Tips for Buyers to Find the Perfect Home That’s Fully Accessible
Patrick Young April 4, 2020
So many folks have challenges with accessibility when looking for a home that can be modified, or has existing modifications to enhance their quality of life. I want to thank Patrick for sharing this piece.
Common Sense and Confidence: Modifying your House for a Disabled Child, or adult – Able USA
Getting in & out
Stairs leading to the front or back door is one of the most common obstacles to wheelchair access. There are two options: an electric lift or a ramp. Either alternative will allow your child to come and go at will, though a ramp is usually considerably less expensive. It’s certainly proven to be the best solution for our child (our wooden ramp cost us about $3,500). Such accessibility modifications can cost homeowners nationwide from $1,604 to $14,168.
Your home needs to be a place that’s safe and accessible, a sanctuary where you can do everyday tasks comfortably. This is what all buyers are looking for, but for someone with a disability, finding a home that meets all these needs can be extra challenging. It’s far from impossible, however, especially with our top tips for your accessible home search.
Consider Making Modifications
The most important thing to keep in mind is that any house has the potential to be more than what you see with that first look. Many buyers want a home that’s move-in ready, and it is possible to find one with universal design or that has already been modified for accessibility. But what if you don’t find “the one” that meets these needs? That’s when it pays to think about how you can modify another home you love.
If you look at homes with this possibility in mind, there are two things to consider before making an offer: the feasibility of a project and the cost. Feasibility often comes down to structural issues. For example, widening hallways and doorways can usually be done, but it may impact load-bearing walls. Small projects don’t usually pose a problem, but if you plan on doing bigger renovations, you may want to consult an architect or engineer.
Make sure you get an idea of how much any project will cost too so you can factor that into your total budget. For example, if you need to add an exterior ramp or path, you can expect to spend an average of $108 per cubic yard on concrete. And as HomeAdvisor explains, for labor, you may spend anywhere from $8 to $18 per square foot, which accounts for a range of quality and patterns you can choose for stamped concrete.
Prioritize Most Important Features First
Because the cost of renovations can make a major dent in your budget, our recommendation is to focus on the most essential features for accessibility first. In the above example of hallways, someone who uses a wheelchair and needs wide hallways may want to prioritize a home that has an open floor plan so that you don’t have to get into structural renovations.
Keep in mind that, while general accessibility is something you need throughout the home, some of these features are easier and more affordable to add than others. For example, widening hallways may be a major project, but the Balance explains that other accessibility changes can be done affordably, such as adding an exterior ramp. These may be equally important, but if you know that one project is more affordable than others, you can prioritize finding a home that only needs those minor changes.
In addition to general accessibility throughout the home, it’s important to pay close attention to individual room accessibility too, especially the kitchen, bathrooms, and the master bedroom suite. For wheelchair users, counter height is a key consideration, along with freestanding countertops and sinks. Safety is a big concern in these rooms as well, which can be addressed with features like non-slip flooring and grab bars.
One more thing to keep in mind is the home’s exterior. Besides smooth paved surfaces and a ramp, Forever Home recommends thinking about exterior maintenance requirements. For example, vinyl siding or brick requires much less maintenance than wood siding.
Whether you find exactly what you need in a home or plan on making modifications, one thing that can help during your house search is to have a checklist of essential features. You can also find additional resources through organizations like the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation for remodeling ideas and companies that specialize in universal design.
Of course, only you know what you need most, but it never hurts to take advantage of all the resources that are out there. Buying a home is a significant investment, and you want to spend your dollar wisely. Most importantly, though, you want to find a house that’s fully accessible and where you can feel good about calling it “home.”