House hunting is a lot of fun… sometimes. Other times, it can be a long, arduous journey filled with pain and frustration. Simply put, finding the perfect home for you and your family is tough no matter what you’re facing in life. When that perfect home has to be accessible (whether due to illness, disability, or mobility), things are tougher.
Here’s how you can make a plan and execute it well.
Make a List of Your Needs and Wants
You should start your house-hunting venture not in your car, not in the classifieds, and not on Zillow. You should start it with a pen and a sheet of paper. Before you begin your search, you must know exactly what you’re looking for. Make a list of everything you absolutely need to have in a home, and alongside that everything you desire. Also, rank these things. What is the most important? If you have this list handy, you can narrow down your housing options at a quicker pace. This can help you find your perfect accessible home in a reasonable amount of time (which is important as it can be a long process).
Get a Realtor Who Understands Your Needs
You can easily house hunt all by yourself, but having a qualified realtor who can help you filter out the accessible homes from the non-accessible homes will certainly expedite the process. Ask them if they’ve ever worked with clients with accessibility needs before you hire them, and share your previously made list with them!
Search with a Modification Budget in Mind
The chances that you find a home that meets every single one of your accessibility needs and desires are very slim (less than 1 percent of housing in the United States is already wheelchair accessible, for instance). Your goal is to find a home that meets as many as you can, but that means you’ll need to make some modifications once you own the property.
For example, let’s say you find a one-story home with minimal stairs on a flat piece of land with little yard upkeep. This probably sounds great except for the fact that a few of the doorways are a little too narrow to comfortably accommodate a wheelchair. If this home is priced right at your initial budget, you may have to pass on it. That’s because you need to make room for the known modification (in this case, widening the doorways).
Part of your “modification budget” should also include the furniture and appliances you must buy for your new home, some of which may need to be accessible themselves. Make sure you do your research to find the best options before you finalize your budget.
Remember this: Most disabled homeowners spend between $4,000 and $6,000 on home modification, and at the high end some can spend over $20,000.
Don’t Forget How Valuable Location Really Is
Yes, location is important because it helps determine the value, appreciation, and resale potential of your home — but it’s not just that. An accessible home is not just one that is accessible on the inside. An accessible home is one that makes plenty of other things more accessible. A great location can make all the difference in how comfortable your life is in a new home. Think about what you need to be relatively close to, how your usual mode of transportation (bus, car, walking) fits into that, and then factor all that into your home search.
Finally, don’t make the actual, physical house-hunting process difficult on yourself. Embrace the modern age! House hunting can often be a tiring adventure. So, make sure you use all of the online options available to you to ensure you preserve your energy — you’ll need it for the buying, packing, and moving stages!