Even with the best of intentions, it can be difficult to consider all of the factors your clients may need to consider when they’re dealing with mobility issues, vision impairments or other challenges. However, according to Amanda Deering, there are many ways you can ensure a successful home search for all.
Imagine you’ve been communicating with a client via phone and email about their upcoming home search. They’ve let you know that they have some mobility issues, and they’d like for you to keep that in mind when looking at properties. You know, for example, that they are looking for single-level living and don’t want to look at multi-floor properties.
When the day comes to search together, the following occurs:
- You arrive at the first home only to find that, although it is all one level on the interior, you and your client will need to navigate a set of rickety stairs with a poorly secured handrail to access the home via either the front or back entrance.
- You arrive at the second home, which is completely vacant. Your client likes the home well enough, but is soon unable to continue standing with only the support of a cane and doesn’t spend much time there.
- You arrive at the third listing, an older home, and find that, though it is listed as a single-story home, there are a number of small steps up and down into various rooms, tight doorways and a long gravel walkway to navigate when accessing the outdoor spaces. All of these create challenges for your client.
Even with the best of intentions, it can be difficult to consider all of the factors your clients may need to consider when they’re dealing with mobility issues, vision impairments or other challenges. However, there are many ways you can ensure a successful home search for all.
Here are seven tips to get you started:
Communicate before looking at homes. Understand your client’s must-have list, and what accommodations (if any) they would be able to adapt themselves. Contact the listing agents of the homes you are viewing to discuss and address the must-haves list to view the home. If you are able to, go by the homes you are considering looking at with your client in order to pre-screen each home with the client’s needs in mind.
Think about accessibility
Little things can be big things when it comes to accessibility. A single step may make a home inaccessible to prospective buyers. Clients who use wheelchairs may request to look at homes with no-step entryways, single-level living, walk-in showers, hardwood floors and lower countertops. It may also be possible for you to offer to bring along a temporary ramp to allow access to a home that a client may otherwise love.
Be cognizant of invisible disabilities
You may have a client who has a disability that is not visible. For individuals with invisible disabilities, it may be important to find a home that is near to community services, public transportation or other resources. Be sure to listen to what is important to your client. (Please note: It is important to never steer your client toward a specific neighborhood, as this goes against Fair Housing laws and regulations.)
Watch your language
If your client discloses that they have a disability, it is best to ask them what language they would like you to use (or not use). Some clients may prefer to not discuss their disability and focus solely on the qualities of a property that would make them feel at home.
Some clients may prefer person-first language, e.g. “person with a disability,” while others may prefer identity-first language, e.g. “disabled person.”
Dr. Stephen Shore once said, “When you meet one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.” This is a great quote to remind us to avoid stereotyping, as every person with a disability is a unique individual.
We are quite fortunate to live in a time with so many adaptive technologies. Be sure to look into and offer video and audio tours to your clients. The option to have the rooms described in detail via an audio tour would be super helpful for clients with visual impairments. Clients may also really appreciate not needing to visit a home in person for the first viewing, if they can do so by video instead.
Do your research
It is important for real estate agents to understand the laws and regulations that protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the homebuying process.
For example, under the Fair Housing Act, an agent is prohibited from discouraging the purchase or rental of a dwelling to an individual because of their handicap. Review Laws and Regulations related to Physical Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications under the Fair Housing Act.
Ask for help
Reach out to your local disability resource center; they are happy to help. Connect with other agents who are working to improve the landscape of house hunting for individuals with disabilities. And most importantly, ask your client for feedback on how you can be a better advocate for them in their journey to find the perfect home.
Amanda Deering advises at DirectOffer, the real estate technology startup that strives to make homeownership more accessible. Follow her on LinkedIn.