How to Pay for Aging-in-Place Remodels

Quick Answer

When financing for aging-in-place renovations, financial tools like HELOCs, home equity loans, cash-out refinances, 203(k) loans, personal loans and more can help pay for the renovation costs.

A couple talk with each other inside a home being remodeled while documents and tools sit on the work table.

You can budget for aging-in-place renovations by using home improvement financing tools such as a HELOC, cash-out refinance, personal loan or other options. Aging-in-place renovations can have high price tags, but if you're one of the 77% of seniors who want to remain in their own homes, the effects of these renovations can feel priceless.

Estimating the costs and deciding on financing options for an aging-in-place remodel can be a challenge. Here's what you need to know.

Possible Renovations Needed to Age in Place

Depending on the age of a home, how many levels it has and the needs of the aging occupants, there are a variety of safety renovations to consider. Some can be achieved in a day, such as cutting an opening into an existing tub wall, while others may take weeks and a bigger budget.

If you or a family member are thinking about updating a home for senior safety, some renovations to think about include:

  • Walk-in shower or tub: Many slip-and-fall accidents happen in the bathroom, often due to slippery, uneven surfaces. Eliminating the need to step over a threshold into a shower can be an important safety change.
  • Stairlift: To keep a multifloor home accessible, a stairlift can help you reach the second floor safely even with mobility or balance challenges.
  • Safety railings or grab bars: Adding safety railings in areas like stairways or bathrooms are simple and useful renovations that can help prevent falls.
  • Widened doorways: Getting around in a home with a mobility aid like a wheelchair or walker can be difficult with traditional doorways. Doorway widening is a renovation that makes using aids easier.
  • Ramps: For short or exterior staircases that are not candidates for stairlifts, ramps can make getting around safer.

Costs of Aging-in-Place Renovations

Like the diversity of options for renovations, renovation budgets can also vary for aging-in-place upgrades. Buying and installing grab bars from the hardware store yourself could cost less than $50, for example. But for more extensive renovations, you may have to plan for a higher budget.

Here are some average costs of aging-in-place renovations:

  • Installing a stair lift: $6,000 to $15,000 depending on the stair design
  • Accessible bathroom renovation: $9,500 for specific updates; up to $25,000 for complete bathroom renovations
  • Cost of widening doorways for wheelchair/mobility access: $300 to $2,500

Working with a licensed and insured contractor to get an accurate quote can help you find the best financing options early in your renovation process.

Aging-in-Place Renovation Financing Options

Renovation price estimates may come as a shock, especially if the adjustments need to be done quickly after a fall or illness. Luckily, there are many financing options for home improvement.

When deciding how to pay for aging-in-place renovations, you can choose from the following options depending on the extent and cost of renovations needed:

  • Emergency savings: If you have a flush emergency fund or other savings you can easily tap without hurting your retirement savings, this could be a good time to dip in.
  • HELOC: A home equity line of credit is a revolving line of credit that lets you borrow money against the equity in your home. A HELOC allows you to borrow what you need up to your credit limit, similar to using a credit card.
  • Home equity loan: A home equity loan, or second mortgage, is an installment loan that lets you borrow a lump sum against your home equity and pay it back at a fixed interest rate.
  • Cash-out refinance: Refinancing your mortgage with a cash-out refinance loan allows you to take out some of the equity in your home by increasing the balance you owe on your mortgage.
  • 203(k) loan: When refinancing a home that needs improvements, a 203(k) loan may save you money by bundling the renovation costs into your mortgage payment at the same rate, unlike taking a separate renovation loan.
  • Personal loan: If you prefer a simple loan process that doesn't tap your home equity or affect your mortgage at all, or if you need a smaller amount of money, a personal loan for home renovations may be a good solution. You can apply for personal loans from your own bank or credit union or look into online lenders to compare loan interest rates.
  • Credit cards: While the interest rates on credit cards are likely higher than with options like personal loans, they could be used strategically for renovations. For example, applying for a new card with an introductory 0% APR period or one from a home improvement store with financing options built in can help break up the costs of smaller renovations over several months or years and could help you avoid paying interest.
  • Medicare: While Medicare won't cover major renovations, it will cover specified durable medical equipment to complement more extensive projects such as patient lifts or traction equipment.
  • Reverse mortgage: Reverse mortgages allow you to use your home's equity if you own it outright or have already built substantial equity. Using the home as collateral, you can access that equity in a lump sum, line of credit or fixed monthly disbursement. This option has substantial costs (such as a new appraisal) and strict requirements associated with it, so be sure to carefully review the terms and conditions before choosing a reverse mortgage.

The right financing option for you will depend on the amount of equity in your home, the size of the renovations and how big your budget is. You can use Experian's APR calculator to compare different types of loans and mortgages.

Financing Renovations to Keep You at Home

When safety renovations are needed, cost shouldn't be the only deciding factor. But for many seniors it is. Taking advantage of affordable credit or financing options can make it possible to more comfortably age in place.

If you or a loved one are looking for ways to pay for aging-in-place renovations, make sure your credit score is in good shape before applying for any financing to ensure the best chance of approval. Monitoring your credit before submitting applications is a good way to spot any issues and can even help you save money on your home improvement costs.

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