By Patrick Young, Educator/Activist
Looking for a new home is always a bit stressful. If you’re living with a disability of mobility issues, however, the prospect of searching for a new home can feel overwhelming. Accessible homes can be hard to find, and getting moved in and comfortable can be quite a process as well. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to find a home that meets your accessibility needs and get settled in, all without getting too stressed.
Prepare Your Finances
One of the first steps that should be on any homebuyers checklist is a thorough review of your budget and finances. Add up all your income and be sure to include any benefits you recieve. Then determine your monthly expenses and what percentage of your income you can comfortably afford to put toward housing. Most experts recommend spending no more than 30 percent of your gross monthly income on housing. That total typically includes utilities as well. Once you have your income and expenses sorted out, check your credit report so you’ll know what kind of home loans you’re eligible for when it comes time to make an offer on a home.
Do Some Homework
Once you have your budget and finances figured out, you still have a little more homework before you can start searching for properties. You can save yourself some time by doing a quick internet search for available homes in the areas where you would like to move. The housing market for accessible homes still needs some work, but you should be able to find resources that will point you toward homes with accessibility features in specific locations. You’ll also want to research average prices for homes in those areas. If you’re looking around Federal Way, Washington, for example, homes typically sell for around $367,000. Knowing average home prices before you make an offer can help you know what you should expect to pay for your new home and whether you can make an offer below the asking price.
Work With a Realtor
Smart home buyers start their process with their own research, but it also helps to have a professional, licensed realtor to guide you through the steps of finding your new home. You can let your realtor know what kind of accessibility options you are looking for in a home and which neighborhoods you’re most interested in exploring. An experienced realtor will know which homes are on the market and will be able to find out if there are accessibility features in homes that may not be advertised in the listings. Your realtor can also point you in the direction of neighborhoods you may not be aware of. By moving a few blocks away from your favorite neighborhood, you may be able to snag a better deal on your home and have more access to shops and resources in the area.
Plan For Some Upgrades
When you begin to view homes, don’t be surprised if you can’t find a property with all the features want. Look for a home that has the potential for accessible upgrades, and that has other features you find desirable. A home with a large backyard for your service dog but that could use some improvements may be the perfect fit for you. If you’re worried about how to pay for accessibility upgrades, look into grants and special loans that may be available to you. Veterans can get help from the VA for their home needs, but there are other options available to non-veteran homebuyers who live with a disability.
Downsize and Update What You Have
While waiting to close on a new home, it’s smart to think about downsizing and updating your furniture and furnishings before the big move. Take this opportunity to get rid of any furniture that may be exacerbating your pain or that’s a hindrance to your disability. Worn out couches, old recliners and outdated mattresses should be at the top of your list for replacement. For example, if your mattress is seven to 10 years old, take note of how you’re sleeping. If you wake up groggy or achy, or if you feel like your mattress is sinking in too much (an indication your mattress might be losing its shape), consider buying a new one that offers better support. Go through your other belongings as well and get rid of anything you no longer need or use (think: kitchen utensils, tools, clothing, etc.). Moving is the perfect excuse to declutter your life and save the effort of moving a lot of stuff you don’t need. You can even have a garage sale to turn a small profit, or donate your goods to a local charity or thrift store.
Get Help With Your Move
Packing and moving can be stressful for anyone. If you have mobility issues or chronic pain caused by your disability, think about hiring professionals to help with your move. A professional moving company can help pack boxes, move heavy furniture and transport your belongings to your new home. Movers will also bring their own packing and moving supplies, such as dollies and furniture pads, saving you the time and expense of buying or renting items you may not use again. Before your movers leave, inspect your items for any damage and have them place your furniture exactly where you want it.
Settle into Your New Home
Before you begin decorating and putting a personal touch on your new home, make sure you take care of some essential tasks first. By now, you should have updated your address with the Post Office. Ideally you’ll want to make sure you update your address with any service or benefit providers as soon as you begin to move into your new home. Get your utilities all set up too and think about putting them on an automatic draft for payments. This way you won’t miss any deadlines while you get settled into your new place.
If you’re a homebuyer living with a disability, finding a home that fits your needs doesn’t have to stress you out. By doing your homework and hiring help when you need it, you should be able to get into a home with features that will make your life a little easier.
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