A is for Access

This April’s blog posts will be highlighting some of the knowledge I gathered when I was certified as a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) and will explore different ways to determine if selling your home is the best course action as you age.  Picking up from last week, one of the quick ways of assessing the need to move or perhaps decide to adapt your current home is to use the acronym S.A.F.E.

Safety, Access, Fits Needs, Ease of Use

Last week we talked about Safety. This week we are going to discuss Access.


Aging in place or choosing to relocate is a decision we all have in our future and whether you are in a home you love, or are looking for one, it is never too early to start planning. When evaluating accessibility, you should consider three points, access to your home, within your home and around your neighborhood. Some of these aspects can be modified, others cannot.

Exterior. Access to your home generally comes from three main entry points; the front door, typically facing the main street; the back door, usually located with access to the largest outside yard, and the garage if it is attached. Seattle is particularly hilly and we like our views so there may be quite a climb to your front door. Depending on the topography of your particular home you might find one of these alternatives more accessible than your front door. Look for an entry with few or no stairs. Are any of them on level or near level with a street or alley? Removable ramps are a potential low cost and relatively quick solution depending on the space and height the ramp needs to span. Ramps should be no more than one inch of rise for every 12 inches of length and a minimum width of 32” and a five foot turning radius to accommodate a wheelchair. Look at the paths leading up to your chosen door. They should also be at least 32” wide and be of a firm surface. Shelter over your door and drive are an added bonus.

Interior. Look around your home with an eye to navigating it in a wheelchair or with a walker. Is there a kitchen and bathroom on the main floor? Look for level changes, a step up here or there. The doorways need to be at least 36” wide and the bathroom should be roomy enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Many of my clients are concerned that an access renovation will leave their home looking like an institution or hospital. With the influx of Universal Design you can plan for an at-home future without compromising style. For a couple examples check out the Moen “Safety Never Looked Better” bathroom and this example from Houzz.  These show case beautiful ways to make your bathroom more accessible without an institutional feel AND increase the resale value of your home.

Access to the appliances you need on a daily basis is the other important piece of the puzzle. Can you reach the microwave, the stove top, the refrigerator shelves, or for goodness sake the coffee maker, from a wheelchair? Fine Homebuilding has a beautiful example of a wheelchair accessible kitchen that has a modern feel and Houzz shows a fully ADA compliant kitchen. The number of products designed to make these accommodations have sky rocketed as more and more people choose to retain their independence as they age.  Contractors specializing in Universal Design can give you ideas and quotes.

Neighborhood. Access into and around your neighborhood is also critical. Access in your home can be changed, but it is rather more difficult to have a new bus-line installed. Does your home have ready access to public transportation? Can you walk or bike to the grocery store and other basic services? Where are your dental and medical appointments relative to home? Are family or neighbors close by or are you relatively isolated?

The Cost of Staying

Determining the ease and cost of access will help you make solid choices as to whether your home is a reasonable long-term prospect. A knowledgeable contractor can help put a dollar figure on the renovation costs.   If you are considering a remodel to help increase the potential sale price of your home, get a confirmation from a Real Estate Professional about the average return on your improvement. The National Association of Realtors has some great averages that you can review before embarking on a renovation, repair or remodel, it includes a “Joy Return” to help you judge if the pain of living through a remodel will be worth it.

The Cost of Moving

Moving has its own set of costs. Talk to an experienced Real Estate Agent about the costs of sell your home and potential profit. How much money will it cost to move? How much per month will your new home be? Would you like to buy or rent? Buying and renting options have different costs and benefits – buying can be an investment, but there is maintenance and potentially the cost of financing. Renting leaves the maintenance to someone else, but there is no return on your investment.

You should now have a better idea some different options and how to think about them financially, but don’t forget to check in with the emotional costs of those options before you make you final choice.

I offer complimentary comparative market analysis couched in 15 years of experience in the Seattle market. I also have specialized education in the area of Senior Real Estate Management and I would love to answer any of your questions.

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