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Common Misconceptions (and the Realities) of Finding an Accessible Home

Many people have misconceptions about the cost and requirements that make a home accessible. You may worry that you need an enormous amount of space and an unlimited budget. The reality is, however, that universal design can be affordable and comes in all types and sizes of homes. This is great news for house hunters because finding an accessible home may be easier and more affordable than you may initially think.

Easy Safety Tasks and Upgrades

When you start house hunting with accessibility in mind, you probably have a wish list of features you’re looking for. An experienced real estate agent can help you find a home with as many of those wishes as possible, but there are also easy tasks you can do to make any home more accessible. One of the first things you should do before moving in is to ensure your home is properly secured by having exterior doors rekeyed.

Any new homeowner should do a quick check of essential safety devices like fire and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. It’s also a good idea to plan emergency routes out of your home. You hope to never need them, but it’s best to be prepared. Along with these security basics, you can make simple swaps throughout your home to increase accessibility and safety. Beyond Accessibility recommends quick safety improvements you can do in a single day, such as adding lighting, swapping door knobs for levers, and securing rugs to prevent slipping.

Write Out What You Really Need and What You Don’t

If this is your first time buying a home, you may think that finding an accessible home will be really expensive. Another common misconception is that a home needs to be big to be accessible. The truth is that universal design has become much more popular and affordable, and these features don’t require a huge amount of space. In fact, you can even find wheelchair accessibility in tiny homes! You don’t have to go tiny, but it just shows that you don’t need a huge space. And when you’re considering financing, look into all options. There are a good number of loan options available to people with disabilities.

With that in mind, you might find it helpful to write out what you really need in a home to make everyday activities easier and safer.

  • Kitchens and Bathrooms: These are the key spaces where you need design features that allow for ease of use. If you use a wheelchair, having knee space under counters and sinks is crucial. Look for lower countertops and mounted sinks that have plenty of space underneath. In the bathroom, curbless showers are easiest to get in and out of. This applies to anyone, even those who don’t use wheelchairs. Also, look for grab bars, and not just in the shower but also next to the toilet. This Old House also recommends single-handle faucets and handheld shower heads to reduce the risk of scalding. Remodeling a bathroom for accessibility can be costly, so it’s best to find a home with these modifications already in place.
  • Mobility Features: The other primary consideration is whether the home’s overall setup makes mobility both accessible and safe. Look for step-free entrances, wide doorways, and an open floor plan. Keep the home’s flooring in mind when searching too. You want a surface that allows for easier movement without being prone to slips. For wheelchair users, hardwood flooring is usually the best option.

When you’re listing these key features, it’s important to prioritize what you need most and factor in the potential to make changes. For example, if you find a home that has open spaces but has carpet throughout, this may be a better choice than prioritizing flooring. Bigger structural features cost more to change, but installing new flooring is reasonably affordable.

Being able to set priorities will make the process of house hunting much easier. You may not find a home that has everything on your wishlist, but with a little compromise, you can find ways to make the right one work for you. We’re here to help you find the best accessible home that gives you the comfort and freedom you deserve.

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