Why high senior equity makes it a good time for home modifications

Historic levels of home equity among the senior population make now an ideal time to start home renovation projects, according to a column at Seniors Matter

Earlier this summer, homeowners aged 62 and older saw their collective housing wealth increase in Q1 2022 by approximately $520 billion to a record of $11.12 trillion, according to data provided by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) in conjunction with data analytics firm RiskSpan. Such historic levels of home equity may mean that now is a good time to embark on home renovation projects designed to accommodate goals related to aging in place.

This is according to a column published this week by Seniors Matter, a publication designed to serve caregivers. While senior housing wealth has grown to historic levels and many seniors have related a desire to age in place in their own homes, there is a disconnect between desires and actions, the column explains.

“[A] new poll on healthy aging from the University of Michigan shows many [seniors] haven’t planned or prepared for ‘aging in place,’” the column says. “The survey found that 88% of people between the ages of 50 and 80 said it was very or somewhat important to them that they live in their homes as long as possible, but only 15% said they’ve given a lot of consideration to how their home may need to be modified as they age (and 47% have given it little or no thought).”

That data coupled with the high levels of senior housing wealth could make now the ideal time to embark on home modifications that will make it easier for seniors to remain in their homes for longer stretches of time, the column says.

While certain seniors may be reticent to have conversations around such things, caregivers and other trusted advisors may be well-suited to broach the topic and facilitate action before something forces the necessity for change, the column reads.

“Family members can help encourage older adults to find out what’s available, to invest in home improvements, and to aid them in installing safety devices and technologies that can help keep them aging in place,” said Preeti Malani, director of the healthy aging poll at the University of Michigan to Seniors Matter. “Think of it as a positive investment toward current safety and future independence—that can help older adults get past the temptation to put it off for another day.”

Among certain ideas for home modifications worth exploring, the column describes adding grab bars and non-slip mats to bathrooms; changing the depth of outside steps or adding ramps to doors; enhancing interior lighting for easier visibility; or adding smart home devices to voice-automate certain home functions among others.

The column also explores ways to use home equity to fund these projects, including the employment of a reverse mortgage. For insight, Seniors Matter turned to Chris Theis, VP and private banking team lead for Fargo, N.D.-based Bell Bank.

“Ultimately, Theis advised, make sure to explore all borrowing alternatives because for most people, he said, equity from homeownership is a key way to build personal wealth over time,” the column reads based on Theis’ input. “In other words, homeowners shouldn’t put their valuable equity – their wealth – at risk without careful planning.”

Read the column at Seniors Matter.

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