Finding Your Home Sweet – Accessible – Home

Photo of a home

By Patrick Young

According to the US Census Bureau, one in five people has some kind of disability. These disabilities run the gamut from difficulty walking up stairs to needing assistance while bathing. When it comes to quality of life, finding a home that makes everyday life easier makes all the difference. It’s all about accessibility, otherwise known as a home that’s “user-friendly,” whether you have vision loss or mobility issues. Disabilities aside, many Baby Boomers are now proactively seeking out homes where they can “age in place.” Read on for some tips as you hunt for the right home for you and your specific needs.

What Are Your Needs?
The main goal of an accessible house or apartment is having it fit your abilities so you can be as independent as possible. Make sure that you assess your needs first before you start house hunting. Do you need wide hallways for wheelchair accessibility, close proximity to public transportation, or a garden with raised beds? Write down all of your “must haves” and determine your budget so you know what you can afford. To give you an idea of what you can expect to find in Reno, the average sale price is currently $387,000.

Find the Best Realtor and Resources
You’ll save yourself lots of time (and headaches!) if you work with a realtor who understands your needs. An understanding realtor who has experience working with clients who need accessible homes not only has the expertise, but he or she is also well versed in your rights. For example, anyone with a disability is protected by the Fair Housing Act against any discrimination that may occur during the home-buying process. Ideally, an experienced realtor can also put you in touch with contractors who can install accessibility features such as wheelchair ramps. Interview several prospective realtors before choosing “the one.” Ask them for references from accessible home buyers they’ve worked with, and be sure you talk with them.

Another resource is the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They have approved housing counselors who can help individuals with disabilities buy a home. They can also provide you with contacts for relevant financial assistance programs. All their services are either free or require a small fee.

Habitat for Humanity (HFH) is a non-profit program that builds and rehabilitates accessible homes for people in need. These homes are generally sold for the amount they cost to build, require low down payments, and might come with mortgage-assistance programs.

You can also check with your local housing authority to see what state-specific programs pertaining to accessible homes are available. For example, Kentucky’s Center for Accessible Living has a program that provides free wheelchair ramps for those found eligible.

Features to Look for in an Accessible Home

  • Smooth floors to eliminate trip hazards and accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.
  • Wheelchair accessible ramps, handrails, and grab bars in areas where falls are likely.
  • Curbless showers and/or step-in bathtubs, along with weight-bearing handrails. Shower seats are also recommended, as well as movable shower heads.
  • Open floor plans and doorways that are wide enough for wheelchairs.
  • Countertops, thermostats (which cost less than $30 on Amazon), and light switches low enough to reach from a wheelchair.

And don’t overlook accessibility technologies such as voice-command systems that can control lights and lock doors!

Prepare for Your Move
After you’ve done all the hard work of finding your accessible dream home, you’ve still got the actual move ahead of you! Moving is stressful enough without having to worry about packing up a lifetime of your belongings. As such, you really owe it to yourself to hire a professional moving company to take care of loading, transporting, and unloading your belongings. Hiring a moving company in Reno can cost anywhere from $60 to $100 an hour for two movers in a two-hour period.

There’s nothing like finding the right home for your needs. The perfectly accessible home will help you stay comfortable and independent for many years to come. Best of all, it will have that “visitability” factor that provides safety for everyone while being aesthetically appealing to all.

Happy house hunting, and welcome home!