A Space of Your Own: Tips for Accessible House Hunting
Updated: Oct 26
Contributed by Don Lewis of AbiltyLabs.com
Image by Pexels
House hunting can be fun, but it can also be stressful. And if you are a person with a disability or a senior citizen in need of assisted mobility, you may be considering a move to accessible housing, which can be more challenging to find. The right property could help bring you comfort, freedom, and a higher quality of living. But first you have to find it. Here, Don Lewis of Ability Labs presents a few tips to help you navigate your options.
Finding the Right Home
Despite your unique requirements, it’s important to remain open-minded in your approach to house hunting. After all, almost any home can be renovated so long as the foundation is in good condition. Instead, try to prioritize a few basic features. For instance, if you struggle with stairs, then single-level homes can make for a better choice, and you may need to consider the width of doorways/halls to ensure that mobility devices and wheelchairs can pass through.
In some cases, it might even be worth considering buying a house as-is. These properties can save you money, but there are no guarantees that everything will be in working condition. If you opt for this route, be sure to first consult with a lawyer, inspect the property and examine land records for any red flags.
Many apartments and rental properties are being designed using ADA accommodations, so you can look into these options, too, if your heart isn’t set on owning your home. Compare the cost to rent and own in your desired areas to see if one is a clear financial decision. Most people need to find a balance of affordability and accessibility.
You should also consider circumstantial factors when looking for the right home. How close is the property to necessary amenities (such as shops, pharmacies, and hospitals)? What is the local community like? Look into crime statistics and common cultural attitudes in that area. And perhaps most importantly, are you close to a support network of friends and family? Sometimes, these variables are just as — if not more — important than the property itself.
As an individual with accessibility requirements entering into the buying process, it’s important to be cognizant of the various grants and assistance programs at your disposal. If you are a veteran, you may be eligible for a housing grant that will allow you to buy or change a home to meet specific requirements or help you live with more independence.
If you have disabilities, you may also want to explore public housing programs, subsidized housing, loans for home modifications, or even programs provided by state and local independent living centers, which can help you to develop the skills you need to live on your own.
Once you’ve moved in, you may need to make some key modifications to ensure safe, comfortable living. You can create a poster so visitors to your new home can have some extra information about ensuring that your home modifications aren’t interfered with or left in an unsafe condition. You can showcase your creativity by using a free online design tool to create a poster that does the job.
Sometimes, your remodeling needs will be slightly more extensive, such as if you need to increase the width of doorways, renovate rooms, modify stairs, install chair lifts or ramps, or change materials entirely. The amount of research you carry out in advance should correlate with the greatness of cost and the greatness of the undertaking in question - a poor job or the wrong installation could affect your quality of life.
Finally, don’t forget the importance of decor! Although it likely won’t make your home more accessible, it can help improve your mood and increase your happiness. Look into paint colors that encourage relaxation or happiness, and find ways to use less used spaces, like the top of your refrigerator, to add some aesthetic appeal. For instance, you can use faux greenery, baskets, and classic cookbooks to add some life into your kitchen.
Find Help for Moving Day
Moving is a lot of work, so don’t hesitate to recruit help for the big day. You can ask friends and family to chip in, but it’s also worth looking into moving companies. Read reviews first and be aware of scams. Ensure that whichever service you opt for has plenty of online reviews to back its reputation. You might even find a local company that offers services specifically for seniors looking to relocate or for individuals with your disability-related requirements.
Invest in a Home Warranty or Insurance
Once you are settled in, look into getting a home warranty to protect your investment. Even if you have homeowner’s insurance, a warranty offers an additional layer of coverage that includes major systems and appliances, especially if you purchased an older home with older plumbing or HVAC system. Your insurance won’t cover these items if they go out, but a home warranty should.
If you have chosen to buy a condo or townhouse, you are likely paying HOA (homeowners association) fees. But you may also want — or need — to carry HOA insurance, too, if your property is in a high risk area or if you consented to improvements to be made in the community in which you bought.
Prepare, Move, and Enjoy
Finding an accessible home and modifying it to fit your requirements is never as straightforward and simple as we’d like it to be, but it all comes down to research and persistence. With a little effort, you can ensure that this complicated process goes as quickly, safely, and cheaply as possible. Keep an open mind as you look for your new home, and when you find the right one, protect it with a home warranty. You’ll be glad you did when a major system breaks!
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