of the rooms (especially bedrooms), but the location and how to best optimize the space for now and in the future. For example, that home office now might end up being a guest suite later on, or an open living area design where the kitchen and family room are combined are good options for long-term floor plan layouts.
• Storage solutions: consider storage solutions, closets and garage space for all stages; from when your family is big and small.
• Think through the kitchen and bathroom designs, as all stages bring different requirements.
• Width of doorways, single story floor plans, and durable (yet safe) flooring solutions should also be part of the plan.
• Consider getting a professional assessment of your home at each life stage. This means a trained advisor will look at the exterior of your home, all entry areas, each room including bathrooms, kitchen, laundry rooms, garage, etc., and inspect lighting, fire safety and electrical safety. Someone who specializes in this field can also help with renovation suggestions to help adapt to individual needs.