Should They Stay or Should They Go: Home Modifications and Selling Your Home

Living with a disability, whether because of age or another lifestyle factor, makes life significantly more challenging. One place where all individuals should feel comfortable is at home. However, most homes are not designed with wheelchair, walker or other mobility assistance devices in mind.

If you or someone you love is dealing with limited mobility, or if you are caring for a senior in your life, you may need to make some modifications to allow them to live comfortably and independently at home. As you consider these modifications, you will also want to consider the impact they have on the resale value of your home, should you need to sell your home at a later date. Here's what you need to know about home modifications and resale value.

Common Home Modifications for Those That Need More Assistance

Those who are older and those who have mobility or sensory disabilities sometimes need home modifications to help them navigate their homes independently. From assisting with navigating stairs to ensuring someone with visual concerns can safely move around a home, sometimes these modifications require an actual change to the house, its structure or its features.

Home Modifications for Seniors

These home modifications make life easier for senior citizens:

  • Installing grab bars in bathrooms
  • Installing walk-in or roll-in tubs/showers in bathrooms
  • Swapping out doorknobs with pull handles
  • Installing ramps for exterior access
  • Installing stair lifts for access to other stories
  • Eliminating stairs where possible
  • Additional handrails on stairs without stair lifts
  • Addition of first-floor laundry facilities
  • Adding a bath or shower to the first floor bedroom
  • Addition of portable shower seats
  • Levered faucets in sinks and showers
  • Adjusting windows so they are easy to open
  • Installing automatic openers on the garage
  • Adding peepholes or viewing panels to exterior doors
  • Strategic lighting to increase visibility
  • Installing non-slip tape on exterior steps and ledges
  • Installing an elevated dishwasher to limit bending

Home Modifications for Disabled Individuals

Disabled individuals of all ages may need home modifications to help them get around. Some of these may include:

  • Widening doorways for wheelchair or walker access - Aim for 36 inches wide
  • Lowering countertops to wheelchair height
  • Lowering light switch height
  • Roll-in showers
  • Grab bars in bathrooms
  • Wheelchair ramps for a home's exterior
  • Lift for accessing other areas of the home
  • Lowering height of handles and locks
  • Limiting transitions between flooring types
  • Removing carpet in favor of hard flooring options
  • Elimination of chairs where possible

Here is additional information about home modifications:


How Do Home Modifications Affect Resale Value?

When it comes to home modifications, the only thing on the mind of most homeowners is making the home accessible for those they love. While that roll-in shower may have been beneficial and even critical to your loved one's self-care, it may not be an asset to a potential buyer. There usually comes a point when moving is inevitable, and at that time you must consider the resale value of the home. Here's how you can determine the effect on your home's resale value of the various modifications you're considering.

Factors that Impact Whether Modifications Are Beneficial to Resale Value, or Harmful

Will accessibility changes affect your home's resale value? Here are some factors that will impact the answer to that question.

  • Your Location - If your home is located somewhere with a large number of disabled or senior individuals, such as near a good veteran's hospital serving disabled veterans or in an area of the country where people want to retire, you may see more resale value from your modifications.
  • The Modification Type - Does the modification significantly change the function or flow of the house? If so, it may hurt resale value. If not, it may help.
  • Your Potential Future Buyer - Finally, the potential demographic of your future buyer may play a role. As Baby Boomers reach retirement, they are seeing an increased desire for accessible homes. Also, those between the ages of 35 and 55 have the greatest demand or desire for accessibility.

Places Where Accessibility Is Valued

Certain parts of the country place a higher value on accessibility, and as such tend to draw a large number of disabled or elderly individuals who capitalize on those accessible features. In these parts of the country, accessibility modifications are more likely to have a positive impact on the home's value.

These areas include:

  • Denver, CO - Denver may not be the retirement place of choice for most retirees, but the city has a number of adaptability features throughout its public areas and public transportation.
  • Berkeley, CA - This city stands as a model for independent living.
  • Seattle, WA - Mild weather and a number of accessible features make Seattle a popular place among those who need disability assistance
  • Gainesville, FL - It's no secret that seniors flock to Florida, and Gainesville has a low cost of living combined with a strict disability-friendly building code that can help make it popular among those needing accessibility.
  • AZ - Arizona is also a popular place to retire, and many 50-and-older communities cater to the specific needs of those who need additional disability assistance. The demand for accessible housing can be large in these areas. 

So what impact do specific modifications have on resale value? Approximately 75% of people assume that home modifications hurt resale value of a home, but this is not always the case. The reality is that some modifications, especially if they are done tastefully and in line with the home's architectural style, can have a positive impact.

It's not possible to put a dollar value on specific modifications, because the impact varies depending on the style of home, its location and the target buyer demographic. However, one principle that can impact the overall impact is the principle of Universal Design.

Universal Design refers to a home design that is safe and usable for people of all ages and abilities, including those with disabilities. Universal Design is built into the home's basic design, rather than added as an afterthought. This means that Universal Design elements work with the home's architecture. Some features of a Universal Design home include:

  • Safe and accessible bathrooms
  • Lever door and faucet handles
  • Non-slip surfaces in the bathroom
  • No steps at entrances
  • Maximum rise of 1/2 inches at thresholds
  • Minimum of 5 feet by 5 feet at entrance doors on both sides
  • Proper lighting for entry doors
  • Ground floor bedroom, bath and laundry
  • Room for installation of a platform lift near stairs
  • Contrasting colors between floor and trim or different floors that require different navigation
  • Avoidance of glossy surfaces

These types of changes do not change the look or architectural design of the home much, and as such do not hurt its resale value. In fact, studies have shown that Universal Design modifications can actually help your home's resale value. Additions that change the look or architecture of a home and make it stand out as "accessible," such as a large wheelchair ramp outside a home, can have a negative impact.

