The terms “visitable housing” and “visitability” are essentially about people who use mobility aids having the same rights to visit friends and family in their homes. It doesn’t necessarily mean they can live there or stay overnight. The three key features associated with visitability are a step free entrance, wider doorways and a usable toilet on the entry level. These features are reflected in Part M of the UK building code. Various states in the US have tried to encourage uptake of visitability, but it is not mandated.
Visitability differs from full accessibility and universal design. It is a minimal baseline seen by some as a cost effective way to entice the property industry to get on board with the ideas. Although the concept has been around for twenty years, it has gained little, if any, traction. Visitability is not a concept easy to sell unless the buyer thinks they need it. And few do.
A research project carried out in Ohio in 2015 looked at: home-buyers’ perceived value and perceptions of visitable features; developer, designer and builder perspectives; real estate agent views; estimated costs; and which house buyers were most likely to buy. The aim of the report was to create a persuasive argument for adopting visitability in new homes in Ohio. However, the researchers acknowledge industry resistance and suggest incentives to encourage uptake, or mandating the features.
The report is structured into three sections based on their surveys of three groups: homeowners and home buyers, industry stakeholders, and real estate agents. All groups were asked to assess photos of visitable features in homes. In all instances, participants believed the homes would sell for more and sell more quickly. Industry stakeholders estimated the features would cost less than one per cent of construction costs. This is in line with other research.
Elements of the research are also available in an academic paper by the same authors in, Homeowner and homebuyer impressions of visitable features.