I received a really good question recently about what makes a good location for your assisted living facility. We have all heard that the three most important things in real estate are location, location, and location. And it’s not much different for your assisted living facility.
You might be buying an existing assisted living facility or an existing building that you plan to convert to assisted living. Maybe it’s a conversion of a single-family home into residential assisted living. Or, maybe you’re building new from the ground up.
In each case, you will be considering many of the same things when thinking about your facility’s location and its impact on your future success.
Here is a list of some things you should consider when selecting your location:
- Nearby healthcare. There are at least three reasons to be near healthcare, such as clinics and hospitals. First, residents and their families appreciate the security of knowing healthcare is nearby in case of any emergency health situation. Second, they also appreciate the convenience of a short drive for doctor visits that are often frequent with older residents of assisted living. And, third, healthcare facilities are great referral sources for new residents and close proximity to those facilities just might give you a leg up on your competition.
- Nearby competition. Speaking of competition, it’s not all bad to have competition around you. Your competitors can also be a referral source to you or a good option for you to make referrals when you’re full. At the same time, it’s probably not wise to locate too close to another assisted living facility. One thing to note is that some local municipalities or states may impose limits on the proximity of one facility to another. (Some have challenged those limits and successfully won rulings that allow them to locate close to another facility – that’s another story.)
- Visibility. For those of you in a residential setting, an assisted living home (or residential assisted living), this doesn’t apply quite so much – of course, you still want to be easy to find. But for those of you with larger purpose-built assisted living facilities, a visible site for your facility can be a big help. Advertising isn’t cheap. And if you have a visible presence in your community, with attractive signage, all those passing by will come to know you simply by driving by.
- Safety. This is always the first priority but can be overlooked when considering a site for your assisted living facility. Keep in mind the safety of your residents and any hazards in the neighborhood, such as high traffic volumes, nearby bodies of water or even retention ponds, and availability of emergency services. Plus, a busy street may be good for visibility but a nightmare for staff and visitors entering and exiting your driveway.
- Zoning. You might find the perfect site for your assisted living facility. But city hall might not agree. Local zoning rules have a lot to say about where you can site your assisted living facility. Those rules vary by city and, in some cases, within the city for different sizes of assisted living facility – a residential assisted living facility might be fine in one location but a 40-unit facility would be out of luck. Take the time to become familiar with zoning for assisted living in your city as you begin your search and learn about opportunities for a variance that may allow you to have that dream location even if it doesn’t seem so at first.
- Population and demographics. You might want to start your assisted living facility in your hometown that you know well, and nowhere else. But you might also be open to different cities or maybe multiple cities over time. Each city is different and it takes time to understand the population in each city. There are many resources to help you find the population by age, income, and more for every city. One of those is the U.S. Census Bureau that you can jump to at this link and begin thinking about the potential of the market you want to serve: https://data.census.gov/cedsci/.
- Staffing. You might not think about staffing when you’re thinking about location. But a bonus benefit of some locations may be close proximity to good sources of new staff, such as tech schools and colleges with young people seeking jobs in healthcare. And look for convenient public transportation for staff without wheels.
- Price. While it’s last on this list, price really needs to be a consideration. The total cost of your assisted living facility will impact your pricing and profitability for years to come so be careful not to overspend. At the same time, don’t go cheap on a site that doesn’t check any of the boxes on the things above. As I’ve told others many times, you pay for a good site when you buy it or you pay for a lousy site again and again with lousy occupancy over the years.
Yes, location is important. But the success of your assisted living facility is dependent on many factors, and location, in my opinion, isn’t at the top of the list. Still, selecting the right location for your assisted living facility is something you’ll live with as long as you’re the owner, so select it carefully.
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[Special note: every situation is different – while this general information may be appropriate for some, it may not be for you – check with your own advisors and do your research to make sure you have the information you need before taking the next steps.]