Construction for an Aging Population: The Influence of Shifting Demographics

Posted on June 25, 2019 by Jorie Helms

Construction for an Aging Population: The Influence of Shifting Demographics

Senior citizens are a fast-growing segment of the population. It is estimated that the number of people age 65 and older will nearly double before 2050. While many senior citizens eventually go on to live in an assisted living facility or nursing home, a growing portion of the senior population is focused on age-in-place strategies to stay in their own homes and remain independent for as long as possible.

Aging in place is possible under the right circumstances. Seniors need special accommodations that younger homeowners and home buyers rarely consider. This may affect many of the homes being built and remodeled today and into the future. Contractors who build or remodel homes can better serve this growing niche by remaining up to date with the latest changes and trends. If you're a contractor with a burgeoning business, here's what you need to know about constructing homes for an aging population.

Single Floor Living or Lift Installation Capabilities

In their golden years, many seniors lose the ability to walk safely up and down stairs. Some seniors will manage this problem by installing a stair lift or elevator. Others may simply seek out homes where they can live all on one floor. Single floor living can be accomplished in many ways. In some cases, homeowners install a master suite on the first floor, where they can sleep and go to the bathroom all without going upstairs. Sometimes this requires the homeowner to make an addition to the home. In other cases, homeowners move to homes without a second floor.

Ranch style homes are very practical for homeowners who are unable to go up and down stairs regularly. In some ranch style homes, facilities (like laundry) are placed in the basement. Builders in an area with high housing demand from seniors may opt to move these facilities to the ground floor. Those constructing homes with multiple floors might consider leaving enough room for a lift or elevator to be installed.

Safe Bathrooms

There are many ways that contractors can build senior-safe bathrooms. Existing bathrooms can also be modified to become senior-safe. Common age in place features found in bathrooms include:

  • Walk-in showers. These showers reduce the risk of a homeowner falling when stepping into and out of the shower.
  • Non-slip floors. Slips are a common problem in bathrooms, but non-slip floors can help prevent falls even when the floor is wet.
  • Grab bars. Grab bars give homeowners something to hold onto in the shower and when standing up or sitting down from the toilet.
  • Proper lighting. The bathroom is a place where lighting can be poor in areas over the shower; improving lighting can help prevent accidents.

In cases when the homeowner contacts a contractor to ask for an age in place remodel, contractors can help the homeowner identify areas where their existing bathroom can be improved.

Wheelchair/Mobility Accommodations

Many seniors eventually find themselves in a wheelchair or in need of some sort of mobility device. When this happens, navigating a standard home can be a challenge. Narrow doorways and hallways make it difficult or impossible to maneuver around the house independently. Those who wish to stay in their current home may need a contractor with the ability to widen hallways or doorways. Ramp installation/construction is also important for homeowners in wheelchairs.​ Those who choose to downsize/move will need to find or build a home with these accomodations. For this kind of project, it's important to become familiar with the local building codes. Contractors who are familiar with local regulations can help ensure the changes they make are safe.

Optimized Lighting

Good lighting is an important and desirable feature in any home, but it's even more important in a senior's home. Varied lighting and adequate controls can help seniors avoid accidents. When installing lighting, contractors must ensure that switches are available in all room entry ways, and must also ensure that lighting can reach all dark corners. Hallways in particular can be dim, so installing hallway lighting can prevent accidents.

Helping Seniors Achieve Their Goals

Builders and contractors can help home buyers and homeowners achieve a wide variety of goals and this - broadly speaking - is no different. Like many jobs they are faced with, building a home that is suitable for aging-in-place is not always a straightforward task and, as a result, creative problem-solvers will always be in demand. Looking forward to the future, learning how to address aging-in-place concerns in a home can make an individual or company an invaluable resource to a growing population of seniors wishing to maintain their independence.

John Quinn is the broker and owner of The John Quinn Team of RE/MAX Experts. With over 30 years of real estate experience and a commitment to personalized customer service, John helps buyers and sellers in the memphis area.

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OKC makes national list of most affordable ZIP codes

Posted on May 17, 2019 by Jorie Helms

Finding an affordable home to buy should be easier than discovering buried treasure. But for many homebuyers – especially first-timers – it’s doesn’t feel that way.

The lack of affordable homes has been a persistent problem in the housing market. In the first quarter, inventory rose 2.4% from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. But it’s still well below normal, and that’s vexing homebuyers.

To unearth low-cost homes, USA TODAY tapped Trulia to look at the largest 50 U.S. metro areas and identify ZIP codes where homes are affordable relative to the median metro income.

Here's the hopeful news for buyers.

