Service makes finding accessible homes easier

November 15, 2018

The Northwest Multiple Listing Service recently added features to its property database that aim to make it easier to find accessible homes for sale or rent.

Until now, finding a home with accessibility features such as a wheelchair ramp or wide doorways was “virtually impossible,” said Barry Long, who championed the changes along with fellow real estate broker Tom Minty.

“There was no way for me to search and find a home with accessibility features,” said Long, who is paraplegic and uses a wheelchair.

Now, accessibility features covering various areas of a property — from entrances to utility rooms — can be added to listings on the service, according to a service news release.

These criteria will allow potential buyers to search homes by the accessibility features they need, Long said.

“Accessibility is relative; there’s a range there of what criteria people need,” he said. “What these updates have done is make those criteria searchable.”

This is the first time a listing service has made these features available, Long said.

Previously, Skagit County broker Richard Sundance said those working in real estate would sometimes visit a dozen homes to find one that was truly accessible.

Even when homes were marked with “disabled access,” they weren’t necessarily livable or even visitable for those with limited mobility, Long said.

He recalled a time he visited a house labeled with “disabled access” but was unable to enter because it had stairs leading up to the door.

Now, the service will require detailed documentation describing the accessibility criteria included in a listing.

“It adds a higher level of integrity,” Skagit County broker Bobby Wakeland said.

Websites such as Zillow and Redfin will also be able to pull the accessibility criteria from the listing service, he said.

“I think this will allow for people to have the comfort and freedom of knowing they have options in moving,” Sundance said.

The Northwest Multiple Listing Service covers 23 counties in Washington, including Skagit, according to the release.

The real estate industry has a bad history with accessibility, Long said. For the most part, he said the word accessibility brings to mind grab bars and homemade wheelchair ramps to those in the real estate world.

“There’s always been this stigma that accessibility lowers the value of a home,” Long said.

But now, he said the new listing features will allow sellers to capitalize on accessibility features.

“For the very first time, this actually adds value to a home rather than detracts,” Long said.

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