According to the United States Census Bureau, nearly one in five Americans has a disability that affects their ability to walk, climb, hear, see, lift, or perform basic daily activities without the use of a wheelchair, walker, or cane. However, less than one percent of homes are wheelchair accessible — and only about a third could be modified to meet the needs of those with mobility impairments. While fewer housing options are available to accommodate individuals with disabilities, accessible homes are out there, and this guide will help you to find what you need.
Make a List of Must-Have Features
Before you begin your search for accessible housing, make a list of the features you’ll need in a home. If you hold moderate mobility impairments, for instance, you may need a one-level home, stepless entryways, an entry-level bathroom and bedroom (or an elevator on the main floor), and at least one accessible bathroom with safety handrails or grab bars.
If you need a wheelchair accessible home, then your list may include the aforementioned requirements in addition to the following:
- Wide hallways and doorways
- Doors with handles rather than knobs
- Sinks with levers or handles
- Flat surfaces between rooms (no steps)
- Accessible features throughout the home, including accessible electrical switches and outlets, thermostats, countertops, and cabinets
If a home doesn’t contain these features, you may be able to modify the property in the future to make it more accessible. For example, you may be able to install a wheelchair ramp, lower the countertops and cabinets, replace the door and sink handles, and modify the kitchen or bathroom to make these rooms more accessible.
Moreover, several grants are available to assist you in making your home more accessible, comfortable, and livable if you hold a disability. A couple of options include the Modest Needs’ Self-Sufficiency Grant and the USDA’s Rural Housing Repair Loan/Grant.
Where to Find Accessible Homes for Sale
When you’re looking to buy a home but have a mobility impairment or disability, it’s important to work directly with a real estate agent who has experience in working with disabled clients, as he or she can help you to find accessible or potentially modifiable homes. If you are 50 years of age or older, however, you may choose to work with a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES).
In addition to working with a real estate agent, you can search for homes online by visiting websites such as:
- Accessible Properties. Through Accessible Properties, you can search for accessible homes for sale in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico.
- Barrier-Free Home. Whichever state you live in, you can search for wheelchair-accessible homes, condos, and apartments in your area.
- Zillow and Trulia. Through these websites, you can create a search filter for “accessible” as you look for homes in your desired area.
Explore Your Financing Options
As you search for accessible housing, you may need a loan to finance the purchase of your new home. However, many financial assistance programs are available to assist disabled homebuyers, including the Homeownership Voucher Program under the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HomeReady Mortgages through Fannie Mae, and additional housing assistance under Habitat for Humanity.
If you’re a first-time homebuyer, then you may also qualify for a mortgage under the Federal Housing Administration (known as an FHA loan). Before applying for a loan, however, it’s important to check your credit score, gather any documents you may need to apply for a mortgage, and work with a trusted lender to determine how much money you can afford to spend on the purchase of a home. After you’ve done so, look for an experienced real estate agent who can walk you through the entire home buying process.
While finding the perfect home can be a bit more difficult when you hold a mobility impairment or disability, these simple tips will help you to find accessible homes for sale in your area. Try not to worry if you can’t find a fully accessible home right away — your real estate agent can show you potentially modifiable homes as well.