Where the least expensive housing exists in every state

In 43 metro areas, at least half the homes in the majority of ZIP codes were considered affordable. There were 604 ZIP codes – or 6.8% of all ZIP codes – where all of the homes were affordable. There were just 288 ZIP codes, or 3.3%, where none of the homes were considered affordable.

“It’s interesting that so many ZIP codes fall into one of those extreme buckets,” said Cheryl Young, senior economist at Trulia.

What makes a ZIP code affordable?

Neither housing stock age nor distance from the city center seemed to be strong drivers of affordability, Young said.

“That’s likely because there may be a premium to live near the center of a metro as well as a premium to live in tony suburbs,” Young said, “and (while) older housing stock may reduce home values, there are also high-value neighborhoods with well-maintained older estates and homes.”

Trulia didn’t dig into other factors that could determine the desirability of a ZIP code and, therefore, the value of the housing inventory, such as performance of nearby schools, proximity to shopping and restaurants, and access to major commuter roads.

What is affordable?

Trulia took the current value of all homes in the largest 50 metro areas and calculated how much the median income could afford by ZIP code. Homes were considered affordable if 30% or less of the metro area’s median monthly income went to the mortgage payment.

To find the share of affordable homes on the market, Trulia calculated the maximum amount that the median income could allocate toward a mortgage payment. Calculations considered a 20% down payment, and the monthly mortgage payment also included property insurance and taxes.

It’s important to note that many homebuyers, notably first-time buyers, contribute less than 20% toward their home purchase. That would increase their monthly mortgage payment on the same home bought with 20% down. Additionally, those buyers would have to pay private mortgage insurance, another monthly cost. The number of ZIP codes with affordable homes would also shrink for those buyers, Young said.

Most and least affordable ZIP codes

USA TODAY ranked a metro area's affordability by the percentage of ZIP codes where at least half of the homes are affordable for that area's median income. Using Trulia's data, USA TODAY also looked at how many ZIP codes were 100% affordable and how many had no affordable homes for the median income.

Oklahoma City

Share of ZIP codes where at least half the homes are affordable: 95.4%

Share of ZIP codes where none of the homes are affordable: 0%

Share of ZIP codes where all the homes are affordable: 6.5%


Share of ZIP codes where at least half the homes are affordable: 96.7%

Share of ZIP codes where none of the homes are affordable: 0.8%

Share of ZIP codes where all the homes are affordable: 13.8%


Share of ZIP codes where at least half the homes are affordable: 95.8%

Share of ZIP codes where none of the homes are affordable: 0.5%

Share of ZIP codes where all the homes are affordable: 22.4%

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Join OkHBA in welcoming BASCO's new EO

Posted on May 6, 2019 by Jorie Helms

The Builders Association of South Central Oklahoma has named Stephen Koranda executive officer.

Through his firm, Back To You Marketing, Koranda will manage BASCO, which, since 1949, has been serving and connecting those in the home building industry through education, information, advocacy, and networking events.

Koranda has more than 20 years of experience working with customer service and association clients including local and statewide associations. He has previously managed nonprofits and has served on numerous boards within Norman and Oklahoma. He is presently principal and senior consultant of Back To You Marketing, a full-service marketing association management firm based in Norman.

“Stephen brings his extensive network and experience in management, collaboration and strategic direction to his role as the executive officer,” Danny Gamble, BASCO Board Chair, said in a statement. “We are excited to see where he will lead the association.”

For more information, please call Stephen Koranda, at 405-637-6225, or email

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After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople

Posted on April 23, 2019 by Jorie Helms

FONTANA, Calif. — At a steel factory dwarfed by the adjacent Auto Club Speedway, Fernando Esparza is working toward his next promotion.

Esparza is a 46-year-old mechanic for Evolution Fresh, a subsidiary of Starbucks that makes juices and smoothies. He’s taking a class in industrial computing taught by a community college at a local manufacturing plant in the hope it will bump up his wages.

It’s a pretty safe bet. The skills being taught here are in high demand. That’s in part because so much effort has been put into encouraging high school graduates to go to college for academic degrees rather than for training in industrial and other trades that many fields like his face worker shortages.

Now California is spending $6 million on a campaign to revive the reputation of vocational education, and $200 million to improve the delivery of it.

“It’s a cultural rebuild,” said Randy Emery, a welding instructor at the College of the Sequoias in California’s Central Valley.

Standing in a cavernous teaching lab full of industrial equipment on the college’s Tulare campus, Emery said the decades-long national push for high school graduates to get bachelor’s degrees left vocational programs with an image problem, and the nation’s factories with far fewer skilled workers than needed.

“I’m a survivor of that teardown mode of the ’70s and ’80s, that college-for-all thing,” he said.

