Keith asked a question a while ago about picking a location for his assisted living facility. That’s a great question and an important one when you’re planning to build.
We’ve all heard the saying that the three most important things in real estate are location, location, and location. For an assisted living community, there may be a few other things that make it into the top three but the location of yours is important, too.
There are several things to consider when selecting the location for your new assisted living facility. Here is a list (in no particular order) of some things to think about.
Proximity to You
Do you already own an assisted living facility? Your best location may be your current location. Whether you add on to your existing building or build nearby, expansion in a market you already know might be the best location if you want to grow. If expansion at an existing site isn’t possible or if you’re ready for a change of scenery, be careful to select a market that is far enough to attract a new set of customers but close enough to take advantage of shared staff, marketing and more.
Or, is this your first assisted living facility? Then don’t make the mistake that others have made by searching too far from home. A site may be in the perfect location with little competition and a great price but, if it’s too far from where you want to live, it can quickly become a burden to the owner-operator who needs to commute.
Get to know your future competitors. Secure a complete list of all assisted living communities in the market area you’ve selected and get to know them. What is their capacity? How much do they charge? What services do they offer? Are they full?
Competition in a market isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good sign that assisted living is an established part of the local senior care services that consumers know and expect. Look for how the potential competition is doing and whether they’re full – that’s a good sign. Also, look for what the competition does and doesn’t offer to find a niche or some way to distinguish your assisted living facility.
Some assisted living providers want to locate near other services that complement their assisted living facility. Health care providers, including clinics and hospitals, are often good neighbors because they may be an excellent source of referrals later. Your residents might also be visiting those health care providers frequently so close proximity can save time and money over the long run. Many residents and their families will also consider proximity to health care in case of emergency or for routine visits when making their decisions about selecting an assisted living community. This is a feature you can promote later.
When you know the city where you’re going to build, it may be a good time to visit those who handle zoning in that city. Assisted living facilities might fit into multiple zoning categories in your city, whether it’s directly or through an approved use in a related zoning category. In some cases, the staff at your local zoning or economic development office may be helpful in pointing you in the right direction or they might even know of available sites for you to consider. At least, you should learn where you may and may not build an assisted living facility, narrowing your search and saving you some time.
Advertising is expensive. And so is a poor site that doesn’t have visibility because it may cost a lot more over time to promote a poor location than to enjoy the drive-by visibility of a good location. There are many ways to save some money when developing your assisted living facility and you should be careful not to overpay for a site. At the same time, don’t be short-sighted and walk away from a site that costs a bit more today but may have a much brighter future over the long-term.
You may find the perfect site but if the price is prohibitive then it won’t work. So what’s the right price? That depends on many things and we will get into those in another post when we talk about the financial feasibility of your new assisted living facility. Your site selection process should start with some basic criteria including minimum site size and maximum price, things that you’ll find when talking with your builder and your financial advisor about your plans.
It’s often a challenge to find the ideal site that checks all the boxes of your ideal site. Be prepared to compromise and accept some trade-offs to select the best site available, and then get started!
Thanks for the question Keith.
This post is not a comprehensive list of all the considerations for selecting a site for building your assisted living community. It’s just an overview of some important items based on my experience. Be very careful when making significant business decisions and, as needed, engage professionals who know your unique circumstances. Ok?