Let’s say you’re building your dream home. How long are you planning to live there? Five years? Ten years? Twenty? When you’re planning out every detail, right down to the cabinet hardware and grout colors, don’t overlook an important feature homebuyers often wish they had later: An elevator.
It’s true, especially considering how many townhomes are being built with three floors in the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. These courtyard and patio homes in developments such as the Courtyards at Normandy have a small footprint and significant square-footage. But how do you use that third floor when it’s such a significant hike? And what about multi-generational families?
That’s why installing elevators in custom homes is becoming more popular — and more affordable, too.
Joe Williams, CEO and founder of Dallas’ Elevating Systems, has been in the industry for almost 25 years. Surely Williams has seen it all, from budget friendly elevators in the $20,000 range that give mobility-impaired homeowners a sense of independence, to ultra-luxury systems upwards of $100,000 that add a dose of pizzaz to a trip down to the wine cellar. Williams has them all.
“Elevators are actually 20 times safer than escalators,” Williams noted. “And people are putting them in their homes because so many accidents happen on stairs.”
Williams is a treasure trove of interesting facts, including the location and owner of the very first elevator. It was King Louis XIV of France, who had a chair hoisted via a series of counterweights from his bedroom to his balcony, if you didn’t know.
“Every three days, the world’s population travels up and down in elevators,” Williams added. Who’d have thought?!
Of course, today’s elevators are a lot more technologically sophisticated than a chair and a few chains. Some pneumatic models look downright futuristic, powered by a strong fan pushing a capsule through a clear tube not unlike the systems that make drive-through banking so convenient. Vacuum models can be a bit more pricey, starting at around $35,000. They do take up less space, though.
Williams does have some advice for people building multi-floor custom homes: It’s cheaper to install an elevator with the help of a knowledgeable company such as Elevating Systems now, rather than trying to shoehorn one in later.
“It’s easier to work with a builder during construction,” Williams said. “No matter how good the builder is, he may not be paying attention to the center line of the home.”
That may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re installing an elevator that needs a certain amount of vertical space, well, it can turn into a much bigger project that could involve moving walls and closets. Williams says that most elevator systems require a five-foot-square space to be ADA compliant. That’s about the size of a small walk-in closet.
“If you don’t work with an elevator contractor from the beginning, then installing one is going to be a challenge,” Williams said. “However, once installed, the good thing about elevators is that you won’t even know it’s there until you need it.”
Truly, there’s an elevator for every application. Take, for instance, the system that Williams’ company donated to Operation Finally Home’s Jackel family. In partnership with Tim Jackson Custom Homes, Elevating Systems installed an elevator into Sgt. Stephan Jackel’s new home. Jackel, who is a double amputee after an IED hit his convoy while on patrol in Afghanistan three years ago, needed a better way to get up to the second floor of his family’s Little Elm home. So Williams donated an elevator that runs between $20,000 and $30,000 in most cases.
However, Williams said that elevators can become focal points of homes. Take reality TV producer Tommy Habeeb‘s home for instance. Williams installed a high-end system in the “Cheaters” host’s home, one that had a plasma screen TV, LED strip lighting, and a camera.
“If you can dream it, we can do it,” Williams beamed.
And if you think elevators are just another expense, consider that once an elevator is installed, it needs less service and maintenance than the average car and actually can appreciate a home’s value by up to 10 percent.
“I’ve had people tell me, ‘Oh my gosh, I thought they were so much more expensive,’ ” said Rita LaRue, business development chief at Elevating Systems. “And some people say, ‘Oh, I’ll get one when I get older,’ but they aren’t just for seniors. Even the younger crowd moving into townhomes don’t want to walk up three flights of stairs, or have their guests or parents climb stairs, either.”
Can you imagine asking your aging relatives to enjoy their stay in the third-floor guest suite? Neither can I.
“Really, you want to make your home more accessible,” Williams said. “You want you make your home work for you.”