This has had the unintended consequence of helping flatten out or steadily erode the share of students taking vocational courses. In California’s community colleges, for instance, it’s dropped to 28 percent from 31 percent since 2000, contributing to a shortage of trained workers with more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree.

Research by the state’s 114-campus community college system showed that families and employers alike didn’t know of the existence or value of vocational programs and the certifications they confer, many of which can add tens of thousands of dollars per year to a graduate’s income.

“We needed to do a better job getting the word out,” said Van Ton-Quinlivan, the system’s vice chancellor for workforce and economic development.

High schools and colleges have struggled for decades to attract students to job-oriented classes ranging from welding to nursing. They’ve tried cosmetic changes, such as rebranding “vocational” courses as “career and technical education,” but students and their families have yet to buy in, said Andrew Hanson, a senior research analyst with Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Federal figures show that only 8 percent of undergraduates are enrolled in certificate programs, which tend to be vocationally oriented.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., last year focused attention on the vocational vs. academic debate by contending during his presidential campaign that “welders make more money than philosophers.”

The United States has 30 million jobs that pay an average of $55,000 per year and don’t require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Georgetown center. People with career and technical educations are actually slightly more likely to be employed than their counterparts with academic credentials, the U.S. Department of Education reports, and significantly more likely to be working in their fields of study.

At California Steel Industries, where Esparza was learning industrial computing, some supervisors without college degrees make as much as $120,000 per year and electricians also can make six figures, company officials said.

Skilled trades show among the highest potential among job categories, the economic-modeling company Emsi calculates. It says tradespeople also are older than workers in other fields — more than half were over 45 in 2012, the last period for which the subject was studied — meaning looming retirements could result in big shortages.

High schools and community colleges are the keys to filling industrial jobs, Hanson said, but something needs to change.

“You haven’t yet been able to attract students from middle-class and more affluent communities” to vocational programs, he said. “Efforts like California’s to broaden the appeal are exactly what we need.”

Aside from marketing the programs differently and making them simpler to find and apply for, California is trying to ease the process through which individual campuses can add new programs that could help local businesses. If a region needs respiratory therapists, for example, community colleges will be able to avoid some of the red tape that previously hampered their flexibility to train new therapists.

“We definitely wanted to get out of the colleges’ way,” Ton-Quinlivan said.

The industrial course in which Esparza is enrolled is run by nearby Chaffey College through the community college’s InTech Center, a partnership with California Steel and other local manufacturers. At its completion, Esparza will have new skills he hopes will translate into a promotion and a raise of $4 or $5 per hour.

Like his classmates, Esparza, who starts work at 6 a.m., is looking at the class as a moneymaker for him.

“It feels very comfortable for me,” he said. And then, like many Californians, he reflects on his commute. “I don’t even have to catch a freeway to get here. How can it get better?”

But it can get better in California, where 30 percent of all job openings by 2025 — more than a million jobs — will require some post-high school education, according to the state’s community college system. Some on the industry side of the equation say that while colleges should have spent the past few decades building tighter bonds with local companies, those companies share the blame for vocational education’s tattered reputation.

Residents who have watched manufacturing companies relocate overseas may have not wanted to encourage their children to learn manufacturing-related skills, said Sam Geil, a Fresno, California, business consultant and adviser to the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance.

“It doesn’t help when industry is moving out and laying people off,” Geil said. “It’s the relationship that industry has with the community. Industry could do a better job communicating.”

As with a lot of education challenges, money is also a big problem.

While a humanities class such as English costs a college just $52 per student credit, a respiratory therapy class costs $265, according to a 2013 report by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy. Equipment and trained instructors in some specialty fields can be prohibitively expensive for a college.

With state budgets in constant flux, colleges and experts say it’s essential that companies help pay for educational programs that directly benefit them. While that kind of cooperation has been rare, Chaffey College’s InTech Center is an example of how it could work.

California Steel chipped in $2 million for the education center, which it leases to Chaffey for $5 per year, said Sandra Sisco, the school’s director of economic development. Other local companies and colleges have invested, too. The center served about 1,300 students in the past year and plans to grow, she said.

The steel company agreed to work with Chaffey mostly because it was having trouble finding enough trained workers, said Rod Hoover, its human resources manager. And if California Steel’s competitors benefit from the classes on the factory campus, many of which provide skills useful in steelmaking, so be it.

“It was the right thing to do for our community,” Hoover said. “The selfish reason was because we needed craft workers and it was inconvenient to send them elsewhere.”

The InTech Center specializes in quick courses that help students like Esparza get ahead in their jobs, Sisco said.

