Want to Appeal to More Home Buyers? Help Them Age in Place with a Bathroom Upgrade

With an increasing number of aging baby boomers and retirees looking for homes that fit their needs, it's a good idea to make sure your house appeals to this group before you put it on the market. One of the best ways to do this is to focus on renovating rooms like the bathroom to make them more accessible. Here are four ways to do this on any budget.

Create a First-Floor Bath. If your home has more than one level or has elevation changes inside, look for a way to ensure that there's a usable bathroom on the main level. If the existing bathroom isn't a full bathroom—it doesn't have a full shower or bath, for example—look for ways to enlarge it to add these amenities that will increase the bathroom's usefulness and accessibility.

Add Space. Make your bathrooms—especially the first-floor bathroom and the master-suite bath—easier to get around in by increasing the interior square footage. If you have the budget, look for ways to knock out and move walls into adjacent rooms. If your budget is more limited, you can often add maneuvering space by removing things like an unnecessary bathtub or a large vanity (and replacing it with a smaller pedestal sink, for example). Get rid of unneeded bathroom furnishings and decorations to help reduce obstacles to using the space with mobility aids.

Use Walk-In Showers and Tubs. Replace traditional showers and bathtubs with easier-to-use walk-in varieties. If you can afford it, a roll-in shower that's "curbless"—meaning with very minimal elevation changes at the door—and features a wide door is the best way to offer an accessible bathroom experience. A clean, modern walk-in bathtub in the master suite is also going to attract seniors in ways that comparable houses for sale probably can't, thus increasing the resale potential. Include grab bars in all showers and around tubs as well.

Adjust the Amenities. The toilets in your bathrooms should be slightly higher than traditional units—perhaps around 20 inches high at the seat level—and have ample space in front and on both sides for maneuvering. Ensure that toilet paper can be accessed comfortably from a seated position and is easy to change. Add some mid-level storage cabinets or shelves—avoid any that are too high or too low to be easily reached. 

Whether you can implement just one of these ideas or all four, you will help create a house that will appeal to the large—and ever-increasing—retirement home–buying population. And that effort could net you a big reward when you decide to sell your house.