For more information on Universal Design, home modifications and resale value, visit:

Your Potential Buyer

With baby boomers rapidly retiring or reaching retirement age, there is a niche housing market emerging that you can likely tap into if you’re selling a modified home. Advertise modifications and be prepared to discuss the details of how they were installed, as well as what needs to be done to modify them further. You may also wish to consider renting your modified home as a means of income, and a way to leverage the modifications you made.

Hottest Home Modifications for Disabled Individuals

If you're working to make a home more accessible for a disabled loved one, you may have to pick and choose the modifications you use based on budget or because of concerns about resale value. Here are some of the hottest home modifications to consider, which both help your loved one and potentially help your resale value.

Accessible Bathroom

An accessible bathroom is one with at least a five-foot diameter turning space, which allows someone in a wheelchair or with a walker navigate independently. Accessible bathrooms may have roll-in tubs or showers and adjustable seats, and they will have grab bars. To make the bathroom as resale friendly as possible, work with a pro to add these modifications in a way that works with the bathroom's design and architecture.

First-Floor Bedroom and Laundry

People with mobility issues can't go up and down the stairs every time they need to do laundry. Adding a first-floor laundry is essential, as is a first-floor bedroom. Sometimes you can add this by converting a den into a bedroom or a closet into a laundry area. Because this will require the addition of closet space for a bedroom or power and venting for a laundry room, this will require the help of a professional contractor. 

Widening Doorways

A home can't be accessible with doorways that an individual can't navigate. Widening the doorways has little impact on resale value if done well, and can make a home much more navigable. Again, this requires a professional to do well.

Changing the Flooring

Hard floors are easier to navigate than soft floors, and the great thing about this change is that it's a resale-friendly change. Most homebuyers want to see hard floors, which are easier to clean and care for, than old, tattered carpeting. Laminate and hardwood are better choices than tile, which is much harder and more slippery. By making this change, you can increase the resale value and make the home a bit safer. Some laminate can be done as a DIY project, while others are best left to the pros.

For more information about the best modifications to choose, visit:


What to Do About Modifications That Hurt Resale Value?

Sometimes you have to make a modification that has the potential to impact your home's future resale value. If your choice is between having a home that your loved one can't live in or hurting your home's resale value, the answer is clear: your loved one always comes first. However, you will need to consider what to do about those modifications should you decide to sell the home.

Wheelchair Ramps

A wheelchair ramp is essential if your home's entrance is not flush with the ground. An individual in a wheelchair can't navigate steps. But a wheelchair ramp makes a home stand out in a negative way, so what can you do? Here are some ideas:

  • Work with a design professional to ensure the design works with your home's architecture.
  • Add a ramp that does not remove the existing steps and can be removed for resale.
  • Invest in a ramp that is aesthetically pleasing.
  • Install a ramp on a back entrance to use when the home's on the market, allowing for the removal of the front ramp.

Grab Bars and Rails

Grab bars are essential safety additions to a home, but sometimes they make the home look more functional than comfortable. Stark chrome grab bars in the bathroom can give it an institutional feel. Some solutions to this include:

  • Using grab bars that double as something else, like toilet paper holders that have a grab bar
  • Using grab bars that fit the decor
  • Removing the grab bars before listing the house

Walk-in Tubs

Safety tubs are a great innovation for the senior or disabled innovation, as they allow for bathroom independence. However, for those who don't yet understand the need for this type of modification, they can seem unsightly and cumbersome. So what's the solution? Consider these ideas:

  • Instead of a walk-in tub, opt for a roll-in shower which is a common design choice regardless of disability.
  • Cover the walk-in tub with an attractive shower curtain.
  • Ensure the color of the tub works with the bathroom's overall design.


Lifts to get a wheelchair upstairs are simply part of the puzzle when dealing with home modifications, but again these can be a bit cumbersome, and therefore negatively affect resale value. To get past this, consider removing the lift while the home is on the market. There is no good way to camouflage this particular modification, so consider putting the main features of the home on the main floor and just doing away with the lift while the home is on the market.

For more information on your home's resale value, visit:


DIY Fixes to Maximize Home Resale Value and Accessibility

Sometimes budgets are tight, especially when you're planning for the sale of a home. What can you do to get the most value out of your home's sale if your budget is too tight to hire a pro? Are there modifications you can make that keep your home accessible without a pro? Are there ways you can reduce the impact of modifications on your own? Consider these DIY tasks that can make your home more valuable and more accessible.

  • Install Accessible Home Security - Home security is an asset to your home, and accessible home security helps keep your loved one safe. Installing a chain at a lower level or a home security system that your loved one can reach are all great options.
  • Reorganize for Accessibility - If your budget prevents a kitchen remodel, make the kitchen more accessible by reorganizing. Put everyday items in lower drawers and cabinets, and rarely-used items up high. Do the same in closets and other storage areas. Rearrange and reorganize furniture to maximize mobility through the home.
  • DIY Bathroom Modifications - A major bathroom remodel is costly, but you can tackle some jobs on your own. Add no-slip flooring to the shower or tub, consider investing in a shower seat and don't forget to add grab bars near the toilet. Replace the existing vanity with a pedestal sink to provide maneuverability for wheelchairs or walkers.
  • Improve the Lighting - People with disabilities may need more lighting to ensure they can see well. You can improve the lighting in your home on your own. As an added bonus, a well-lit home shows better than a dim one, so this change has a positive impact on resale value!

For more information on projects you could tackle on your own, visit:


More Information About Home Modifications and Resale Value

Are you looking for more information about how to modify your home for disabilities and the impact of home remodeling and modifications on your home's resale value? Consider these resources: