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Boomers want no-stair homes. So why don’t they exist?

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Homebuilder Jim Watson aims to revolutionize the home market for boomers and seniors with true no-stair rancher homes

After deciding to enter the home building market, Jim Watson, a residential design and layout specialist, conducted extensive research into what buyers want and what the market provides. What he discovered was shocking. 

According to the National Association of Home Builders, 75 per cent of baby boomers do not want stairs, and that percentage rises to 88 per cent for seniors, mainly due to mobility issues and falling concerns as they age. And yet in B.C., the market distinctly lacks true no-stair homes: most one-story ranchers are over 40 years old and have entry stairs or split levels.

Watson vowed to rectify this shortcoming. But as owner of Ranchers by Design Custom Homes Ltd., he ran into another hurdle: due to the high cost of real estate on the west coast, the trend in residential development is to build three-story structures on smaller lots, something not conducive to the larger floor plans of one-story homes.

Watson says, “To describe the market as skewed against boomers would be an understatement. Most new homes target millennials, and yet boomers retiring or soon to retire and who want a ‘forever’ home can’t find what they’re looking for. If they search for a one-story or rancher, the results are homes with walk-out basements and entry steps, or second story lofts – elements that can be a major hazard to those with mobility problems now or in the future.”

After an extensive search, Watson found a quiet rural street across from a protected wildlife acreage, with a lot big enough to accommodate what he envisioned, would revolutionize the boomer market: a 2,510 square foot three-bedroom rancher with a two-car garage and an unusually high level of craftsmanship and lifestyle features.

Ranchers by Design recently wrapped construction on this unique home, for sale through MLS, and Watson couldn’t be happier with the outcome. He and Nancy Wise, an internationally certified interior designer, collaborated to ensure that every element would appeal to retired couples and families, right down to the memory foam carpet underlay, large Italian floor and wall tiles in the bathrooms, and the soundproofed theatre.

The slab on grade home is augmented with hydronic floor heating, which is more consistent and less expensive to operate than forced air. Moreover, it is truly no stairs, from the entranceways to the walk-in shower, which is grab bar ready. “It was important for me to achieve no stairs or steps, because a broken hip is the most common injury from stairway falls; these fractures can be fatal, and the majority of older people never regain their previous level of mobility,” says Watson.

The details throughout speak to boomer convenience: for example, the shower control knob is located outside of the shower area, allowing for the adjustment to the desired temperature before stepping inside. In the kitchen, the microwave oven is located not above the stove, but at an ergonomic height within the kitchen island. The hallways are wide, with three-foot doorways, making the home more accessible for walkers or wheelchairs. 

Invisible details abound: the bathrooms were installed with KERDI-Membrane to prevent mould, and the location of the wifi system was carefully determined to ensure optimal coverage throughout the house.  

The inaugural Ranchers by Design level entry no stairs home is also a model of an energy-efficient, healthy home: HALO-Sheets were installed as part of the curtain wall to stop thermal bridging, wind washing, and to prevent pollutants from entering the wall cavities. A heat recovery ventilation system combined with high energy filtration means the air in every room is replaced with fresh air every eight hours while retaining 75 per cent of the heat. “The HEPA filtration makes the air inside cleaner than the air outside,” says Watson.

Most importantly, the home reflects Jim Watson’s commitment to building homes according to what individual boomers want. “Moving forward, we walk buyers through the entire design and construction process so they can keep track of costs and are assured of getting exactly what they want,” he says. 

To maintain quality and cost control, Nancy’s husband Darron Wise supervises construction, while Watson oversees the projects to ensure finishes that withstand the closest of inspections.

Watson and his team are proud of their show home and have already been hired to build a similar home in Mission with a unique living room and spectacular mountain and forest views.

Those interested in having a custom home designed and built now or in the future should check out the show home (which is also for sale, MLS No. R2425275) in person. To schedule a private viewing click here.

For more information, visit

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Ranchers by Design Custom Homes, and appeared in the Vancouver Sun, National Post and Province newspapers in July 2020

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