By wide margins, older Coloradans and their contemporaries across the country prefer to remain in their own homes as long as they can in what has become known as “aging in place.” To make that possible, many come to realize they need to make their residences safer and easier to navigate by undertaking home modifications. These modifications can run a gamut — from significantly changing the home’s structure to doing more minor alterations such as removing potential hazards and numerous other options in between.
Needless to say, the expenses associated with such a wide range of options are themselves wide ranging. According to Bankrate.com, expenses involving actual modifications typically range from $3,000 to $15,000, with the average amount spent nationally being $9,500. Taking all this into consideration, Bankrate compiled a summation of modifications alternatives, along with typical costs, including the potential impacts on overall home value. It’s a sort of big-picture look and a potential guide to anyone considering changes needed to age in place. Here are the key results.
Simple Home Modifications — Often Done as DIY Jobs
• Add easy-grip knobs and pulls, or swap knobs for levers
• Install adjustable handheld shower heads
• Rearrange furniture for better passage through the house
• Remove trip hazards such as loose rugs or floor saddles (thresholds used to cover the transition between two different flooring types such as hardwood and carpet)
• Install mats and nonslip floor coverings
More Complex Home Modifications — Probably Best Done by a Professional Contractor
• Install handrails
• Add automatic lighting outdoors
• Install automatic push-button doors
• Install doorway ramps
• In bathroom: Install grab bars and rails, non-slip flooring, curbless shower, roll-in tub, shower bench
• In kitchen: Raise or lower countertops as needed; install lever or touchless faucets; install cabinet pull-out shelves
• In bedroom: Lower the bed level as needed; ensure non-slip floor; install motion-activated lights
• Outside the house: Install ramps and/or porch or stair lifts; install automatic push-button doors
• Throughout the house: Ensure well-lit and wider hallways and doorways; arrange for a first-level primary suite; consider elevators or chair lifts; consider “smart” window shades/thermostats/lighting
Costs of Home Modifications
Obviously, the costs of aging-in-place modifications can vary greatly, depending on the types of modifications you need to make. A motion sensor light might cost as little as $20. Raising a kitchen counter might be as much as $20,000. A significant remodeling of a house could run to $50,000 or more. However, there are offsets of these costs in some cases, as discussed further below. But first, here are some typical costs for several of the most common types of aging-in-place modifications:
• Install grab bars: $90 to $300
• Modify/Open shelves: $400 to $600
• Widen doors: $300 to $2,500
• Widen hallways (without structural changes): $800 to $1,400
• Install ramps: $1,400 to $3,000
• Create curbless shower: $2,500 to $9,000
• Install walk-in tub: $3,000 to $25,000
• Install stairlift: $4,000 to $8,000
Are Home Modifications Tax Deductible?
Bankrate says, citing the IRS as its source, that a home modification may be tax-deductible as a medical expense if it is made to accommodate disabilities of someone who lives in the home. The disabilities should be documented by a physician or other health care provider. Expenses may be deductible for installing special medical equipment or making reasonable home alterations, but the IRS adds that these changes are deductible if they do not add to the value of the property. Permanent home improvements that do increase the value of your property may still be partially deductible as a medical expense — i.e., the cost of the improvement minus the increase in the property value. As with any detail involving IRS stipulations and taxes, you would want to consult with a tax expert familiar with these issues if tax deductibility is a major concern in your decisions.
Do Home Modifications Affect a Home’s Value?
According to Bankrate, home modifications can increase the functionality of the home and the quality of life for those residing there, but whether they increase a home’s worth has a more nuanced answer. Bankrate explains: “Sometimes a home modification overlaps with a fashionable home renovation: Lots of homeowners are swapping bathtubs for super-sized, curbless showers, going in for remote-controlled window shades or installing smart security systems these days. But in many cases, the changes may not enhance property value if the alterations aren’t permanent — or if they mean the new homeowners will have to make significant alterations when they move in.”
Further: “Overall, aging-in-place remodels can positively impact (or at least maintain) home value if the modifications involve state-of-the-art tech and/or look stylish — vs. giving off an institutional or medical vibe. Rather than scream ‘earmarked for the elderly,’ they should appeal to all ages. And of course, they should be, and look, well-done.”
Another Potentially Big Expense Offset
Perhaps the biggest potential offset of home modification expenses comes into play if the modifications are what keeps an individual from having to move to a retirement community or assisted living facility. The expenses in these other settings, depending on the level of any care provided, can be quite substantial. And these costs are ongoing, as opposed to the one-time expense of home modifications. Just as you would consult a tax expert to fully evaluate the tax deductibility of home modifications, it would be prudent to consult with an accountant or other financial advisor to understand whether an investment in home modifications is fiscally sound. Keeping in mind, of course, that one of the most important “paybacks” of home modifications is fulfilling the desire of the person or persons involved to age in place as desired.