House Hunting with Vision Loss
Contributed by Lynda Jones,CVRT, and Peer Advisor.
Suggestions When Purchasing a Home When You are Blind or Visually Impaired
Several years ago an older friend and I purchased a condominium together. After some health problems, she decided to move into an assisted living facility. Eventually, it became clear that she would not be moving back. Last fall I purchased her half of the house and became its sole owner.
If you haven't purchased a house in awhile or you are thinking about buying your first home, below are suggestions I think you will find helpful as a person with a visual impairment. Before you begin "house hunting," you may want to read some books on this topic or take a course.
Priorities When Looking for a Home
Think About Home and Yard Upkeep
If you enjoy gardening but don't want to mow the grass, trim bushes, or rake leaves, consider a town house or condominium. For a monthly fee, these and other services are offered in condominium communities. Some associations provide outside maintenance like cleaning gutters and pressure washing the façade, sidewalks, and driveway. Where I live the fee also covers roof replacement/repair and street upkeep. When my mailbox experienced a "hit and run," the home owner's association replaced it. As a single totally blind woman, I find that two hundred dollars a month is a small price to pay for the peace of mind.
Not all condominium communities have door-to-door mail delivery or curbside trash pick-up. Most condominium associations put restrictions on what you can do to the outside of your home. For example, I can not change the outside color of my house or close in the front porch. Initially, I was told I could not add a storm door. I used the ADA, explaining my need for safety since I can't use a peephole when the doorbell rings. Now, almost everyone in the neighborhood has a storm door.
Home Owner Associations
Some single dwelling neighborhoods also have home owner associations. Usually there are fewer services but the fees are less. I have lived in two such neighborhoods. In one the fees went toward maintenance on the clubhouse, pool, and other common areas. In the other, there was an annual fee of only $100 that paid for trimming trees and maintaining common areas. I had ten large trees in my yard, and it was nice to have someone else care for them. Tree trimming can cost several hundred dollars if you pay for it yourself!
Think about Transportation
I've always thought it would be nice to live on acreage in the country. However, as a visually impaired person who likes her independence, access to public transportation is a priority. If public transportation is a "must" for you too, then make sure it's available in the neighborhoods where you are looking to buy. How early, late, and often are buses or Para transit scheduled? Are the bus stops convenient and in a safe location or across a six lane street?
What Does a "Dream" House Mean To You
Those of us who have been visually impaired for a long time know that convenience and independence sometimes take precedence over finding "our dream" house. Convenience to stores, restaurants, hair and nail salons, a pharmacy, dry cleaners, and a short ride to work can turn your second choice into your dream house!
Consider Your Personal Preferences and Needs
Before you begin house hunting, develop a list of personal preferences. This list makes it easier for your realtor to show you houses that fit your needs and wants. It also lets you know immediately if the realtor is truly listening to you.
Questions to ask yourself
- What is your price range?
- Would you consider a townhouse or condominium?
- How many square feet do you want?
- Do you prefer one floor or two? (note to the wise, think long-run)
- How many bedrooms? Living areas? Bathrooms? Do you want a fireplace?
- Is a garage essential or would a carport or parking place be acceptable?
- Do you like electric or gas appliances
- Does flooring matter to you, i.e. carpet, hardwood, or tile?
- What size of yard do you like? With or without trees? With or without a fence?
- How important is it to be near public transportation? To work? To grocery and other stores?
- Are sidewalks necessary for your safety?