House hunting is an exciting adventure for anyone, but people with disabilities don’t often feel especially supported in their search. Finding a home that both speaks to your style and empowers independence can be rare. You will likely have to complete some improvements after you move in, but you can look for certain qualities that are easier to make accessible.
With less than 5 percent of homes on the market accessible for people with disabilities, you are probably going to find homes that often come up empty-handed when it comes to full accessibility. House hunting won’t be an easy process, but it also won’t be impossible. Try not to get discouraged; check out the following tips to help you make strong, solid decisions.
Know Your Rights
Before you begin your search, take a little time to familiarize yourself with the specific federal and state laws that protect people with disabilities. For example, you cannot be turned down by lenders, realtors or home sellers because of your disability. But when it comes to modifications, the ADA (Americans Disability Act) only applies to public spaces, so sellers aren’t required to make modifications for your disability just because you want to make an offer. There are many realtors out there who advocate for homeowners with disabilities; make sure to work with one who will understand and protect your rights.
Reduce Risk of Injury
People with developmental disabilities are anywhere from four to six times more likely than the general population to die in a fire, a fall, or drowning. For the majority of people, these accidents happen at home. Reduce the risk of injury by looking for single story homes, limiting the amount of steps and stairs you have to use. Be ready to install non-slip flooring in the bathroom and kitchen. You also want to look for homes with handrails in areas where falls might be more of a danger.
Get Funding Options
Many state, federal and nonprofit organizations provide grants, loans, and other funding for accessibility modifications for people with disabilities. You can get free money to help with buying a home and/or adding modifications. For example, if you are a veteran, you may qualify for the VA Home Loans for Disabled Veterans grant. Or if you get monthly disability assistance, you might be eligible for special home loans that come with lower interest rates, like the Section 8 homeownership voucher program and the USDA single-family housing direct home loan.
Think Ahead For Progressive Disabilities
It sounds pessimistic, but being honest about how your disability may manifest in the future can play a big role in the home buying decisions you make right now. For example, cognitive disabilities can make people forget how specific items work — like confusing the hot and cold water faucets. Or for people with degenerative vision impairment, your scope of vision may be different five or 10 years down the road. That means you want to look for homes with modifications that can reduce injury and promote self-care no matter where your disability takes you.
Prioritize Home Safety
Feeling safe in the house is every homeowner’s right. A person with a disability should be no different. However, you may have to modify locks, alarms and security systems. Once you purchase a home, hire professional security installers and locksmiths to beef up your home’s safety. Look online for professionals who are licensed and insured and have positive online reviews. Be sure to check out several review sites so you get more diverse, honest answers.
When it comes to looking for an accessible home, it’s important to understand how the housing market impacts people with disabilities before you begin your search. Look for a realtor in your area who specializes in helping people with disabilities, and be prepared to make concessions when it comes to your purchase. You may not find the the ultimate accessible home, but you’re likely to find one that comes close.