Tony & Becky Schaffer, Schaffer Construction
Designs for Life
Certified Aging in place specialist (CAPS)
Home access and safety modifications for seniors and people with disabilities.
Tony Shaffer spoke and said they try to educate people. Sometimes it is not possible to fix accessibility problems in a home because it is not safe, practical, or economical. They will be very upfront with you and will tell you if it is better not to renovate. When using any contractor make sure they are licensed and insured. Ask to see pictures of their work and ask for references.
Some ideas on how to safely access a home:
1. Ramps – Wooden ramps in Arlington and Loudoun counties require a footing which then makes it a structure and may need a permit.
a. You can build a ramp from pressure treated wood or from composite material. Pressure treated wood does require maintenance.
b. Modular aluminum ramps can be installed in ½ day. Benefit of the modular aluminum ramp is it can be moved and taken with you, or it can removed and stored.
c. Flagstone or stamped concrete ramps are the most expensive and most esthetic.
d. Suitcase ramps are not safe.
2. Outdoor lifts – vertical platform with cover. These are useful when you have a lot of stairs to enter the house. If you have 6 steps you would need to make a ramp that is 60 feet in length.
Approximate costs for ramps:
3 steps = $3500-$4500 for a modular ramp
Built ramp = $3500 – $8000 depending on material used
Flagstone ramp = $10,000-$20,000
Some ideas on how to modify your home on the inside:
1. Handrails installed on both sides of the stairs. Helpful if you have one side that is stronger than the other.
2. Lighting on stairs. Overhead lights tend to cast shadows.
3. Taller toilets
4. Grab bars next to toilets and in showers and/or tubs
5. Bidet (can be installed if electricity is near the toilet)
6. Lever faucets
7. Touchless faucet ($700)
8. Tub cutouts – You still need to be able to lift your foot 4 to 6 inches to get in the shower area. It is more cost effective to make a tub cutout rather than remove the whole tub and replace it with a shower. Costs are about $1200-$1300 and can be done in ½ day.
9. Temporary shower – a unit that is raised on the floor 2 inches. It is 5 ft. wide by 5 ft. deep with a bath seat. 10. Curbless shower – a shower that is flush with the floor with no edge to step over to enter.
11. Stair lifts – if your stairs have a platform or a curved staircase then you should install a curved stair lift. If you buy on the Internet, call the company and ask what they do if it breaks. Buyer beware – they may give you a 1-800 number and no one answers. Harmar products are installed by Schaffer Construction and are made in America. Another product that is made in America is Bruno. Costs for lifts: $2500-$6000 for straight lifts; $10,000-$15,000 for curved lifts
12. Elevators can cost $50,000 – $100,000.
VA State currently gives tax credits for handicapped or aging in place home modifications.
If you are going to do a modification to your home think accessible (wheelchair) oriented even if you are not in a wheelchair.
You need a door 36 inches wide for a wheelchair and you should have 32-34 inches for a sink top.
Cindy currently lives in Loudoun County. Her husband had a stroke 9 years ago, is paralyzed and in a wheelchair. She is a caregiver and he is her inspiration for her real estate business.
Your home is your biggest asset. Cindy runs her business by the golden rule. She is a straight shooter and will tell you if modifications will not increase the value of your home.
Real Estate markets change every day. Recently Cindy lived in a universal designed home in Texas. No homes had sold in her subdivision for many months because of the slow real estate market. Cindy put her house on the market in 2010 and it sold in 6 days. This confirmed what she already knew . . . the demand for this type of real estate is here and now.
Condos can be a good alternative to a single home. She also mentioned townhouses in Landsdowne with elevators built by Evergreen Builders. You can also build from scratch. If you go to a builder, do not go unrepresented. Take a qualified SRES realtor with you to talk to the builder or when visiting a model home. The realtor is better able to ask the right questions and get more information to help you make a decision on whether this is the right home for you.
The real estate market in NOVA is coming back. Houses are selling in hours and the number of days on the market is now less than 30.
If you are 62 years of age or older and have a lot of equity in your home, consider a reverse mortgage. She said they can be good because you can use your equity to make home modifications in order to “age in place” or you can sell and make a reverse purchase on a new home.
Finding a home can be a very long process. On the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) there are 32 information fields which can be searched. You can’t always trust the information on the listing because many realtors don’t know what accessible means. For example, a house may be listed as accessible because it has grab bars in the shower but the house has 14 steps up to the front door!
Cindy she goes to the property and checks it out before taking a client there. Even if you decide you don’t want to stay in this area, Cindy has many connections with other realtors in other cities and states.