Finding a new home is a daunting task, and finding an accessible home is even more difficult. Not many homes on the market come move-in ready for people with disabilities. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you need to buy a living space that is safe and comfortably accommodates your needs. By carefully choosing your next property, you can turn it into a home that fits the bill. Here are four factors that go into making an accessible home:
1. Anticipate modifications
Unless you get lucky and find a home that already has everything you need, your best course of action is to pick a home that has good bones. Like with any home, start with ensuring it has a stable foundation, roof, and walls. To make modifications easier and less expensive down the road, it also helps if the home has wider doorways and hallways — and lower cabinets — to accommodate the use of a mobility aid. If you don’t find a home with any of these accessible features, there are numerous modifications you can make later. Your real estate agent can guide you toward the best space to match your needs.
2. Consider the location
Along with structural features, location is also important. You want to consider the safety of the neighborhood and how close the house is to amenities (e.g., restaurants, markets, pharmacies, hospitals, schools). Also, observe the sidewalks. Are they smooth enough for a wheelchair? Is there convenient access for you to get on and off the sidewalk? Furthermore, if you plan on using public transportation, you will want there to be a stop nearby.
3. Make basic preparations
Once you’ve chosen your new home and signed the papers, there are some specific preparations to consider before you move in. You’ll want to change the locks right away — you don’t know who has keys to your home and rekeying the locks ensures your safety and security. Next you’ll want to change your address with the post office, bank and anyone else who needs your new information. Depending on how far you move, you’ll possibly need to set up a new healthcare team. Lastly, do yourself a favor and hire a cleaning service to give your entire home a thorough clean, allowing you to settle into a tidier space. In San Diego, you’ll usually spend between $115 and $227 on maid services.
4. Start to tackle modifications
Modifications will make your home safe and comfortable and your daily necessities accessible. If necessary, widen all the doorways to fit your wheelchair or other mobility aid; a less expensive alternative is to purchase expandable hinges. Install a wheelchair ramp at the entranceway and threshold ramps inside the home. If your home has high-pile carpet, consider replacing it with hard floors (i.e., hardwood, linoleum, vinyl) or low-pile carpet.
After taking care of these elements, focus on essential areas like the kitchen and bathroom. Lowering cabinets, sinks, and appliances (e.g., microwave, toaster) can help you cook and clean more easily. Installing grab bars by the toilet and in the shower, adding a shower chair (can be purchased for under $50), and lowering your medicine cabinet and/or vanity can help you take care of daily personal hygiene activities more safely.
Finding the accessible home of your dreams may take time, but more likely it will require compromise. Before buying a home, check for key structural features and also features that could make future modifications easier and less expensive. Some minor renovations may be all that stands in the way of a home fully meeting your needs. By staying organized and having a move-in plan, you can also ease the transition. Before too long, you’ll be fully settled and taking advantage of all your new home has to offer.