Find a Home That Fits You: Tips for Buying an Accessible Home
When searching for a home, there are so many things to consider beyond how many bedrooms and baths your family needs. This is especially true if you’re getting up in years, have a disabled child, or need accommodations for your own mobility limitations.
The Hunt Begins
Finding the right accessible home can be difficult. Thankfully, many property search providers have realized a trend in people looking for forever homes with pre-existing modifications and have added accessibility options as part of the standard or advanced filtering. Now, you can sort listings by price, square footage, number of stories, and select specific features needed, such as a wheelchair ramp or wide doorways. If these options aren’t available, your realtor can help you find a home that has exactly what you desire.
Types of Accommodations
There is no one-size-fits-all home, even for people with similar disabilities. Multi-housing units fall under the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act and will be required to maintain specific accommodations or to make new accommodations, within reason, at buyer/renter request. Single-family homes are not obligated to fall into these categories, though many communities are pre-planned with home features that cater to seniors with mobility impairments.
The vast majority of people with mobility concerns will do best in a single-story home. Not only does this eliminate the need for stairs, but it also provides significantly more renovation flexibility. For instance, it’s less costly to install a new bathroom on a one-story house as opposed to the second or third story of a larger home. Ranch-style dwellings are easier to maintain from the exterior and easier to exit in case of emergency.
When shopping for a new home, consider the type of flooring used throughout and how easy it is to transition from one room to the other. See Pinterest for examples of smooth flooring transitions. If new flooring has been installed in one room but not the next, there may be a significant height difference that could pose an added risk. Seniors, especially, should pay attention to the flooring, as loose carpet can also be hazardous. The National Institute on Aging offers a wealth of advice on fall and fracture prevention.
Outdoors, your accessible home should include a properly graded wheelchair ramp. The yard and walkway should be smooth and flat.
Homes for the visually impaired
In addition to eliminating hazards, having visual impairments means looking for increased lighting and better color contrast between the floor, wall, and furniture and in between rooms.
Additional lighting may be achieved by simply changing out light bulbs and looking for a home with outlets in the hall and near the top and bottom of staircases. A nightlight in these locations can prevent midnight bathroom break accidents. Your new home’s bedroom should have a logical spot to place the bed that is within reach of your overhead light outlet. Any wood floors should be waxed with non-glare polish. The American Foundation for the Blind explains that natural light can brighten the room without intense glare, so look for a home with large windows or skylights in the main living space.
No matter how exhaustive the search, it is not always possible to find a home that checks all boxes. It may be necessary to enhance the living space with further modifications. These can be costly, and paying for them may be a challenge. Thankfully, there are resources that can offset some of the costs. According to HomeAdvisor, these include the Red Cross, Veterans Administration, AmeriCorps, and independent grants based on specific needs.
Buying a home to accommodate physical or medical needs shouldn’t be an insurmountable task. Knowing what to look for and finding a listing site with accessibility filtering options can take much of the hassle out of the home-hunting process.
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