House-Hunting Tips for People with Disabilities
Searching for a new home can be really exciting, but if you’re one of the millions of Americans with a disability, your house-hunting efforts may be wrought with frustration and disappointment. There just aren’t a lot of accessible homes out there! Thankfully, there are things you can do to find those rare accessible homes and modify them to better suit your individual needs. Here are some tips I learned that can make your house-hunting experience a little easier.
Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
One of the most important steps in the home-buying process is getting pre-approved for a mortgage. A mortgage pre-approval will let you know how much money you can spend on a home, so you don’t waste time looking at properties out of your price range. When the perfect home comes along, you can snatch it up quickly without waiting for your loan application to process! Before applying for a mortgage, SFGate recommends requesting a copy of your credit
report so you can confirm that your credit score is strong enough to qualify you for a loan. I learned this lesson the hard way by falling in love with a house that was about $35,000 more than the most I was approved for. Unfortunately, we could not negotiate a lower price, and I couldn’t come up with the down payment to make up the difference.
Speaking of making a down payment, I also learned that it’s important to save money for your down payment before you apply for a mortgage. The amount you can afford for a down payment will help your lenders determine your loan amount and rates. To get an idea of how much you need to save up, research the prices of local homes for sale; homes in Portland have a median listing price of $360,000.
Find a Top-Notch Real Estate Agent
Before you start looking for homes, find a good real estate agent. I tried looking on my own for a while, but soon got frustrated calling every listing agent asking specific questions. Not only can your agent do that, but they will also have access to the multiple listing service (MLS), an online database of every home for sale with important information about each property. As a result, your real estate agent may be able to dig up accessible homes on the market that you would not have found on your own. Just make sure you find a really good real estate agent! The right real estate agent will take the time to understand your abilities and limitations—and won’t waste your time with homes that don’t meet your search criteria. But they will also be friendly and accommodating when you want to look at homes that might not be perfect.
List Your Requirements
While you may not be able to find a property with all the accessibility features you want, you should at least be able to find a home that meets your basic requirements. Readynest recommends focusing your requirements on things that you can’t easily change, like the number of bedrooms or the size of the yard. Consider limiting your search to single-story buildings and homes with open floor plans if you want to avoid staircases and narrow hallways. Hard flooring, wide doorways, and walk-in showers may also be on your list of requirements. And if you use a wheelchair, take my advice and make sure that the doorways can be widened before you move in.
Make Some Modifications
While getting into the house is crucial from the start, you can always make some modifications after moving in to customize your new home for your specific needs. For example, start by replacing door knobs with lever-style handles and installing grab bars in the bathroom and bedroom (grab bar installation typically costs between $90 and $257). You can modify your kitchen for wheelchair accessibility by lowering the countertops and replacing your tap with a touchless faucet. Make whatever modifications will allow you to live comfortably and independently in your new home!
While searching for an accessible home can be a frustrating experience, try to remain patient– this is something I’ll admit was a downfall from the beginning. The right home will come along eventually. To ensure your house-hunting experience goes as smoothly as possible, remember to get pre-approved for a loan, find an experienced real estate agent, and try to be flexible with your requirements. Your new home is out there somewhere!