New technologies, an ageing population and consumer demand for more flexibility and choice are changing the way we think about our homes.

The well-worn catch-phrase of real estate agents everywhere—‘location, location, location’ – is giving way to a new influence on resale value. The new ‘deal breakers’ emerging are layout and livability.

Championing this transformation in the way we design and deliver the Australian dream home is the organisation I lead, a not-for-profit called Livable Housing Australia. The LHA’s Livable Housing Design Guidelines, which are being embraced by the property and construction industry, outline 16 simple and straightforward design features that make a home easier to live in – and ultimately easier to sell.

What features make the difference

These easy-living features range from step-free entrances, generous hallways, and cleverly-designed kitchens and bathrooms, to fixtures and fittings that anyone can use.

Whether you’re pushing a pram, bringing in the groceries, shifting furniture, turning on the taps if you have arthritis or moving around if your mobility is temporarily or permanently impaired, liveable design can be incorporated into
any new or existing home and can make life easier for everyone.

Why do these features add to a home’s value and improve its marketability?

Simple. Livable homes appeal to the widest range of people – from families with small children to Baby Boomers wanting to ‘age in place’. In fact, Master Buildings Australia (MBA) estimates that a home’s resale market can increase by 30 percent when it has a Livable Housing Design Quality Mark, which awarded to properties that meet LHA guidelines.

The evidence for return on investment

According to Master Builders deputy executive director, Paul Bidwell, more than 40 percent of house builders feel that liveable design is “of either major or critical importance to their clients.” The MBA’s latest Queensland Survey of Industry Conditions has found that good liveable design ranks just behind value-for-money, quality, and fixtures-and-fittings as drivers for consumers when selecting a builder.

Liveable design also looks good. Spacious, open plan living, touchless taps and sleek, modern fixtures are not just liveable, but also fashionable.

It makes sense to commit to liveability features when a home is first designed and built rather than wait for an unplanned need to arise. In fact, international research has found that it can cost up to 22 times more to retrofit a home than to design for liveability up front.

Nevertheless, retrofitting also pays off. The New Zealand Ministry of Social Development has found that investing in liveable design delivers a threefold economic return. In other words, every dollar you spend on liveable design features will deliver a $3 return when it comes time to sell.


The bottom line is simple. Australia is changing – and our homes need to change too. While the location may remain the number one driver for home buyers, a flexible, adaptable layout and liveable design can make life easier when you buy, and even easier when it’s time to sell.

Power outlets located above furniture so they are easy to reach and full length windows providing better views

Power outlets located above furniture so they are easy to reach and full-length windows providing better views

About the author: Amelia Starr is the executive director of Livable Housing Australia (LHA), a national not-for-profit organisation championing the adoption of more liveable design features in all new Australian homes. A qualified occupational therapist, Amelia commenced her career working with people who had acquired catastrophic spinal injuries. Her passion for inclusion by design resulted in her being awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2003. Her Fellowship focused on implementing universal design principles in housing and the benefits to all sectors of the community through adopting a lifetime approach to housing design and construction.

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