Savvy builders put on their thinking CAPS

Savvy builders put on their thinking CAPS to help boomers age-in-place 

Savvy home builders and remodelers are finding a new market niche—modifying the homes of the baby boomer generation so that they can age-in-place. To help home owners sort the good from the bad, consumers are being encouraged to hire builders and remodelers for this type of work who hold the title, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), which designates them as having special training in this area of expertise. 

“We have an aging adult population that needs homes they can live in. Most want to improve their existing homes or build new in a familiar or desirable area. This creates an opportunity for builders and remodelers to serve that need. It is a great way for them to enhance their business,” said
Tom Stephani, president of Crystal Lake-based Custom Construction Concepts Ltd., who is CAPS certified and has been instructing CAPS courses for nearly two years. “The CAPS certification also opens up other opportunities for builders and remodelers to work with the medical profession to evaluate needs from a housing standpoint. Medical professionals don’t understand what can and can’t be done in a home, so there’s an opportunity for builders and remodelers to become consultants.” 

Demographic trends indicate that home owners who plan to stay in their homes as they get older instead of making other housing accommodations are one of the fastest growing segments of the residential remodeling market. Many of these households can be expected to call on remodelers to adapt their homes to their changing needs and lifestyles in order to maintain their independence. 

The NAHB Remodelers of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)—in collaboration with the NAHB Research Center, NAHB’s 50+ Council, and AARP—developed the CAPS program to address the growing number of consumers that will soon require these modifications. While most CAPS professionals are remodelers, an increasing number are general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants. 

“Modifying a home for an older resident can go beyond merely installing a ramp,” according to Peter Schwartz, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago (HBAGC). “Remodelers need to know how to access a person’s needs and address them in a way that is correct, safe and aesthetically pleasing, which is why the HBAGC is encouraging its members to earn their CAPS designation.” 

“Anyone can make a simple modification like installing a grab bar,” said Stephani. “Through the CAPS program, however, you learn how to evaluate the situation and learn where and how to install a grab bar correctly and safely. The one thing I always tell my students is that there is no correct place to put a grab bar. You put it wherever it is needed and however it is needed. Builders and remodelers first need to evaluate the needs of customers.” 

“To me the biggest benefit is that the CAPS designation makes me look more professional,” said Mike Nagel, president of Remodel One, Inc. in Roselle. “With more and more homes going this way, the CAPS designation sets me apart from other builders. My customers know that they are getting someone who is trained in how to install these modifications.  

“As a CAPS certified remodeler, I can access their needs and install what they need,” added Nagel, who is the 2007 Chairman of the NAHB Remodelers and in 2004 was named the HBAGC Remodeler of The Year. 

Nagel is currently working with CAPS certified Scott Sevon, president of Palatine-based Sevvonco, Inc. Together they are building a CAPS home in Schaumburg for a family with two handicapped children, one of whom is wheelchair-bound.  

Sevon, who was named the 2006 NAHB Graduate Master Builder of the Year and 2006 HBAGC Remodeler of the Year, says the CAPS program is all about continuing education. “Ongoing education keeps you sharp, on your toes, and helps you answer your customer’s questions.  

“Being CAPS certified means you understand their needs from lighting to handicapped accessibility issues in the bathroom. There are a lot of very aesthetic ways to accommodate these needs than we have used in the past,” continued Sevon, noting that earning the CAPS designation was not difficult but required only an investment of time.

The CAPS training program runs three days and equips graduates with the technical, customer service, and marketing skills required to effectively service the burgeoning market for aging-in-place home modifications ranging from the installation of bath and shower grab bars and adjustment of countertop heights to the creation of multifunctional first floor master suites and the installation of private elevators.CAPS professionals have been taught the strategies and techniques for designing and building aesthetically enriching, barrier-free living environments.

The CAPS program goes beyond design to address the codes and standards, common remodeling expenditures and projects, product ideas, and resources needed to provide comprehensive and practical aging-in-place solutions. CAPS graduates pledge to uphold a code of ethics and are required to maintain their designation by attending continuing education programs and participating in community service. 

To find a local CAPS certified remodeler, contact the HBAGC at (630) 627-7575.  

The Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago (HBAGC) is a trade association representing over 2,000 members involved in home building, remodeling, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing, and other segments of residential construction. A not-for-profit organization, the HBAGC provides its members with networking and educational opportunities and represents them in matters related to government relations and advocacy. Founded in 1939 and located in Addison, IL, the HBAGC covers Cook, De Kalb, Du Page, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties. It is the oldest affiliate of the national Association of Home Builders headquartered in Washington D.C. For more information visit www.hbagc.com. # # #