Finding an accessible home can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. In fact, some statistics indicate less than one percent of homes in the U.S. are wheelchair accessible. However, a third of homes are considered modifiable for accessibility. Here’s what you need to know so you can invest in the right home for you.
Before You Begin
Whether you’re planning to buy an already accessible home, build to meet your needs, or remodel a home after moving in, there are several steps you’ll need to take before getting started. With that in mind, get familiar with Redfin’s answers to common homebuyer quandaries and how those concerns are resolved. You’ll want a good feel for the logistics of purchasing any property before you go too far.
Along those same lines, every house hunter should tackle these tasks:
1.Make a list of your must-have features. Common accessibility choices include ranch-style housing, hardwood flooring or low-pile carpeting, one-level living, low countertops, ample floor space, wide doorways, and larger bathrooms that can be modified more easily.
2.Hire a buyer’s agent with knowledge in accessible or universal home design. If you’re buying your first home, you’ll also want to ensure that your agent has experience in assisting first-time homebuyers. NerdWallet suggests interviewing candidates before you settle on your agent.
3.Meet with a lender to pre-apply for a home loan. While different types of home mortgages include conventional, VA, FHA, and USDA loans, other financing options may be available to you depending on your situation. If you’re a disabled veteran, for example, you may qualify for a Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) or Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant. Alternatively, a 203(k) loan finances the purchase and rehabilitation of new homes that need to be modified.
If you’re a first-time homebuyer, keep in mind that you’ll need to undergo a credit check and present proof of financial stability as you pre-apply for a home loan. By submitting these documents, your lender can help you to determine how much you can afford to spend on a home, as well as the type of mortgage you may qualify for.
Start Looking for Potential Homes
Once you’ve pre-applied for a home loan and hired a real estate agent to assist you, it’s time to begin your search for an accessible home. These days, it makes sense to begin your search online, and websites like Redfin let you toggle a search button to find accessible homes that may suit your needs.
If you can’t find an existing home that’s handicap-accessible, keep in mind that about a third of the properties can be modified for accessibility. Depending on your needs, possible modifications may include the installation of ramps, grab bars, stair lifts, or the widening of doorways and hallways. You can even modify bathrooms and kitchens to meet your specific needs.
Consider Something New
As you search for accessible homes, it’s also worth considering new construction properties that can be built to accommodate your specific needs. If you meet income restrictions, certain non-profit groups like Rebuilding Together or Habitat for Humanity may be able to assist you in building an accessible home—but you’ll need to apply directly through each organization.
When building or modifying a home, it may also be useful to meet with a residential accessibility consultant, Certified Aging in Place (CAPS) remodeler, or Certified Living in Place Specialist. These accessibility professionals can help you to understand the different options that may be available to you as you build a home or modify an existing property to make it more accessible.
Your Dream Home is Out There
While buying ADA-compliant housing can be a challenging process, real estate professionals and accessibility experts alike can help you to explore your options as you search for potentially livable homes. Finding an accessible home may seem impossible at times. The right professionals won’t give up until you’re settled into your dream property.