Know What You Want and Need: Tips for Disabled Home Buyers
The needs and rights of disabled individuals entered fully into the public consciousness nearly three decades ago with the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Unfortunately, disabled Americans who enter the real estate market sometimes still find it difficult to find a property with the amenities and accessibility features they require to live safely, conveniently and independently - especially if the house was built before 1990.
Informative online resources can be difficult to find, so be diligent about finding a good realtor, researching the housing market, and taking advantage of government programs that can help disabled individuals make their home ownership dreams come true.
Clarify your needs
Before you begin looking for a house, it’s necessary to clarify your housing needs. If you’re in a wheelchair, stairs will be an impediment, which means you’ll require a wheelchair access ramp and doorways wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, a bath or shower with easy access, and safety features like non-slip surfaces and grab bars (inexpensive grab bars can be purchased for under $15). If a house doesn’t feature all these modifications, some won’t be that costly to implement, but others such as a bathroom remodel can get pricey (e.g., a bathroom remodel in St. Petersburg can cost up to $18,000). Once you’ve outlined your physical needs and know what accommodations you’ll require, determine how much you have to spend and begin focusing on preferred neighborhoods.
Help is available
A knowledgeable real estate agent, one who’s familiar with the area you want to live in, can be a valuable resource for a disabled home buyer even if your agent isn’t experienced working with disabled clients. Realtors can help you find the right house and financing that suits you, though it can be a complicated process. Fortunately, there are counselors from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in each state who can help you find the financial assistance necessary to purchase the home you want.
You are protected under the Fair Housing Act, which prevents lenders, realtors and homeowners from discriminating against you during the home-buying process. It’s an important point to remember because according to HUD, subtle forms of discrimination still crop up.