This is a guest article from Patrick Young. As a Realtor, I am often asked about homes that can accommodate people with disabilities, especially those who must use wheelchairs. This article offers good, practical advice for people with disabilities who may be looking for a new home.
If you have a disability or are entering your senior years and are concerned about your future mobility, one of your biggest concerns might be your home. When it is already difficult to maneuver, it may be time to look for a more accessible living arrangement to ensure your quality of life. But finding a home is already difficult. When you add in the need for accessibility, house hunting becomes a daunting quest.
What is an accessible home?
An accessible home means different things to different people. The core of the definition, however, is a house with certain features that make living there easier. People with wheelchairs, for example, may need a home with no stairs and a special inclined ramp at the entryway. Dreamscape Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities, notes that modifications may be as simple as handicap grab bars.
Before deciding what accommodations you need when you’re looking for your new home, it is wise to determine if living in a single-family residence or apartment is the best option. If you are a senior citizen with current health problems, consider exploring the option of assisted living. These are mobility-friendly apartments in a community environment, and they are explicitly designed to improve independence. You’ll also receive services such as meal preparation and possibly access to a fitness center, barbershop, and planned activities.
Keep in mind, however, that no two facilities are alike. Be open to touring several different places so that you can confirm both the services they provide and the environment. Ask for pricing during your tour, but keep in mind these can change. Also, know that you might be asked to pay a deposit or prepay your first month’s rent before moving in.
If you decide that assisted living is not for you, there are several things to keep in mind as you look for your next home. One of these is the home’s price. Before choosing an area to move to, be sure to research local real estate trends and prices (e.g., the average sale price for a home in Milford is $560,000).
You’ll also need to consider the home’s age. Older homes were not designed with aging in place in mind. In recent years, however, many home builders have started looking at the principles of universal design when creating new housing developments.
The Universal Design Living Laboratory explains that there are seven principles of universal design. These are equitable use, flexibility, perceptibility, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and having the right size and space for each user. Get to know each and how they can work for you.
Once you are acquainted with universal design, you can ask the right questions. When you find a home you might like, ask the following questions before scheduling a visit:
- Are the doors wide enough for a wheelchair?
- How will I enter and exit?
- Can I reach all of the switches and outlets?
- Does it have a main-level bedroom plus a bath or shower that I can get into and out of easily?
- What is the parking situation?
- Does the home have or can it be outfitted with door handles instead of knobs?
Your real estate agent can help you get answers to these and any other questions you might have.
When you have a lot of needs but you are on a fixed income, you may need some assistance paying for your new home or for modifications to make it more accessible (disability remodeling averages $9,000). Bankrate explains that there are a few programs that might be able to help. This includes the Homeownership Voucher Program through HUD, Fannie Mae HomeChoice, and Habitat for Humanity. Further, if you are a veteran, you may have financial assistance available through the Veterans Affairs Specially Adapted Housing grant program.
While this is not a comprehensive guide to buying an accessible home, it should serve as a starting point. You can read more real estate tips by checking out the blog The Milford Real Estate Scene. Take the time to get to know your needs, and don’t forget to consider the future. Everyone deserves a comfortable place to call home, but it is up to you to decide where, exactly, that will be.