If you’re looking to buy a home that’s accessible, you probably know it’s a bit of a challenge. According to HUD, only 3.8% of housing stock is livable for those with moderate mobility difficulties and only 0.15% is currently wheelchair accessible. But rising awareness about the importance of housing accessibility is making it easier to find an accessible home. Here are some tips on how to do it.
1. Learn about the different types of accessible homes.
Accessible home features can fall under several umbrellas. Each of these concepts is slightly different, but all deal with some type of accommodations for accessibility. These include (but are not limited to):
- Universal design: Homes that are built to be accessible by people of all ages, abilities, and all other known factors.
- Aging in place design: Homes designed to allow people to stay in their homes as they age and their abilities change.
- Adaptable design: Homes designed with the ability to be adapted to the changing needs and abilities of residents.
- Barrier-free design: Modifications made to a structure to remove existing barriers for those of different abilities.
2. Find an experienced real estate agent.
The best advice will come from someone who understands your unique goals as a home buyer, and that is your agent. Your best bet is to find a real estate agent familiar with accessible design. They may know of existing accessible homes in the area in which you’re looking. A good real estate agent will also help you find a house that’s not accessible, but can meet your needs with a reasonable amount of remodeling and money.
Trulia can help you connect with trustworthy agents who will work hard for you through their Premier Agents resource. These agents meet Trulia’s high standard for quality service, so you know you’ll have a great home buying experience with their personal support.
3. Understand your rights.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits mortgage lenders, sellers, and real estate agents from discriminating against you during the home buying process. From the very beginning of the process, understand what is expected of all of the parties involved so you can be on the lookout for discrimination.
4. Leverage financial resources.
To find the right home for you, you have to know your budget—and yours might be larger than you think. There are many federal and state loans, grants and financial assistance programs that may help with down payments or home modification costs. Here are some to look into:
- ABLE Accounts: This is a type of tax-free savings account that allows disabled individuals to save for a number of expenses, including housing, without affecting their eligibility for social security, Medicaid and other public benefits.
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Federal Housing Administration-backed loan (FHA) that requires little money down and can be used to make home improvements for accessibility.
- 203(k) Loan: This FHA loan allows you to finance your home purchase and include the cost of repairs through a single mortgage.
- State-specific programs: For example, Colorado’s HomeAccess program can provide up to $25,000 to assist with down payment and closing costs. New York State has its Access to Home program, and Pennsylvania has ACCESS Home Modification. Check with your local housing authority to see what’s available in your area.
- Veterans Administration: If you’re a disabled veteran, you may be eligible for VA-backed grants to rehab your home, including Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) and Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) and Home Improvement and Structural Alteration (HISA) grants.
- Habitat for Humanity: A non-profit program that builds, rehabilitates and repairs homes for people in need. Each local HFH entity has its own rules, but these homes are usually sold for the amount they cost to build, require a low down payment, and may include a mortgage-assistance program.
- Rebuilding Together: A non-profit group that helps repair and rebuild homes and communities.
5. Connect with local accessibility contractors.
Also consider hiring the services of one of the following people as you search: an occupational therapist, many of whom specialize in home modifications; a remodeler with a Certified Aging in Place (CAPS) designation; a Certified Living in Place Specialist; or a residential accessibility consultant. Their unique skills can help you understand your options as you move through the home buying process.
6. Use accessibility-focused sites to find listings.
Combing through listings to find accessible homes can be challenging on your own. But there are organizations that do the work for you. Barrier Free Home and Accessible Properties are sites that gather accessible home listings from across the nation.
There are also a lot of factors that can affect your accessible home search depending on your specific needs, financial situation, and where you live. The United Spinal Association provides detailed information on accessible home resources that can be helpful during your search.
7. Consider a new construction home.
The math will end up different for every home buyer, but for some people looking for accessible homes in some housing markets may find it’s less expensive to buy a new construction home than to modify an existing home. Check out local developers and builders to find out what’s possible in your market.
Ready to find your new, accessible home? See what’s available now, on Trulia.