Ease of Access: Make Way for Wheelchairs in Your New Home

Ease of Access: Make Way for Wheelchairs in Your New Home

Finding that “just-right” home with the right combination of location, size, and desired features can seem futile. Add to that the necessary accessibility features for wheelchair users and your chances of success diminish significantly. The 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability reported at least 22% of Canadians ages 15 and older are living with a disability. Our country’s aging population also means an increase in mobility issues among our seniors. Ironically, as more Canadians express a desire to “age in place” in their current homes, we would expect to see more of those homes modified with expectations of accessibility issues. However, the costs of those modifications are prohibitive for many, particularly aging Canadians. At Spinal Cord Injury Prince Edward Island (SCI-PEI), we understand the importance of having mobility independence in your own home and offer some tips for achieving that.

Be prepared before you look

While searching for a home can be exciting – and frustrating – you’re likely to find it fitful if you don’t do your financial homework first. First, you’ll want to find out “how much home” – meaning your mortgage payment – you can afford. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation recommends that your mortgage payment stays at or below about one-third of your gross monthly income. This will typically set the parameters for your home’s total cost, depending on the mortgage interest rates. In turn, what interest rate you get, thus impacting your monthly payment, is also affected by your credit score. So you see that getting your credit report is an important early step in the Canadian home buying process.

Expect to bring some cash to the table, as well, for a down payment and some likely closing costs. The amount of down payment you need to make can vary depending on the size of your mortgage but will be between 5-10% of your home’s purchase price. If you have the cash in a savings account, it won’t take you long to access it or transfer it to a chequing account so it’s there when you need it. You may also qualify for Canada’s First-Time Home Buyer Incentive program that offers down payment assistance.

Go for bones, not broke

If you find a home with ideal wheelchair accessibility in addition to every other feature you want and need, and that you can afford, you hit the jackpot! However, you may find it easier to forego weeks and even months of frustrated searching and stress by looking at a house’s accessibility potential versus one that already has everything. In essence, you’re looking at whether the house’s “bones,” or basic layout, will make modifications fairly easy and thus less expensive. You may even be able to get help with your adaptive modifications with some of Canada’s disability benefit programs.

For example, ruling out two-story homes and homes on a steep drive or hill immediately narrows your search. Look for homes with French doors, or even sliding glass doors that can be replaced. The wide opening is already there and new doors can be installed in it. Look for thresholds that are conducive to easy ramp building; the lower the current threshold, the better. Be sure there is enough room for adequate ramp width as well as the landing.

Inside, a layout that is already simple with an open floor plan means you’ll have fewer changes to make for wider turning radii. It also means fewer hallways. While many people look for plentiful kitchen cabinets, in this case, the fewer there are – as well as with other built-ins like islands – means less for you to lower or replace.

Another way to save money is to look for “as is” home listings, but if you do, spend the money you’ll save on the home on a real estate lawyer. While this type of home can be cheaper, you could be left with outrageously – and out-of-reach – expensive repairs and structural modifications, or be fighting title ownership problems in the courts. That’s why it’s important to have a qualified attorney examine land and title records, and also hire experienced home inspectors. With an “as is” sale, the seller won’t be required to make any repairs for you, but at least you’ll know whether the issues are manageable. Make sure your attorney inserts a clause that allows you to walk away if the house repairs are simply too prohibitive.

Challenge rewarded!

You’ll almost certainly encounter challenges in your house shopping, but as with other challenges in your life, you will overcome these, as well! Buying a home is another milestone marking your independent living and one that SCI-PEI celebrates with you.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Be prepared before you look

While searching for a home can be exciting – and frustrating – you’re likely to find it fitful if you don’t do your financial homework first. First, you’ll want to find out “how much home” – meaning your mortgage payment – you can afford. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation recommends that your mortgage payment stays at or below about one-third of your gross monthly income. This will typically set the parameters for your home’s total cost, depending on the mortgage interest rates. In turn, what interest rate you get, thus impacting your monthly payment, is also affected by your credit score. So you see that getting your credit report is an important early step in the Canadian home buying process.

Expect to bring some cash to the table, as well, for a down payment and some likely closing costs. The amount of down payment you need to make can vary depending on the size of your mortgage but will be between 5-10% of your home’s purchase price. If you have the cash in a savings account, it won’t take you long to access it or transfer it to a chequing account so it’s there when you need it. You may also qualify for Canada’s First-Time Home Buyer Incentive program that offers down payment assistance.

Go for bones, not broke

If you find a home with ideal wheelchair accessibility in addition to every other feature you want and need, and that you can afford, you hit the jackpot! However, you may find it easier to forego weeks and even months of frustrated searching and stress by looking at a house’s accessibility potential versus one that already has everything. In essence, you’re looking at whether the house’s “bones,” or basic layout, will make modifications fairly easy and thus less expensive. You may even be able to get help with your adaptive modifications with some of Canada’s disability benefit programs.

For example, ruling out two-story homes and homes on a steep drive or hill immediately narrows your search. Look for homes with French doors, or even sliding glass doors that can be replaced. The wide opening is already there and new doors can be installed in it. Look for thresholds that are conducive to easy ramp building; the lower the current threshold, the better. Be sure there is enough room for adequate ramp width as well as the landing.

Inside, a layout that is already simple with an open floor plan means you’ll have fewer changes to make for wider turning radii. It also means fewer hallways. While many people look for plentiful kitchen cabinets, in this case, the fewer there are – as well as with other built-ins like islands – means less for you to lower or replace.

Another way to save money is to look for “as is” home listings, but if you do, spend the money you’ll save on the home on a real estate lawyer. While this type of home can be cheaper, you could be left with outrageously – and out-of-reach – expensive repairs and structural modifications, or be fighting title ownership problems in the courts. That’s why it’s important to have a qualified attorney examine land and title records, and also hire experienced home inspectors. With an “as is” sale, the seller won’t be required to make any repairs for you, but at least you’ll know whether the issues are manageable. Make sure your attorney inserts a clause that allows you to walk away if the house repairs are simply too prohibitive.

Challenge rewarded!

You’ll almost certainly encounter challenges in your house shopping, but as with other challenges in your life, you will overcome these, as well! Buying a home is another milestone marking your independent living and one that SCI-PEI celebrates with you.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

This article was generously provided to us by our friend Jackie Waters. Thanks, Jackie!

We’re back!

The pandemic has affected everyone, including all us here at SCI PEI. Our office had been shut for a few months, but we’re back now and focused more than ever on community outreach.

We’re compiling a list of people to whom we can be of service, and we’re reaching out to sibling agencies to see if we can share resources.

We continue to advocate for support and acceptance with government and industry.

Please contact us and let us now if there’s anything we can do to be of service.