As they age, many — if not most — Americans prefer to stay in their own homes for as long as they can, aka “aging in place.” But to do that, many will need to make their residences safer and easier to navigate by making changes to their homes.
Home modification is the official term (it comes from the Americans with Disabilities Act) for renovations and renovations for the elderly or disabled. This means physically changing your home, removing potential hazards and making it more accessible, so you can continue to live there independently. Examples include anything from installing a shower bench to an entire master bedroom suite downstairs so you don’t have to walk up and down stairs.
Home modifications can be expensive, typically ranging from $3,000 to $15,000, with the average national expense being $9,500, according to Fixr, the leading home remodeling site. But it can be a worthwhile investment.
“What not everyone realizes is that you can save money by making the right home modifications,” says DeDe Jones, certified financial planner and managing director of Innovative Financial in Lakewood, Colorado. “The longer you can live safely in your home, the less you’ll have to pay for home care, which isn’t cheap.”
Here’s what you need to know about making changes to your home or that of your loved ones.
Types of home modifications for aging in place
The best in-place aging home modifications align with “universal design,” an architectural term for features that are easy for everyone to use and adaptable as needed. This includes additions and alterations to the exterior and interior of a home.
Simple home modifications
These are often do-it-yourself jobs.
- Add easy-to-grip knobs and handles, replace knobs with levers
- Installation of adjustable handheld showerheads
- Rearrange furniture for better passage
- Elimination of tripping hazards such as carpet or floor saddles
- Installation of carpets and non-slip floor coverings
More complex home modifications
These would probably need a professional contractor, especially if you want them to be up to code standards.
- Installation of handrails
- Added automatic lighting outside
- Installation of automatic push-button doors
- Smooth the ground
- Installation of door railings
House modifications per room
- Bathroom: Grab bars and railings, roll-in or walk-in shower/bathtub, shower bench
- Food: higher counters, lever or touchless faucets, sliding shelves
- Bedroom: lower bed, non-slip floor, walk-in closets, motion-activated light
- Outside the house: ramps, porches or stair lifts, automatic push-button doors
- In the whole house : well-lit and wider hallways and doorways, first-level master suite, elevators or chairlifts, “smart” blinds/thermostats/lighting, simpler windows
How much do home modifications cost?
Of course, aging-in-place costs can vary greatly depending on the types of modifications you need to make: as low as $20 for a motion-sensor light, up to $20,000 to raise a kitchen counter. While Fixr cites an average range of $3,000 to $15,000, you can end up spending up to $50,000 if you want to remodel your entire home or make major structural changes to it.
Here are some costs for several of the most common types of aging-in-place modifications, according to Fixr:
- Grab bars: $90 to $300
- Open shelves: $400 to $600
- Wider doors: $300 to $800
- Wider hallways: $800 to $1,400
- Ramps: $1,400 to $3,000
- Shower without threshold: $2,500
- Walk-in tub: $4,000
- Stairlift: $1,800 to $2,000
Are home modifications tax deductible?
Certain home modifications may be considered medical expenses and therefore eligible for an itemized deduction on your tax return. A home modification may be tax deductible as a medical expense if it is made to accommodate the disabilities (preferably documented by a doctor or other health care provider) of someone who lives in the home, according to IRS.
What counts as a change of domicile for tax purposes? As the IRS points out, capital expenditures for the installation of special medical equipment or reasonable home modifications made for medical reasons are sometimes fully tax deductible, as long as they do not add to the value. of the property.
How do home modifications affect home value?
Like home improvements, home modifications can increase the functionality of the property and the quality of life for those who reside there. Whether they increase its value is another story.
Sometimes a home modification overlaps with a trendy home renovation: Many people swap bathtubs for oversized walk-in showers, for example, or opt for remote-controlled blinds. But in most cases they may not add to the value of the property if the changes aren’t permanent – or if it means the new owners will have to make significant changes when they move in.
Permanent home improvements that increase the value of your property may still be partially deductible as a medical expense – the cost of the improvement minus the increase in property value is the amount that can be taken into account.
How to pay for home modifications
There are several ways to pay for home modifications. One option is a home improvement loan, either a home equity line of credit (HELOC), home equity loan or personal loan. Other alternatives include a reverse mortgage or seeking assistance from your state housing agency.
- Home equity line of credit – If you have considerable equity in your property, you can borrow against it through a home equity line of credit to finance modifications to your home. HELOC interest rates tend to be low because your home is collateral for the loan and you can withdraw funds from it as needed.
- Home Equity Loan – A home equity loan is a lump sum that can be used to make modifications to the home. Like HELOCs, home equity loans tend to have a relatively lower interest rate than a personal loan because your home is used to secure it. With a home equity loan or HELOC, you can deduct interest on up to $750,000 of the loan if the funds are used to “significantly improve” your home, according to the IRS.
- Personal loan – Ideal for those with good credit, a personal home improvement loan from a bank, credit union, or online or peer-to-peer lender usually does not require a lien be placed on the house.
- Reverse Mortgage – If you are 62 or older and own your home, you may qualify for a reverse mortgage, which converts some of your equity into cash while still allowing you to continue living in the home. One of the most common types is a home equity conversion mortgage (HECM).
- Loans from the public housing finance agency – Public bodies often offer financial assistance to seniors, as well as non-profit organizations such as Rebuilding Together. There are also funds that may be provided by the Senior Citizens of America Act, granted by regional agencies on aging (AAA). Often there are income limit requirements. Find an HFA in your area to find out your options.
When should I make home modifications?
Aging is a process, so it’s likely you’ll have to adapt your home more than once as your needs change. You can add home modifications gradually or all at once, finances permitting. Sometimes it pays to add modifications to the home to age in place as part of other planned renovations, such as building an addition or remodeling a kitchen.
Again, as new assistive technologies come onto the market year after year, other home modifications may be required. The more you can anticipate your changing needs, the more you can plan ahead for the home modifications you’re likely to need in the future.