“The reputation of the colleges being archaic and slow is still out there,” she said. As with many perceptions of vocational education, Sisco said, “That’s not necessarily true.”

Although a large percentage of InTech students are older than traditional-aged college students, Chaffey is trying to encourage younger ones to focus early on their career training.

The strategy worked with 17-year-old Derrick Roberson, who graduated in the spring from Montclair High School and is taking an industrial maintenance electrical and instrumentation InTech course as he trains to be an electrician.

Vocational courses in high school were seen as second-class, Roberson said.

“All throughout high school, they made it sound like going to college was our only option,” he said. “After you go to college, where do you go? It can open doors for you, but not as much as they make it seem.”

Career education boosters also say job-focused courses — and accompanying apprenticeships — can provide students with essential “soft skills” such as communication and conflict resolution that foster teamwork and reduce stress. And schools should consider blending traditional college courses with vocational ones, said Sean Gallagher, who recently founded Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy.

“It’s often either vocational training or liberal arts,” Gallagher said. “But if you look at what employers want, it’s both, and I think that’s often lost in the dialogue today.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up here for our higher-education newsletter.

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We need your help in Texas

Posted on April 19, 2019 by Jorie Helms

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OKC-area home sales increase in 2018

Posted on March 5, 2019 by Jorie Helms

OKC-area home sales increase in 2018 By: Molly M. Fleming The Journal Record " March 4, 2019

OKLAHOMA CITY – Homes priced at less than $200,000 were in high demand in 2018, and that demand isn’t expected to slow this year.

Closed single-family home sales were up 4.1 percent compared to 2017, according to MLSOK’s year- end report, which was released Feb. 26. The median sales price increased almost 3 percent to $167,500.

MLSOK’s figures include statistics

from Edmond, Altus, El Reno, Midwest City, Moore, Yukon, Piedmont, Elk City, Oklahoma City, Weatherford, Norman, Del City, Shawnee, Mustang

and Nichols Hills.

Keller Williams Elite Broker Jennifer Arsenault said within a 40-mile radius, the metro has about two months of inventory, though there’s even more houses available in the higher price ranges.

“In the housing market, you want to see five to six months of inventory,” she said. “It’s a seller’s market when you have less than five months.”

The area that saw the biggest increase in new listings and pending sales was the 73064 ZIP code, which includes Mustang’s city limits and some of the school district. In that ZIP code, there was a 27.7 percent increase in pending home sales and a 20.6 percent increase in new listings.

Monty Strickland, managing broker of Realty Experts in Moore, said that while he works in the Moore area, he’s also seen a lot of deals in Newcastle and Blanchard.

He said he thinks there’s opportunity now for people in a lower-priced home to move into a higher-end home, which would free up the lower-priced home. Arsenault made a similar observation about the market.

“People that are holding onto their properties – now is a great time to move up,” he said. “They should definitely take advantage of that.”

The price range with the shortest market time was $150,000 and less, while the highest market time is for homes priced $450,001 and higher.

Arsenault said the higher-end price range isn’t stagnant, but moving slowly. Her firm has completed several deals in the luxury market, she said.

“We see a lot of cash deals with property going under contract,” she said. “It’s ones that are in great locations and look good. The money’s out there.”

Overall, she said 2018 stood out to her because typically in an election year, the sales slow down in September into the election, then pick back up in November and December.

That didn’t happen this year, she said. There’s a strong need for homes under $200,000, especially with such a competitive investor market.

Oklahoma State Home Builders Association Executive Vice President Mike Means said he thinks there will be about a 5 percent increase in newly built homes. Even as lumber prices have come down for the ninth month in a row, there’s a need for land.

“One of the biggest issues we have right now is there aren’t available lots,” Means said. “We have developers that are trying to get more land and get them ready to build.”

But it’s hard to find land in a good school district, Means said. There’s also a need for higher-paying jobs.

“Even the economists in Oklahoma will tell you that we’re creating a lot of jobs, but they’re not high-paying jobs,” Means said.

The OSHBA is doing what it can to reduce the costs of new homes. It has requested a bill to stop cities from regulating the aesthetical design standard. He said when a city requires brick when siding could suffice, that makes the home more expensive.

In Oklahoma, a $1,000 increase in a home’s price can keep 1,993 households from being able to afford it. In Oklahoma City, the $1,000 price uptick equates to 504 families getting priced out, according to study by the National Association of Home Builders.

Strickland said he’s optimistic about 2019. He said a lot of people were waiting out 2018 to see what would happen with interest rates, and he thinks they’ll finally make a literal move in 2019. He expects as the baby boomers continue to downsize, their homes will offer great opportunities for buyers.

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