Interior Home Technology

Home Elevators Rising in Popularity: Luxury Feature, or Necessary Amenity?

Elevators are being installed in more and more homes. We took a closer look at who is getting them, why, and what it means for future home buyers.
February Data Study Home Elevators

Photo: istockphoto.com

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Elevators are a feature of multilevel buildings, and it’s easy to think of them as a luxury. Across the United States, elevators are most often seen in office buildings, malls, and other common spaces where many dozens (if not hundreds) of people need to move quickly and efficiently. In most places, especially large cities, elevators are scarce in a residential setting. In New York, for example, many people live in multistory “walk-ups,” which inspires sympathy for those living six, seven, or even eight floors up and needing to climb those stairs whenever they come or go. And in more suburban and rural areas, single-family homes are unlikely to be outfitted with a home elevator.

Elevators, however, are no longer just a luxury amenity. Even with home elevators costing upwards of $40,000 (including labor and materials), they’re rising in popularity. The same can be said for stair lifts, likely providing a clue as to why home elevators are a growing trend in homes. What’s driving this trend, and why does it matter for future home buyers?

To determine the popularity of installation services hired for accessibility projects, we reviewed how our readers have engaged with our content from October 2021 through February 2024. We defined “popularity” by focusing on topics with a higher-than-average number of readers, clicks to our vetted and recommended professionals, and even direct bookings made through our links. We also considered external official reports and studies. 

Key Insights

  • BobVila.com readers demonstrated interest in home elevator and stair lift content through July 2023, but inquiries about those projects peaked in May 2023. Most readers who engaged with that content were located in states with large populations of adults over the age of 65 or in the South, a region well-known for its appeal to the retired population. This leads to the conclusion that people searching for information on stair lift installation were also searching for information about home elevators. Ultimately more readers were inclined to choose home elevator installation, per BobVila.com data.
  • America’s population is aging. With more and more people over the age of 65, housing is an issue on several fronts. First, assisted living is no longer as popular of an option due to rising costs, lower quality of care, and health concerns. Second, the tough housing market is preventing aging homeowners from selling their homes. Finally, homes are not adequately outfitted to support the mobility needs of a person with physical limitations.
  • Stair lifts and home elevators are solutions to this growing problem, and both pay for themselves within a year. This makes them attractive temporary solutions to help reduce the cost of assisted living in the long term. However, home elevators offer distinct advantages over stair lifts.
  • Since it’s predicted that more people will age in place, it’s worth wondering if home elevator installation risks upsetting the housing market and causing home prices to rise, making homeownership less likely for future generations.
Think you can benefit from installing a home elevator?
Talk to a professional to see if it's right for you. Get free, no-commitment project estimates from top-rated home elevator installation services near you.
+

Home Elevators on the Rise

BobVila.com readers’ engagement with content around home elevators demonstrated a strong interest in the topic, growing over 500 percent from October 2021 to July 2023. While this is notable in itself, the most interesting shift occurred in May 2023, when a bigger portion of those interested in home elevator content followed through to inquire about purchase and installation. Inquiries rose 138 percent between March 2023 and May 2023, and a total of 275 percent between February 2022 and May 2023.

From October 2021 through February 2024 to date, the majority of readers who inquires about home elevator or stair lift installation have been most heavily concentrated in California, Florida, Virginia, and Michigan. More broadly, readers in the South (as defined by the U.S. Census) made the most requests—38.5 percent of all requests. Those in the West were responsible for 22.2 percent of all inquiries about elevators or stair lifts, with this region coming in at second place.

RegionPercentage of Total Number of Inquiries
South38.5%
West22.2%
Midwest20.5%
New England18.4%
Unknown0.4%

Those in the Midwest made 20.5 percent of all requests, and finally, readers in the New England region made 18.4 percent of all requests (less than 1 percent can be attributed to readers in unknown areas).

