Why You Need an Accessible Home — and How to Shop for One

March 1, 2019

By Guest Blogger, Natalie Jones of homeownerbliss.info

When thinking of accessible design, most people imagine wheelchair users and the features that make it easy for them to get around. Step-free entryways and wide doorways are great if you’re traveling on wheels, but do they have any benefit if you’re not?

Regardless of whether you have a disability, prioritizing accessibility in your next home could be a smart decision. If you plan to grow old in your home, fall-proof design adds safety for aging in place. And if you’re among the one in four Americans who experiences a disability before retirement age, you’ll appreciate a home that doesn’t feel like an obstacle course.

Do you think accessible design could improve your life? Read on to learn how to get started on your accessible home search.

Preparing to Buy a Home

There are certain steps everyone should take before starting a home search:

1.   Repair your credit.

Credit scores influence the type of mortgage and mortgage rate you qualify for, with the best credit scores securing the best deals. A small difference in APR could save thousands over the life of your mortgage, so it’s worth improving your credit before house hunting. Pull your credit report, identify factors like outstanding debt that are hurting your credit, and make a plan to address them before applying for a mortgage. It takes time for your credit score to reflect credit repair efforts, so start this process early.

2.   Save for a down payment and closing costs.

Buyers need cash for a down payment (ideally 20 percent, but can be as low as 3 percent) and closing costs (usually 2 to 5 percent of the purchase price). If you’re selling before buying, know how much equity you have and whether it’s enough to get into a new home. If you’re a first-time buyer, give yourself time to save up.

3.   Know what you want.

House hunting is overwhelming without parameters to guide your search. Discuss your ideal home, from where it’s located to what it looks like, to narrow your search. Stay flexible on some preferences to avoid excluding too many homes.

Accessible Home Features to Look For

When shopping for an accessible home, it’s important to think about your specific needs. If you want to buy a forever home, consider which features make a home safe for aging in place.

  • Low-maintenance exterior
  • First-floor main living
  • Step-free entrances and flush thresholds
  • Walk-in shower or tub
  • Levered or D-shaped door and cabinet hardware

If someone in your family uses a wheelchair or mobility aid, you’ll want additional features.

  • Level parking
  • Wide doorways and hallways
  • Open-concept design with turning space
  • Hard or low-pile flooring
  • Variable-height kitchen counters
  • Sinks with knee space
  • Raised-height electrical outlets

Many of the features that make a home wheelchair-friendly are equally loved by parents with young children who appreciate the ability to push a stroller out the front door or keep an eye on kids from another room. Regardless of your disability status, think carefully about how accessibility features could improve life at home.

Modifying Existing Homes for Accessibility

Your new home may not come with every accessibility feature you’re searching for. As long as the things it lacks are easily added, a few missing features are no reason to turn down an otherwise perfect home. These are some small updates with a big impact on accessibility.

  • New door, cabinet, and faucet hardware
  • Accessible appliances
  • Grab bars and handrails
  • Interior and exterior lighting
  • Custom storage solutions
  • Raised toilets
  • Visual fire alarms
  • Keypad door locks
  • Smart switches, outlets, and thermostats

If you’re stressing out over adding more to-dos to your home-buying checklist, don’t worry! Buying an accessible home has its challenges, but your real estate agent can help you find the home that’s right for you. With extra effort, you can buy a home that’s livable no matter what.

Image via Pexels

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