Need an Accessible Home? Start Here

Written by Natalie Jones/homeownerbliss.info.

Shopping for an accessible home is no easy feat. Despite the fact that most people will need accessible features at some point in their lives, homes are rarely built with disability in mind. But while buying an accessible home is more challenging, it’s not impossible. These tips will help you minimize stress during the search and get into your accessible home sooner than later.

Get Your Financials in Order

Regardless of disability status, everyone needs to take a close look at their finances before buying a home. When you understand your budget and mortgage options before house shopping, you avoid wasting time looking at homes that don’t fit your budget.

Start by pulling your credit report. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report per year. If you’re buying with a spouse, each of you should request a credit report. Your credit report won’t show your credit score, but it will reveal things that are hurting your score. Paying off outstanding debts and removing errors will increase your credit score so you qualify for a better mortgage rate. Start this process well before you plan to buy, as improving your credit score takes time.

When you’re ready to buy, set a home-buying budget based on your household financials and then visit lenders to shop for a mortgage. Getting preapproved increases the strength of your offers, so it’s a good idea to do this before viewing homes.

If you expect to complete a lot of renovations after buying your home, consider an FHA 203(k) or Fannie Mae HomeStyle loan. These loans let you roll renovation costs into your mortgage so you don’t have to take out a separate loan.

Know What You Need (and What You Want)

Everyone has their must-haves and nice-to-haves when shopping for a home, but when you have a disability, those must-haves are much more important. Other buyers can compromise on square footage or the number of bathrooms if it comes down to it, but you can’t compromise on the accessibility features you need to live safely at home.

That said, it may be impossible to find a house that comes pre-equipped with all the accessibility designs you need. Make room in your budget for renovations and know which changes are affordable to make and which are cost-prohibitive. Replacing door hardware and installing grab bars is easy enough, and even bigger changes like swapping carpet for hardwood are manageable if you plan for them. However, buying a house that needs structural changes is rarely worth it. Think carefully about the neighborhood, layout, and kitchen and bathroom designs that best suit your needs and make these features a priority in your search.

Communicate with Your Real Estate Agent

Searching through real estate listings is exciting at first, but after a few weeks of looking and not finding what you need, it can grow pretty exhausting. That’s especially true when you’re buying an accessible home, as most listings aren’t tagged as accessible even when the house is well-suited to people with disabilities.

If your real estate agent understands exactly what you’re looking for, they can manage the tedious parts of the search and send you homes that fit your criteria. That way, you don’t waste your time scheduling viewings and visiting open houses for homes that won’t work out.

For seniors and families with disabilities, an accessible home is the key to independent, barrier-free living. Unfortunately, the home-buying process itself can be full of barriers. From low stock of accessible housing to the challenge of budgeting for both a mortgage and remodeling, buyers shopping for accessible homes have a lot to contend with. Rather than do it alone, reach out to a local realtor who will go the extra mile for your needs.