Stair lift content coincidentally mirrors home elevator content in a way that is impossible to ignore. Reader interest remained relatively consistent between August 2022 and July 2023, with spending related to stair lifts picking up roughly at the same as spending related to home elevators did (April and May 2023), indicating that readers interested in home elevators were also interested in stair lifts.

An Aging Population

Stair lifts are most frequently used by older adults, people who have limited mobility, or those who have a disability. The correlation in high interest in both stair lifts and home elevators certainly points to the conclusion that the people who are searching for more information about stair lifts and their benefits are also the people who are searching for home elevators. In fact, the states that made the most inquiries about both home elevators and stair lifts—California, Florida, Virginia, and Michigan—also happen to be states with a significant portion of its population over the age of 65, according to the Population Reference Bureau. And of course the South is popularly known as a “retiree magnet” for its lower cost of living and warm climate, especially Florida.

It’s no secret that the United States’ population is aging. According to the PRB, the population is older today than it has ever been before, and the number of Americans age 65 and older is projected to increase from 58 million (as of 2022) to 82 million by 2050—a 47 percent increase. This demographic would also make up a more significant portion of the population, rising from 17 percent to 23 percent, which is almost a quarter of the total U.S. population. With age comes the inevitable: the potential for decline in mobility. An aging population means more individuals placed in the care of assisted living facilities and nursing homes—or does it?

Stair Lifts: A Way to Delay Paying the Costs of Caregiving

The cost of caregiving is often expensive—for many prohibitively expensive. In 2023 the National Council on Aging estimated that older adult care could cost upwards of $4,500 per month, excluding fees, meaning that the individual or their families (or a combination of both) would be spending over $54,000 annually. Nursing homes tend to be even more expensive, costing over $9,000 per month (per Genworth Financial). Of course, these average costs vary by state, type of facility or care, and other factors, but in all cases the price tag is a hefty one—and it’s only going up. According to The Hill (via Altarum), the price of nursing home care increased by an average of 2.4 percent each year between 2012 and 2019. That’s a whopping 20.7 percent increase in just 7 years. Of course, this increase is directly tied to higher demand (the aging population), the cost of running the facilities, and paying personnel, among other factors such as inflation.

It’s hard not to think that the cost of caring for a loved one with limited mobility isn’t a factor that influences the decision of that individual and their families. When is the right time to move out of one’s house and to live dependent on caretakers, rather than independently? It’s a question that brings up many feelings, and of course, many other questions. Stair lifts have allowed individuals exploring their care options to delay making long-term decisions for just a little bit longer, and they offer distinct advantages.

The average cost of a stair lift sits around $6,000, and that includes both labor and the stair lift itself. However, costs can go up to $20,000 depending on factors such as type, brand, power source, and customizations. Still, the cost of a stair lift is much lower than just a single year in assisted living or a nursing home, as well as other forms of long-term care. If the individual with limited mobility is otherwise able to remain independent, it’s possible—and perhaps more financially sound—that they opt to install a stair lift. This can help the individual avoid injuries, stay comfortable in their home, and age in place with a sense of dignity. In short, the stair lift pays for itself in less than a year.

February Data Study Home Elevators
Photo: istockphoto.com

Coronavirus Pandemic Fears Linger

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and other healthcare establishments operate. Since the beginning of the 2020 pandemic, there have been ongoing difficulties in the realms of staffing as well as care and resource availability.

Health Concerns 

Despite taking precautions, nursing homes were particularly hard hit by the pandemic. By nature, caretakers responsible for residents risked infecting an already vulnerable population and rapidly spreading the virus. According to the KFF, by August 2021, nursing home residents and caretakers accounted for a staggering 31 percent of all COVID-19–related deaths. High infection rates still appear to be a concern despite the availability of both vaccines and treatment: A 2022 study in Canada showed that 72 percent of respondents (who were between the ages of 50 and 69) are less inclined to enter a nursing home in the future because of the pandemic. The same study revealed that 96 percent of survey respondents (65 years and older) reported that they would avoid moving into a nursing home at all costs. Quite logically, the risk of choosing a care facility over independence and aging in place has affected the perception of the safety of these facilities. Families of older individuals have also expressed reservations about moving their loved ones into these facilities for health reasons as well as practical reasons. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how poorly equipped the industry was to handle large-scale emergencies and provide care.

