make accessible or not

mjlbNovember 12, 2012

I know all real estate is local, but in general terms:

I am considering buying an investment property -- it would be my first time. The plan would be to flip the property, not to rent it, but I could afford to rent it if necessary. The property is a condo, conveniently located on a bus line, on a main street, in a close suburb to Boston. I've been told that many of the building's residents are elderly, and some were original purchasers when the building was new.

The condo is modern (for Boston), but to be competitive, it needs a complete revamp of finishes. I would replace the flooring, sliding doors to balcony, kitchen appliances and cabinetry, and bathroom fixtures and tile. It occurred to me that the condo could be made much more accessible, for example, for someone in a wheelchair, if I were to enlarge the bathroom and to open up the kitchen area. But doing that would be more complicated and more expensive.

From a financial standpoint, do you think the additional costs would be worth it? Is there a large unmet demand for accessible condo's? While I like the idea (quite a bit, actually), I fear the additional complications and cost might be too much for a first time buyer with an intent to flip.

I welcome your insights.

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no idea what your market is, but first take a close look at a path of a wheelchair from the parking lot to your condo elevator and your condo . If that path is not accessible (not even one step that does not have a ramp), there is less point in making your condo accessible inside. We have a friend who truly needed an accessible apartment and she probably saw 15 places that claimed to be "accessible" that had path obstacles that made them ineligible.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 10:12PM
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There is an elevator from the garage (no steps), but the front door to the bldg has steps. I need to double check whether the back door has a step -- I can't quite remember.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 10:26PM
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I expect in an area as big as Boston there's at least one social service agency working on issues of accessible housing. They'd be an excellent resource to help identify unmet needs you might be able to fill.

Just a thought, but maybe there's a need for housing designed for visually impaired persons, or even the deaf. Handicapped accomodations needn't just be for those with movement issues. And there's a range of movement adaptations, too, from wheel-chairs to walkers.

There might also be some state or federal support for making permanent changes to the unit to accomodate disabilities. I don't know, but it's worth looking into.

It's a very good idea - we're all getting older!


    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 4:02PM
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One other thing to think about. When I lived in Connecticut and was renting an apartment, there was a person with disabilities interested in renting one of the other units. In a building built in 1777, with narrow doors and uneven floors and steps to get into the building at all the entrances.

I was surprised that that he was interested in the unit, but it turns out that there was money available from either the state or the US government to make the necessary adaptations.

So it is possible that if a person with disabilities wanted to rent your condo, you could get the changes made with little outlay from you.

What you could do is install as much "universal design" modifications as you can without going over budget. Lever-style door handles, instead of round knobs. Light switches with the flat panels instead of little toggle switches. If you google "universal design," you'll get a ton of ideas.

Those additions might make the unit more attractive to elderly tenants, which could be good if that's what the building seems to attract. It could make your unit stand out from the others.

Speaking from some limited experience, people with disabilities tend to need customized adaptations. Yes, there's a standard width for doors that need wheelchair clearance. But grab bars often need to be at a specific height for a specific person, for example. Someone using a wheelchair may need different modifications than someone using leg braces and crutches.

liriodendron has some very good ideas. It wouldn't hurt to check out what resources are available and if there are any disability-friendly housing lists that you could get on.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 5:24PM
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All good ideas - thank you!

I am familiar with universal design, so I would definitely do the 'easy' modifications, even if I get cold feet on a 5-ft turning radius in bathroom, or curbless shower.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 6:17PM
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Personally, I wouldn't spend much on it, I own rentals and never have had a request.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 6:35PM
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My plan is to flip the property, but I could afford to rent it if it did not sell quickly.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 6:53PM
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Drove by property today to check whether there is an at-grade entry into the bldg, and there is not. So I guess that simplifies my options for this particular property.

I may not get this property, so I will still look into the ideas mentioned -- may prove useful for the 'next' one.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 3:16PM
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Funny how the notion of elderly turns so quickly into wheelchair. Think of the elderly people you know. How many are in wheelchairs? Now, how many people have bad eyes, backs and knees? Design for the latter group. Lots of strong task lights, easy laundry and grocery path, landing space by front door inside and out, a few steps well marked and well lit. No crazy level changes like sunken rooms, unless the step is unmistakable even when you are sick. Take care with height of ovens and dishwashers, and even microwaves (Please not over the stove! It's so dangerous to lift hot liquids over your shoulder height with bad balance and bad eyes.)And lose those crazy barstools. Falls can be avoided somewhat.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 2:55PM
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