Over time, landlords often decide to diversify or specialize their property collections. There are homes that are perfect for busy professionals, growing families, groups of college roommates, and many more potential demographics. You may enjoy investing in cozy urban townhouses or sprawling rural ranch houses. But one thing that's useful to have in any rental collection is handicap accessibility.
Accessibility is something that is rarely mentioned in real estate, but to households that need it, it is invaluable. Illness, injury, medical conditions, age, and even temporary conditions like pregnancy all make accessible homes more rewarding for families that face these challenges. Not only will you always have disabled and retired tenants available, but you will also be providing an invaluable resource to the community: an accessible rental home.
While there are some truly incredible accessibility renovations you can do, most practical upgrades are actually quick and affordable. Transforming your average single-family house into a handicap accessible home can be done one step at a time, in a few days of professional upgrades, or less than a month of DIY upgrades. Here are some of the best accessibility features to get started with:
Install a Ramp
Ramps are a key element to accessibility in a home. Most homes have at least one step up to the front door, which makes coming and going hard for anyone in a wheelchair or scooter. Steps are also challenging for those who are still mobile but have difficulty walking. There are many different designs and cost ranges for ramps, but depending on the size of your steps, you may be able to install something very simple and sturdy in the course of an afternoon. For longer ramps, you may be able to get a subsidy for making accessibility improvements. There are several organizations that focus on helping families afford ramp installation.
Wider doorways are a common request from handicapped tenants, and something that landlords may not know how to tackle. After all, few investment property owners give a second thought to the doorways and have no experience widening them. The good news is that you don't have to take out the door frames to widen your doorways by a small amount. There's a trick you can do with the hinges. All you need to do is remove/replace the molding around the door, which adds a little space immediately. Then set the hinges of the door back so that the door takes up the door completely clears the space when opened wide. This will give your doorways as much as three more inches of room which can make a difference for wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters.
Bathroom Grab Bars
Grab bars are the hallmark of an accessibly upgraded home. And they're surprisingly affordable to buy in easy DIY kits. Grab bars are easy to install and can even be made into a subtly elegant addition to your rental home if placed aesthetically in a way that matches the metal finish of other features in the house. Get your power drill and combination pack of accessibility grab bars.
The bathroom is the most important place for grab bars. You will want one to three bars in and around the shower and at least one by the toilet as well. It's also a smart idea, when grab bars are requested, to install them in courteous locations around the house. These bars can provide additional stability for handicapped. Just be sure to only mount in studs or according to securing directions.
You don't have to install a fancy walk-in tub to provide bathroom accessibility. While grab bars are enough for a standard tub-shower combo, shower stalls are actually the ideal solution. The popular term is 'walk-in shower' which, when designed that way, has a deep tiled recession instead of a lip to keep the water in. This way, there's nothing to step over.
However, if the house already has a shower stall, then you don't have to make any significant upgrades. A vertical grab bar and a small added ramp at the shower lip is all you need to make it accessible.
Seats are another great addition to a handicap-friendly shower. A seat allows someone who is chair-bound to transition fully into the bathing area. And it allows those with limited mobility to sit and rest during the shower instead of using up their stamina to get clean. As you may already know, shower seats are also a fantastic addition to the luxury qualities of your bathroom, as a nice bamboo or teak shower seat is considered delightful even for non-handicapped residents who might enjoy a relaxing sit in the warm shower. Shower seats are another feature that are easy to install and even add a folding-up seat for a more versatile shower space.
One of the best possible things you can do for an accessible bathroom is to upgrade the showerhead. Hose showerheads allow someone who needs to remain seated or has limited mobility to bring the water to them. Users don't have to contort their bodies into the water. Instead, they can hold the showerhead or even mount it at a lower point.
Adding a hook-and-hose shower head and lower alternate mounting point is incredibly friendly for handicapped tenants. Hose showerheads are another feature that can also be seen a luxury even for those who are physically able because it gives one full control over the angle and position of the showerhead. Plus, they're great for dogs and kids for a tub/shower combo bathroom.
Modern wheelchairs and scooters can handle carpet, but life is easier without it. This coincides well with landlord motivations to install flooring that is difficult to damage or stain, as carpet wears out so much faster than most other flooring types. If you were already thinking about replacing the carpets in a rental home, now is the perfect time to consider other handicap accessible upgrades as well. In fact, many landlords use the eventual need to replace a home's carpet as a reason to make a more universally handicap accessible. By installing wood, tile, or laminate, you make the home easier to clean and easier to roll through for handicapped residents.
Add a Lower Closet Rod
Speaking of the rolling lifestyle, another very friendly gesture you can make is waist-high closet rod. For handicapped adults, this makes laundry a whole lot easier. Clothing can be kept hung and pressed without having to reach or use a special tool to manage overhead hangers.
A Lower closet rod is also a classic upgrade for the rooms of small children because it allows younger children to participate in hanging up their own clothes. Parents adore lower closet rods as their small children learn to fold, hang, and retrieve their clothes early in life.
As for tenants who don't want or need lower rods? Simply use half-circle mounts so the rods are removable and can be stored when necessary.
Lever-Shaped Door Handles
Some disabilities come with a decreased ability to grip or to articulate the hands. This can make conventional doorknobs nearly impossible to deal with. Lever door handles, however, are fantastic for those with limited dexterity because doors can be opened with a careful push. Of course, lever handles are also easier for small children and pets to open, so think carefully about which handles you switch out. The front door, with a deadbolt, is one of the best places for a lever handle because it is usually the hardest to open.
You can even make your cabinetry more wheelchair-friendly. You may have noticed that classically handicap-friendly kitchens and bathrooms often have "floating" sinks which extend from the wall with space underneath for the chair and knees. A good compromise between standard counters and lowered counters is simply to remove the cabinetry below sinks and certain counter spaces. Combined with a small ramp, this can serve as the equivalent of wheelchair-specialized counters. Handicap residents will strongly appreciate that some of the sinks and surfaces in the home were designed for them in mind without taking any convenience from fully able residents who stand at those sane sinks and counters.
Provide a Lower Counter Area
Another great dual-purpose handicap upgrade is to build a 'serving board' or other types of lower shelf and counter areas that can double as wheelchair kitchen prep space. This simple DIY task of painting and mounting a board at about waist height along a kitchen wall is incredibly affordable. Tenants who are not handicapped won't even realize that the handy sideboard is convenient for chair-bound individuals while your handicap tenants will be incredibly appreciative of a surface designed for subtly convenient use of chair-height counter space.
With the baby boomers retiring and medical technology on the rise, the number of disabled and mobility limited tenants is increasing By upgrading your rental homes with just a few of these quick and affordable improvements. Any landlord can guarantee themselves a market and contribute to the accessible housing needs of the community. Not to mention, significantly increase your property value. For more top-notch tenant and landlord insights from the pros, contact us today!