Staffing Shortages and Limited Resources

The nursing home business has often been described as “broken.” The industry has been chronically short-staffed, but never more so than during and post-pandemic. A 2022 survey from the American Health Care Association (AHCA) found that nursing homes were having extraordinary difficulty staffing their facilities: Fully 87 percent of nursing homes claimed “moderate” to “high” levels of staffing shortages. Additionally, 98 percent claimed that it was “challenging” to hire new staff. By the end of 2023, a study showed that employment at nursing homes was still 10.5 percent below pre-pandemic levels (per JAMA via News-Medical.net). Understaffing can lead to high stress levels among professionals, high turnover rates, inadequate training, and ultimately, poor resident care. Funding is also an issue. Care facilities need more personal protective equipment, tests, and medicine. Without funding, there’s a lower chance of facilities being able to meet the expectations of their residents and the residents’ families.

With health and facility-related concerns at play, it’s reasonable to expect that interest in projects that would allow individuals to extend their time at home would spike post-pandemic. This is especially true if these individuals are mostly independent, barring mobility issues. Despite this, demand for spaces in nursing homes and assisted care facilities is projected to outpace the supply—but this only supports the idea that demand for stair lifts and home elevators will also only increase in the years to come.

A home elevator can help you thrive in your home—with a touch of luxury
Talk to a professional to see if it's right for you. Get free, no-commitment project estimates from top-rated home elevator installation services near you.
+

Demand for Assisted Living Projected to Outpace Supply

Regardless of the lukewarm attitude toward nursing homes and assisted living facilities, there is still high—and increasing—demand, particularly due to the United States’ aging population. In December 2023, SeniorLiving.org used U.S. Census data and the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) WONDER database to determine that an additional 3,000 nursing homes (nationwide) by 2030 will be needed to keep up with demand. Despite some recovery post-pandemic, the National Investment Center is firm in its projection for the industry: “With record-low construction starts observed in 2023, the projected gap between available and needed senior housing units will be significant.”

The Role of the Housing Market

The period of April and May 2023 seems to be significant for BobVila.com readers: These months were notable for the spike in spending on both stair lift and home elevator installations. This is likely due to the state of the housing market.

Interest rates reached a new high on March 2, 2023, peaking at a 7.30 percent average 30-year mortgage rate. By the following month, April 2023, there was a sharp decline in existing home sales per the National Association of Realtors: There were 4,290,000 sales compared with 4,550,000 the month prior. Housing stock also rose in the same month.

With fewer buyers and more sellers (too much supply, not enough demand) due to the higher total costs of buying a home, it’s possible that the housing market played a role in readers’ April to May 2023 decision to invest in home projects that extend a person’s independence in their current home rather than putting the home on the market with a reduced chance of selling. These improvements include stair lifts and home elevators.

February Data Study Home Elevators
Photo: istockphoto.com

Home Elevators as More Than Just a Luxury Feature

Stair lifts have long been a solution to extending the mobility of an individual wanting to or needing to stay in their home, but where do home elevators come in? Although home elevators can seem like an extravagant and even luxury expense, they’re becoming more and more popular. They can be a viable alternative to assisted living or nursing homes, stair lifts, and other options, as demonstrated by the BobVila.com readers’ increased interest in home elevator content relative to the stable interest in stair lift content.

Home elevators offer benefits for better mobility, of course, but they have an edge over stair lifts in a few distinct ways.

Longer-Term Use

Individuals with mobility issues may not know what the future holds for them, but it would not be unexpected for them (and their families) to consider the use of a wheelchair, either full-time or part-time, as a way to extend one’s independence. Many older adults tend to prefer single-story homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). However, new construction of new single-family homes is continuing the trend at a relatively slow pace: the share of new constructions with two or more stories was greater than the share of new single-story homes, also according to the NAHB. New constructions also tend to be one to two stories, but even single-story homes are likely to have multiple levels thanks to basements.

