Real Estate Investment 101: Getting Started

Disabled & Buying Your First Home? 7 Ways to Make it the Fabulous Journey it Should Be

Just because you're one of the millions of Americans living with a disability, doesn't mean you don't have the American dream of finding and buying a home of your own. Although you might face a few obstacles unique to your circumstances, that's not going to get in the way; in fact, if you have the means and the motivation, you'll be packing up for the new house in no time at all.

1. Don't Let Your Disability Dissuade You

Depending on the challenges you may have faced over the years with your disability, you might be of the mindset that some things just aren't possible. However, times have changed a lot recently and you really don't know what your options are until you try. You are guaranteed equal opportunity by the Americans With Disabilities Act and if you're determined, nothing should stand in the way of you becoming the proud owner of a home you really love.

2. Know What You Want & Need in a Home

Everyone looking for a home starts by making an assessment of their needs and this is no different for you, although your list may be more detailed. For example, you need a certain amount of space to for living, storage and enjoyment; you may have other considerations such as proximity to shopping, doctors or great schools and you very likely need to concern yourself with crime statistics.

Get a general idea of the home itself, property it sits on and the neighborhood its surrounded by, according to your wants. Then, take into consideration any special needs you may have according to your disability, such as the width of doors if you use a wheelchair, the number of stairs if you can walk, but climbing is a problem, the height of sinks and toilets, floor surfaces, and more.

3. Talk to a Realtor

Real estate professionals are some of the most organized and talented people on the planet, making them an essential part of your home search. For everyone, disabled or not, finding just the right home can either be a fun and fantastic journey of discovery and satisfaction or a dreadful and frustrating ordeal, with the latter being more apt to happen if you're searching on your own.

Despite the vast amount of information available online, there's really no substitute for having a qualified and highly capable human helping you out. Talk to a realtor about everything, from your most frivolous home dream to your most practical. Somewhere in between, you're going to find just the right one and an agent probably knows about that home right now.

4. Speak with Your Bank

Budgets, banking and mortgages might not be the most fun aspects of looking for homes for sale, but they're all necessary. Understand what you can afford, including taxes, insurance and possible modifications to the home and try to stay under that, to give yourself a little breathing room. Also, you need to satisfy the debt-to-income-ratio requirements of lenders, who need to know you're not biting off more than you can chew with the mortgage. Your bank's loan officer can be a great resource or you could ask the realtor for a recommendation, but it's generally a good idea to know exactly what you're qualified for, before you begin a home search.

5. Understand What Special Programs You're Eligible For

As a disabled American, you may be eligible for special loan programs, particularly if you're also a Veteran, where both federal and non-profit programs apply. Either way, it's good to be aware of everything available to you, even above and beyond a mortgage, like help with modifying the home to suit your needs after purchase or finding a physical therapy program in the new neighborhood. Your realtor may be able to connect you to different organizations or you could try contacting them on your own:

  • Habitat For Humanity in the new community might help build you a ramp, widen the doors or with the down payment.
  • Lenders like Fannie Mae have special programs for nearly any type of individual circumstances.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assists disabled people achieve the dream of home ownership through various programs.
  • Other local, state and federal agencies may be able to help you in one way or another, if you need it.

Even if you don't need financial help getting into your new home, it's good to have solid connections with your new community and to ensure continued access to any special health programs you participate in or other aspects of your well being, such as educational, social and entertainment venues.

6. Go For It But Be Practical

If your dream home happens to be something with a beachfront (and why shouldn't it?), go for it. However, make sure you consider all special needs you may have and how they'll work into any property you might buy. You need to think of things like flood insurance and practical waterway access, along with imagining how mesmerizing the sunset will look over the water and how much the overall quality of your life will be elevated by such a move.

Just because you can, doesn't necessarily mean you should, unless the decision is well thought out and the property is an ideal match for your personal needs, from the aesthetics and enjoyment to the basic functionality and accessibility.

7. Rally Your Friends & Family to Help with the Move

Even when you hire a moving company, making the transition from one home to another is a major undertaking. Rally your friends and family to help you in any way you need, but be sure to offer an enticing reward, such as the most amazing dinner or dessert dish you're famous for creating or a weekend on the sofa at your new beachfront home. Moving is easier and even fun when your friends and family pitch in, most especially when the destination is the new home of your dreams.