I received a question today about how to convert a single family home into an assisted living home. It’s a question that I’ve received many times. It’s a big question and this post will only touch on the answer, and point you in a few directions for more information.
Some cities make it easy and others make it difficult. Contact your local zoning department and ask about the zoning requirements for an assisted living home. Is assisted living an acceptable use of a home in your neighborhood?
Fair Housing laws often limit a city’s ability to restrict where an assisted living facility can be located but only up to a certain size. Usually a small size. For example, we recently worked on a project that met zoning requirements as an 8 bed assisted living home but was out of compliance as a 10 bed.
Zoning is one thing. Building codes are another. Learn about any requirements that you local municipality has in their building codes. Do you need a commercial kitchen? How about fire protection? Those are just some of the questions. A small property we converted was able to use a residential stove and oven but the local fire code required a full restaurant style hood vent. Overkill? I thought so.
Most assisted living facilities of all sizes are regulated by your state. State regulations will provide requirements for the property itself, how you operate it, and whether you even qualify for a license to do so. Start by learning as much as you can about the specific regulations in your state. (A guide to state by state regulation of assisted living facilities is coming soon to this site – check back later.)
Regulations are always online. Finding the regulations and reading the regulations are one thing. Understanding their implementation is another. To help sort out state regulations, attend classes, network with other assisted living providers (see below) and consider hiring a consultant. Yes, hiring a consultant may cost some extra money but non-compliance with regulations usually costs more.
Is there a need?
Just because you can convert your home into an assisted living home doesn’t mean you should. Many have spent thousands of dollars, sometimes their life savings to start an assisted living home while many others are already in their market that are half full. A half full assisted living home normally won’t make you money, it will cost you money – sometimes a lot of it.
Confirm demand in your market by visiting other facilities, talking with local referral sources, and even obtaining a market feasibility study from a qualified consultant.
There are so many resources to help you learn how to convert a house into an assisted living home. Many are local, or specific to your state. There are many more than we an list here. But you can find them by networking with other assisted living providers through trade associations and online communities. Network with the people you meet to learn how to do it and – just as important – how not do it.
So how do you learn more? Here’s a list of four resources:
1. ALFA. The Assisted Living Federation of America is the national trade association of assisted living providers. Visit their website for a wealth of information and connections to other resources.
2. State associations. ALFA covers the country but its affiliate organizations in each state will have information applicable to your state. For a list of those state organizations, following this link. In my home state, Wisconsin, we have a wealth of information from the Wisconsin Assisted Living Association, much of it applicable to assisted living in any state.
3. Think about buying. Conversions can be a great idea. But sometimes, just buying an existing assisted living home will get you up and running right away, with the benefit of training from a prior owner to help reduce risk. (Of course, I’m in the business of helping owners buy and sell assisted living facilities so I’m a bit biased.)
4. Visit this site often. I am asked questions about building, buying, converting, operating and selling assisted living facilities all the time. And more answers will be posted here soon. So come on back or put your name on the email list for the latest news as soon as it’s available.
This post is not intended to provide legal or tax advice, and the information provided is only a limited discussion of the issue. Please consult with your attorney, CPA or other professional advisor before making business decisions.