This means that if a person with limited mobility wanted to extend the time living at home and use all parts of their home, they would likely need to install a way to move from floor to floor safely. Stair lifts can be helpful additions, but if a person is considering the use of a wheelchair, regardless of whether it is in the long or short term, an elevator would be the best option to accommodate that need.

Return on Investment and General Appeal

Elevators also have a distinct advantage over stair lifts in tangible and intangible monetary ways. To begin, stair lifts appeal to those who either require the use of one to be mobile or who choose to have one as a safety precaution for older adults (this is often the case for multigenerational households). Therefore, when it’s put on the market, the home will appeal to those who will need or who anticipate needing the stair lift, but not to a wider population. A home that has a stair lift also does not tangibly increase the resale value of the home. There are certain programs and manufacturers that offer buy-back or rehoming programs for their stair lifts, but this can be a hassle.

Home elevators, on the other hand, do offer a sense of luxury. They are certainly more time- and resource-consuming to install, but it’s within the realm of possibility to see anywhere from a 10 to 25 percent increase in the home’s value, or a 50 percent return on investment. They can also appeal to a wider cohort of home buyers, as anyone can use them safely. As is the case for stair lifts, it’s possible that the investment in an elevator will pay off within a year, despite a price tag of $40,000 or more.

Practically speaking, only one elevator is theoretically needed in a house, whereas a home with multiple stories will need more than one stair lift.

Dignity and Pride: Often-Overlooked Considerations

Implicitly, home elevators can be more appealing than stair lifts to people aging in place. Stair lifts can be unpleasant reminders of physical decline, which can negatively affect an individual’s experience staying in their own home. Home elevators, on the other hand, don’t tend to carry the same stigma, allowing individuals to retain their dignity and pride as they navigate a new way of living.

It’s becoming increasingly clear how home elevators outweigh stair lifts when it comes to aging in place and allowing individuals with limited mobility to make full use of their homes. The state of the nursing home and assisted living industry, the housing market, and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic are also making it clear that individuals and their families are more likely plan to delay any entry into a facility, and are therefore thinking about long-term solutions for aging in place. With an increased interest in home elevator installation, there are certainly going to be implications for the housing market.

Home Buyers: What This Means for You

The increase in home elevator installations can have implications for future home buyers. With more and more homes having elevators in them, and a subsequent increase of the value of the homes that have them, home prices will likely rise even more than they have been in recent decades. Homes will be less competitively priced, with homeownership continuing to be out of reach for younger generations such as millennials and Gen Zers.

If the home elevator ever becomes a standard feature in American homes, the elevator itself may no longer affect the listing price of the home. However, because of the cost of this amenity and the large-scale nature of this project, as well as the increasing portion of new single-family builds being a single-story constructions, it’s unlikely to become a standard feature in homes across the United States in the near future. However, in some states and regions—the places that have already demonstrated the most interest in home elevators—it may be more common to see this amenity.

There may be a rise in multigenerational households, as already evidenced by the increase in that cohort of homeowners post-pandemic. Having a multigenerational household living in a home with an elevator can mean savings on elder care in the long term. And it can also allow families to pool resources to afford a home already outfitted with a home elevator. Families and individuals who choose not to live with older family members may seek nontraditional housing to achieve the dream of becoming homeowners; this can mean choosing a prefab, modular, or manufactured home, for example.

By examining the American population, the cost of elder care, and other factors, it’s wise to conclude that home elevators are unlikely to make big waves in the housing market on their own. However, it’s possible they’ll be part of a collection of amenities and improvements that can extend a person’s ability to stay in their home. Future home buyers may see more and more homes with not just elevators but walk-in-tubs, larger and more accessible bathrooms, and wide door frames.