Building A New Home Is Best For Accessibility

Why Building a New Home Is Better Than Remodeling When You Need Accessibility

What should you do if you need an accessible home?  Should you remodel your current home, buy a more accessible used home, or build a fully accessible new one?
Since there are very few truly accessible used homes, let’s compare remodeling your existing home with building a new one.  Since I believe building new is almost always better than remodeling, I will outline the advantages of building over remodeling.  Of course, if you don’t have the resources and flexibility to build a new home, remodeling will be your only viable alternative.

No Demolition and Shoring Up Expenses

You will not waste money demolishing or shoring up your new home.
Remodeling your existing home to make it accessible can often be surprisingly expensive. You will undoubtedly anticipate some of the costs for adding new features, but you may not plan sufficiently for the cost of the other work required to remodel. Most importantly, you must add the cost of the destruction (taking apart and removing what you no longer want) to the cost of construction (building in the new features). In addition, you must add the cost of shoring up the existing structure of your home so that the new construction can be completed. For example, in addition to tearing down old walls and ripping out old plumbing and electrical, you might need to add structural supports in the ceiling and basement before you can begin. Otherwise, your home will not be structurally sound.
The task of removing walls and shoring up the structure is usually a Pandora’s Box for the remodeler. Often the remodeler can’t know what problems and expenses he is going to run into until he actually starts the demolition. If you ask him to give you a fixed price for the entire project in advance, he will usually build a significant cushion into his price.  If you agree to pay him for “time and materials”, and he uncovers a number of problems that require additional work, he will hit you with a change order that will create cost-overruns for you.  That’s why remodeling often goes significantly over budget.

Remodeling requires the de-struction of your existing home as well as the con-struction of it's new features, which makes remodeling expensive and subject to more cost overruns than building a new home.
Remodeling requires the de-struction of your existing home as well as the con-struction of it’s new features, which makes remodeling expensive and subject to more cost overruns than building a new home.

Greater Equity and Resale Value

Your new home is likely to provide you with greater market value and equity than a remodeled home.
Since the demolition and shoring up your home will not increase its value as much as it costs (only the new construction will), the total cost of the remodeling will often be considerably greater than the value added to your home.  Since much of the money you will spend on remodeling will be lost, your bank’s appraiser will be unlikely to justify a loan for the full cost of remodeling unless you already have a lot of equity in your home or a large down payment.  And should you decide to sell your home, you will likely lose some of the money you spent remodeling it.

Full Accessibility

Since every room in your new home can be designed to be accessible and located where you want it, you will need to make fewer compromises to get the features and functions you want.
Because the remodeler will have to work with your existing structure, he might not be able change the home sufficiently to give you enough of what you need. For example, the remodeler might not be able to locate the accessible bathroom where it would most benefit you.

Efficient Use of Space

Your new home will provide you with the rooms you need without wasting space.
When remodeling your home, you will often have to give up some existing rooms so that the needed features and functional space can be added. For example, one of your existing bedrooms might have to be donated to the remodeling cause so that your hallways, doors, and bathrooms can be widened. When the work is done, you may feel that you have lost valuable space.

Attractive and Functional Landscaping

The site of your new home will be graded and landscaped in ways that are esthetically pleasing as well as usable.
When remodeling your home, you will sometimes have to settle for site work and landscaping that is less attractive. With your foundation, driveway, and walkways already in place, the remodeler is limited in how he can make your site more accessible without detracting from its appearance (often with long ramps) and adding considerably to the cost.

Lower Architect Fees, Custom Design

Whether you wish to customize a builder’s standard plan or design a completely new custom plan, a modular home builder’s fees will be substantially less than those required for a sizable remodeling project.
When remodeling your home for accessibility, you will often are best served by hiring an experienced architect to design a remodeling plan.

Home and Lot Matched in Size

You will be able to match a building lot of appropriate size with a new home that is as big as you need and your budget allows.
When remodeling, your design choices will be limited by the size of your home and your lot. If your home is too small, and your lot does not allow for easy expansion, which can happen in city lots, your design options will be limited.

Right Sized Home

When building a new home of your choice, you will end up with a home that is neither too big nor too small.
If your existing home is already bigger than you need, your remodeled home will almost certainly be too big.  If your existing home is not too big before remodeling, but the remodeler is forced to add rooms in order to meet your needs, your remodeled home may become too big. For example, if you have all of the bedrooms that you need, but they are all on the second floor and you need a first floor master bedroom suite, you will be forced to build an extra bedroom.

Lower Energy Costs

Your new home will be considerably more energy efficient than your remodeled home.
Your remodeled home will usually have higher energy costs. Older homes were not built as energy efficient as new homes are today. Often the budget for remodeling won’t allow for improving the energy efficiency, since to insulate all of the walls and replace all of the windows can be expensive. In addition, older homes have very high amounts of air infiltration (leaks around the windows, doors, and electrical receptacles), and air infiltration is the number one cause of heat loss, even after insulation has been added and windows replaced.

Brand New Fixtures, Fully Featured

With your new home, everything will be brand new with the features you desire.
With older homes, your remodeling budget will require you to keep certain things you would prefer to replace. For example, although you might like to replace your fifteen year old appliances, the cost of the remodeling will probably prevent you from replacing them. In addition, your budget will often prevent you from affordably adding features that you would desire. For example, if you want to add central air conditioning, but you have hot water baseboard heat, you will need to add the duct work in addition to the air conditioning compressor, which will add substantially to the total cost.

Lower Maintenance Costs, Extended Warranty

Because your new home will come with new materials, it will require minimal maintenance. Furthermore, all the parts will be protected by a warranty. In fact, your entire modular home will come with a ten year structural warranty.
Of course, if you don’t have the resources and flexibility to build a new home, remodeling will be your only viable alternative.
Even after your older home is remodeled, it will have higher maintenance costs. All areas and components of your home that are not completely replaced will continue to bear the effects of wear and tear. In addition, the only items that will have a warranty will be the ones installed by the remodeler.
For more information about building a fully accessible Universally Designed modular home, see Modular Home Specifications and Features in my book The Modular Home.  For more information about building an accessible modular in-law addition, also known as an Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity (ECHO), see Building a Modular Addition also in my book.