Buying a home is a big undertaking – from picking a REALTOR®, to touring homes, to financing your purchase, each step presents its own set of challenges. For homebuyers with disabilities, those challenges are often bigger and trickier to navigate. However, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are in place to ensure individuals with disabilities have equal access to home buying opportunities.
Finding a REALTOR® who has experience working with homebuyers with disabilities can help alleviate much of the stress and uncertainty in the homebuying process.
A Qualified REALTOR® Can Be Your Advocate
REALTORS® are trained to understand the rights of homebuyers and sellers. While there is currently no specific certification for REALTORS® who specialize in working with clients with disabilities, all REALTORS® have a responsibility to uphold the policies of the Fair Housing Act. Part of that duty means ensuring homebuyers have equal access to real estate offices, information, properties, and programs.
As part of Title III of the ADA, real estate offices and the services conducted within them are required to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Any architectural or communication barriers that may inhibit an individual’s access to the building or services should be removed.
Your REALTOR® can make sure you’re getting the appropriate accommodations during each part of the home buying process no matter what challenges your disability presents.
1. The Home Touring Stage
For homebuyers with a physical disability, touring a home can present some obvious challenges. ADA accessibility applies only to public spaces, so when a homeowner lists their home for sale, they aren’t required to make their property ADA accessible. If a physical disability makes home tours challenging, Frank Scaletta, REALTOR® with Interdome Realty, suggests home buyers view the home virtually first. “If there’s no virtual option for a property you’re interested in, your REALTOR® can do a Facetime walk through for you.” He continues, “In recent years agents such as myself have begun using 3D space capturing software to create really immersive virtual tours.”
When you’re ready to see a home in person, you, your REALTOR®, and occasionally the home seller, can work together to find appropriate and safe ways to gain physical access to the home. It may be as simple as placing a piece of plywood over one or two steps to create a ramp, or it may require an extra set of hands to lift you over the threshold. Whatever the solution is, make sure it’s one you’re comfortable with and one that doesn’t compromise your safety.
The American’s with Disabilities Act does require that public areas in multifamily properties comply with their accessibility requirements. When you’re touring a facility, your REALTOR® can help you identify which areas should be accessible to you.
If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, you can ask for prewritten stats about a home you’re interested in touring. You may find you’re able to communicate with your REALTOR® during a home tour with just a notepad and a pen but you can request interpretation services for more complicated transactions.
If you’re a homebuyer who’s blind or has a vision impairment, it’s reasonable to request written information be given to you before you tour a home so you can use your personal screen reading technology to understand the property’s stats. It’s also appropriate to bring a guide dog with you or to teach your REALTOR® guided sight techniques.
2. The Financing Stage
Lending institutions are public spaces so they must be ADA compliant. Disabled homebuyers are allowed to make requests for reasonable accommodations during the lending process.
Requesting an interpreter be present when you meet with a lender to review your options would be a reasonable request for a homebuyer who is deaf or hard of hearing.
Likewise, a homebuyer with a vision impairment can request the necessary documents be sent to them virtually to be read with a screen reader, even if it isn’t standard practice for that bank or lender.
3. The Closing Stage
Closing on a home involves multiple steps and lots of paperwork. All portions of a real estate contract closing can be accommodated for individuals with disabilities. Again, that may mean an interpreter is hired or documents are sent electronically, it may entail a third-party be present to assist an individual with a cognitive disability, or it might mean the meeting is held in a non-traditional setting to ensure the location is ADA accessible.
This is the end of the home buying process and by this time your REALTOR® should know which accommodations you require. They can help coordinate all the moving parts of this process to make sure your needs are being met in an equitable way.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers counseling services for homebuyers with disabilities in every state. These certified individuals can answer questions related to your specific needs and provide you with information about relevant financial assistance programs.
As a homebuyer with a disability, you may have a few extra challenges to face along your home buying journey. With the guidance of an experienced REALTOR® and a solid understanding of your rights, you can navigate the process successfully.
Source: Home Ownership Matters