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Demand rising for Universal Design homes

Universal Design homes are gaining in popularity. Buyers are more apt to be seeking out these homes. Many homeowners are remodeling and retrofitting their residence, following Universal Design criteria.

In simplest terms, a Universal Design home is one that meets the needs of all people, healthy or disabled, young or old. It’s a particularly strategic design plan for the increasing number of owners who want to “age in place” – living in their residence long into their retirement years.

Such a home will comfortably accommodate a young active family or a retired couple with age-related special needs. Physically impaired friends or relatives who visit for a weekend will greatly appreciate the home’s special features.

Homebuilders and architects are well aware of the trend toward Universal Design and are including such features as wider doorways, step-free entrances and decorative grab bars. Definitive information about special features can be seen at The Center for Universal Design’s site:

This design concept emerged after World War II when many returning veterans who had disabilities from war injuries needed special features in their new home. The trend became stronger in subsequent years, particularly during the 1970s. Now it’s rising in popularity again.

Baby boomers are the demographic group that is currently expressing the strongest interest in Universal Design homes. Many of these baby boomers are now reaching retirement age. There are currently about 40 million Americans over the age of 65, according to the Census Bureau. Some 80 percent of the population now lives past age 65, and about 86 percent of older Americans plan to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives, according to AARP.

It’s no wonder that Universal Design homes are preferred by an increasingly large segment of Americans.

Is the use of FHA loans still growing?

FHA home mortgages are now the most popular way to finance the purchase of a home, according to a survey recently taken by the Home Buying Institute. In fact, it revealed that about 87 percent of prospective home buyers plan to use this form of financing when purchasing their next home.

Among those respondents, 53.8 percent said they wanted to use an FHA home loan for the smaller down payment, 19.2 percent said they thought the overall qualification process would be easier, 13.5 percent said they previously had trouble qualifying for a conventional loan, 7.7 percent said they had low credit scores, and 5.8 percent felt their income was too low to qualify for a regular loan.

FHA’s market share has already grown considerably in recent years. In the first quarter of this year, almost half of all home buyers used an FHA loan to purchase a home.

Is house flipping a reviving trend?

Apparently so. In some markets, up to one home sale in every six is to a flipper – a buyer who intends to quickly resell the property for a profit.

The incentives for flippers are the availability of mortgages at historically low interest rates (4.72 percent for a 30-year fixed loan at this writing) and low-priced distressed properties now on the market. However, the risks are great for these buyers with home values in many markets in an up-and-down volatile mode.

Why are there so many time-share reselling scams?

Most credible real estate experts have long claimed that time-share units are a terrible investment. They depreciate in value more like automobiles than other real estate.

Many time-share buyers were lured into a purchase via pressure sales techniques. Later, many of the buyers tried to sell their unit, but they couldn’t find a buyer, even at drastically reduced prices. Now, with many people struggling with financial problems, they are motivated to take whatever action is needed to unload their time share.

Scammers are quick to take advantage of this situation by offering to list or sell the unit to “already lined-up buyers.” In most cases, they insist on upfront cash before rendering the service. Once the cash is paid, they typically disappear.

This type of scam is among the top complaints registered by time-share owners over the past year.

Best advice: Never pay an upfront fee. Most unsolicited offers to sell your time share should be immediately rejected or thoroughly investigated. Only deal with seasoned, success-proven brokerage organizations.

To find out more about Jim Woodard and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at