This was a new one, even for me. There has been a recent outcry by the obese folks in the country to homebuilders, requesting adjustments to homes making them more user friendly for those morbidly obese. What are some of the items on the request a list? They include modifying toilets to fit larger bottoms, widening doorways, expanding hallways, reinforcing staircases, and a host of other changes, specific to reaching the requirements of the rotund. How should and builders respond? Even more than that, how would these modifications affect future property values? In my professional opinion, even though I do not have a crystal ball, I can confidently say I have a clear prediction, based on patterns from the past in other homes modified for those with mobility impairments.
Increased home prices
Even making comprehensible modifications means that homebuilders have to go back to the drawing board and create new specifications and measurements with the architects. In my experience, there is no way to make all of the modifications without adding square footage to the entire property. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that will add to the sales price of the property; potentially inflating home prices across the board and pricing other buyers out of the market; perhaps, even pricing those commissioning the changes out of the market; or, at least out of that home. The sheer added manpower is enough to make industry professionals grimace.
Sure, every homebuyer I have ever worked with loves upgrades. However, one must consider if a 90 pound, 5 foot tall woman would consider purchasing a home modified for someone morbidly obese. The answer is, probably not.
Take homes modified for disabled individuals as an example. Because of the handicap, specific features added to the home, these homes typically require a longer time to move, compared to an unmodified property and might not sell for the same price as comparable homes in the neighborhood, due to the cost of remodeling to a buyer without disability. Modifying the home to suit the needs of obese individuals would no doubt influence the resale value of the property in exactly the same way.
The moral dilemma
Yes, one could say that a moral dilemma for modifying property for an obese person has about as much moral dilemma attached to it as serving an obese person a Big Mac. Regardless, modifying a home for someone who is obese is a permanent green card to continue to “live large”. By giving in and modifying properties for obese individuals, it is almost as if they receive a free pass to never do something for the betterment of their health. Thus, there is a moral dilemma here. Unlike a big Mac, a home is a permanent fixture in someone’s life not a fleeting moment of craving combined with poor decisions.
If I could provide a solution that would provide a middle ground to homebuilders and their buyers, it would be to integrate temporary modifications into a property or hidden modifications made only to the structure itself. The more homebuilders tweak aesthetics, the more complex property becomes to sell in a resale environments. Of course, the best solution would be for obese homebuyers everywhere to work on losing weight for the sake of their own health instead of spending money they do not need to spend on modifications to property. However, whether or not they pursue that, they should not be left without some recourse. What will happen in this market is volatile, and I anxiously await the results.
How do you think homebuilders should respond?
More from this Contributor:
What it Takes to Qualify for a Mortgage
Painting Before Selling Your Home
New Construction Dipped to 47-Year Low in 2010