How to House Hunt for an Accessible Home
Finding a home that’s the right size in the right neighborhood is hard enough. Add in accessibility needs and your housing search can turn up more frustration than results. The challenges of buying an accessible home multiply if you don’t know the right way to search — even among websites that allow you to filter for accessibility, search results are usually slim.
It’s not that barrier-free homes aren’t out there. It’s that few real estate agents are marketing their homes as accessible, holding onto outdated beliefs that handicap accessible features detract from a home’s appeal.
As Homes for Easy Living explains, everyone benefits from accessible housing. Whether you’re a person using a wheelchair, a parent pushing a stroller, or just a person with an armful of groceries, you benefit from features like step-free entrances and lever door handles. Accessible home features don’t have to be unsightly either. Forget the days of modular ramps and hospital grab bars — today’s accessible homes are sporting features like gently sloping walkways and grab bars that blend in.
If you’re searching for an accessible home and feeling frustrated, read on to learn how you can find a home that meets all your needs.
Planning Your Move
A few proactive steps make the move to a new home much easier:
- Get prequalified and review your household budget so you know how much home you can afford.
- Screen contractors so you can hire out minor accessibility renovations before moving in. This includes scheduling a locksmith to change the locks so your new house is secure from Day One. If you’re asking, “How do I go about finding the best locksmith near me?” turn to the internet for reviews and ratings.
- Research and compare quotes from different moving companies to find the best value. Spend extra for packing assistance if your disability makes packing difficult or you just want to make the move easier.
- Determine where you’ll live if the new house needs work before it’s move-in ready. You may want to extend your lease or wait to sell your current home until the new one is ready to avoid a move into temporary accommodations.
Searching for an Accessible Home
When people talk about accessible homes, they usually mean wheelchair accessible. However, accessibility needs can vary dramatically depending on the disability. The features listed below are common accessibility features, but you should make your own list of design features that make your life easier along with the features that you know to cause problems.
- A single-level floor plan with a step-free entrance and flush thresholds
- Off-street parking on a level surface
- Wide doorways, entryways, and hallways
- Smooth, non-slip flooring
- Lower or adjustable-height kitchen counters with roll-under access
- Bathrooms with accessible showers or tubs and grab bars
- Light switches and outlets that can be reached from a seated position
- Lever door handles and D-shaped cabinet pulls
The Northwest Universal Design Council lists more accessibility features you may want in your future home.
Finding these features when searching online isn’t easy. Some can be filtered for, like hardwood floors and single-level floor plans, but whether a search turns up results depends on the terms individual real estate agents use in their listings. Search using popular keywords and variations for the best results. For highly-specific features like door knob styles, closely examining photographs is the only way to determine if a listing meets your needs.
This is where a quality real estate agent comes in. Armed with a list of your needs, your agent can do the hard work of poring over listings so you’re only presented the houses that match your must-haves. If you’re ready to buy a home but are feeling defeated by the difficulty of searching for accessible homes, hire a buyer’s agent you can count on to find the right home and guide you through the home buying process.
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