Homeownership is appealing for many reasons, from building equity to establishing long-term security. For people living with disabilities, homeownership is also a way of ensuring independence and creating an environment that suits your unique needs.
By Patrick Young, Able USA
Buying an accessible home can present some challenges, but there are steps you can take to make the process as smooth as possible. The following guide will help you navigate the process of finding and buying your accessible dream home.
Team up with a good realtor
When searching for an accessible home, it’s important to find a real estate agent who listens to you and understands your needs. Be sure to ask whether they are familiar with accessible design and the legal requirements for a building to be called accessible. Realtors have access to large networks, so they will be casting their nets into a bigger area when searching for your potential home. Because most real estate websites don’t have a search filter for accessibility, a realtor will be able to find more options than you might on your own.
If you find a home you love but it doesn’t meet all of your accessibility requirements, it may need to be modified. Because this can be expensive, some house-hunters consider buying a property ‘as-is’ with the intent to renovate it. This type of transaction poses a higher risk to buyers, so it’s important to consult your realtor, talk to a lawyer, and get a property inspection to identify any potential red flags. Although you can save money buying a property ‘as-is,’ it’s important to know what you’re getting into.
Determine your needs
Not all accessible homes are created equal. For the house-hunting process to go as smoothly as possible, it will help to research the different types of accessibility and identify your specific needs. For example, universal design refers to homes that are designed to be accessible by people of all ages and abilities. Things like cut curbs and sloping entrances are examples of universal design. Adaptable design, on the other hand, refers to homes that can be easily modified to suit residents’ specific needs. Adaptable design may include some accessibility features like wide doorways, but omit others such as grab bars in bathrooms, which can be installed later.
Before you start house-hunting, consider making both an accessibility checklist and a list of your personal must-haves – such as a spare bedroom or a modern kitchen. Then review the requirements for a home to be designated as accessible. Because these can vary significantly from state to state, don’t assume that the designation of ‘accessible’ means that the home will meet all your requirements.
Use the resources available to you
Modifications to make a home accessible can be expensive, but you may have more financial resources available to you than you realize. These include state and federal loans, grants, and programs designed to help cover modification costs. To see what’s available on the state level, check with your local housing authority. You may also be eligible for support on the federal level, such as a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan. Some nonprofits help people build, buy, or modify accessible homes.
Finding the right home will allow you to stay independent and comfortable for years to come. Although buying an accessible home has its challenges, it’s worth the extra legwork to find a property that meets your needs. By working with a trusted realtor, identifying your needs, and taking advantage of any available financial resources, you’ll be in a great position to buy your accessible dream home.