When Your Dream Accessible Home is Financially Inaccessible

Elena next to a Christmas tree

Elena in her new accessible home.

Late last month my wife and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary. That year, 2006, was also the year we bought our first home.

We loved that house, a modest three-bedroom 1-bathroom stucco home with beautiful red oak floors. The tiny kitchen needed some serious updates, but we knew we’d get to that soon enough.

And then Elena was born.

We never did get around to kitchen renovations. Our daughter has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, and as she grew, our beloved house could no longer serve our needs as a family: the bedrooms and bathroom were all on the second floor.

We contacted a realtor, explained our needs, drafted a plan to sell the old home, and told the agent what kind of house would be appropriate for our family. Ideally, a ranch style or bungalow that would accommodate a wheelchair, gait trainer, stander, and a high/low chair.

“Well, I have the PERFECT home for you!” our real estate agent explained that the ranch was owned by someone with special needs. It had an accessible bathroom. Even an elevator! We hopped in the car and drove right over to the house. Our real estate agent was right. The house was perfect. Cutouts underneath the sink to accommodate a wheelchair. Grab bars. Wide hallways. Hardwood floors without any seams or ridges.

And that working elevator! Elena could descend to street level — as well as the basement — without being carried. Only one problem. Our dream house was also disgustingly and tragically out of our price range. It would have been irresponsible to even entertain making an offer.

What a depressing reality that was. Our dream accessible home was financially inaccessible to us.

So, the house sat, languished, and collected spider webs. All I can figure is that people walked into a mid-century ranch and wondered, “What would I need an elevator for?” How much would it cost to have it removed? This is going to cost me.”

A year-and-a-half went by. No viable offers. No movement. Yet still inaccessible to us financially.

As the fall market began to wind down the year before our daughter began kindergarten, the house’s price was reduced. If we sold this, leveraged that, and stopped spending money on anything else, maybe we could swing it.

My heart started pounding as if I were about to go on stage. I snatched my phone, called my realtor and announced, “The price just came down!” She laughed with joy and said she already knew. “I was just about to call you,” she said. “Let’s move now!”

I’ll spare you the tedious details of the closing and get right to the good part: we were able to purchase our dream home! We’ve been there almost two years now and are so very thankful to the family who lived there before and made the extensive renovations to the home. We hope they know what a monumental change that house has made in our lives. Their hard work continues to be put to good use –the house contributes to our daughter’s independence and happiness.

We are two blocks from her school and with the help of the elevator she descends to street level and goes to school with the rest of the first graders who live on our block. We’re all extremely lucky and grateful.

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  1. Beth Finke Says:

    Ruth, I forwarded your comments to our Information And Referral Department, they can help you but in order to do so they need to know where you live — not your address or phone number, just your zip code. That way they might be able to help you find local services. Please respond here if you can.

  2. Beth Finke Says:

    Thank you for reaching out to us,Jan & Ruth. I have forwarded your comments to our Information And Referral Department, and they will contact you personally to find out more about your location and what might help.

  3. Jan Smith Says:

    I have a TBI and permanent disability. I have the TBI Waiver but it is not helping… I am in a Section 8 apartment. I am not in a safe environment. I have a one bedroom voucher. If someone could help me find a one bedroom house/condo/townhouse to utlize the Section 8 voucher (that is in a safe area in Shawnee County) it would help me tremendously. Also, I have no assistive technology although I have applied several times. I am not able to return to work so Voc Rehab will not be an option for me. Please assist!

  4. Ruth Nichols Says:

    I am handicapped I am buying my house on a rent to own lease…the problem is my bathroom needs to be remodeled I need a handicap shower and toilet.Can you help with this or point me in the right way.?

  5. Mike Says:

    Please: Details about the closing! Not. 🙂

    Hoping that as I and my fellow boomers age, accessibility features become commonplace. And that they are seen as increasing the value of property–I mean, even if just for making it easy for people to visit. Meantime, really happy for you and your family. .

  6. john wood Says:

    What an awesome story. We have been wanting to have a home for years but my limited income and my wifes inability to work because she has to care for me keeps home ownership out of our reach. I share in the success of this truly in need family. Jesus lives.

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