House hunting can be an overwhelming process for anyone, but it can be extremely challenging for people with disabilities. Less than 5 percent of the homes available for sale are accessible for disabilities. That means people in search of those kinds of homes— whether for themselves or loved ones— need a lot of preparation before they begin their search.
If you’re a homebuyer looking for a property that is accessible for a disability, here’s a guide to help you with what you need to know before you go.
Know Your Rights
You are entitled to specific rights and it’s important you know what they are so you can make sure you are treated fairly. For example, it is criminal for a lender, realtor, or seller to discriminate against you because of your disability. That means a realtor cannot say no to representing you simply because they don’t want the hassle of looking for an accessible home. Even armed with that legal knowledge, keep in mind that predatory lenders do exist. They may say there are other issues, when in reality they are pushing back on your disability. They have a responsibility to help you through the home buying process with honesty and integrity, but you will need to press back when you feel your rights are being compromised.
The neighborhood you live in can play an important role in your quality of life— almost as important as the home you choose. For example, if you are in a wheelchair, then you will want to make sure there are curb cuts so you can navigate your new neighborhood. If you take public transportation, you want to look for homes in an area with easy access to the right stops. You also want to make sure your neighborhood is safe and secure, especially if you have low vision or hearing impairments. You can always take an extra step to prioritize safety by scheduling a professional locksmith in your area to install extra features to help you feel more secure in your home.
Look into Alternative Funding
There are many different financial options specifically for people with disabilities looking to purchase a home or make modifications for accessibility. Some of these are grants, like the Rebuilding Together Safe at Home grant, while others are loans, like the USDA single-family housing Direct home loan. Keep in mind one important difference— grants you don’t have to pay back, but loans you do. Many of those loans offer low interest rates so you can pay your loans off quicker. Apply for the ones you think you qualify for if you want to explore options to help make a home more accessible or lower your mortgage payments.
Hiring the Right Realtor
Having a passionate, motivated and determined realtor can make a world of difference in your house hunting adventure. Find one who has experience with situations similar to yours.Interview several to find one who seems genuinely enthusiastic about helping you find a dream home. Ask questions about their experience working with clients who have a disability and selling and buying homes that are accessible. Ask them to provide an honest assessment of the market temperature for a home search like yours. Make sure to choose one that understands— and will protect— your rights.
Whether you are house hunting for your own disability or are helping a friend or family member, finding a home that is accessible takes time. We know it can be frustrating, but try your best to stay patient and optimistic. If you know your rights and work with a supportive realtor, you can make major strides in your dream home search.