How has the real estate industry changed over the past year? From full-time remote employment to social distancing measures, 2020 has been a year that constantly questioned the status quo and the way we interact with the world.
The home buying process is one of the best examples of how a well-established procedure has adapted to 2020’s many restrictions and will likely continue to change, even after the world returns to normalcy.
Since buying a home is the single largest purchase most workers will make in their lifetime, it’s essential to stay aware of the trends that shape the home buying experience. Your decision becomes all the more important when your living spaces need to accommodate your specific accessibility needs.
Below, we’ve listed three of the most impactful changes in home buying accessibility that new homeowners and experienced house hunters alike should be aware of:
Home Buying in the Age of Technology
Real estate technology has not only made it easier than ever for home sellers to connect with home buyers while staying socially distanced, but it has also resulted in greater accessibility for homeowners with disabilities. Many of these technologies have existed for years or decades, but quarantine protocols have helped accelerate their widespread usage.
Take virtual home tours as one example. In the midst of the most stringent lockdown regulations, home selling websites witnessed a nearly 200% increase in the creation of 3D home tours.
Virtual home tours showcase the potential that technology brings to improving accessibility for home shoppers. By simulating the experience of walking from room to room, 3D tour software allows real estate agents to continue selling homes in the absence of guided walkthroughs and open houses. This also means that individuals who may not have been easily able to access the home are afforded the same opportunities to view available listings online.
Advancements in technology have also enabled many working professionals to migrate to full-time work from home opportunities. In the short term, off-site working arrangements allow businesses to protect the health and safety of their employee base. In a larger perspective, however, remote work may also allow employers to create more equitable companies. Organizations that are able to provide remote work benefits in the future will attract new talent that may not be able to access a traditional office environment—whether that is due to a recent injury or an invisible disability in the workplace.
So what does remote work have to do with buying a home today? As you shop for accessible houses, make sure that you are choosing a home that will cater to both your personal and professional needs. Many homes that are currently on the market feature designated rooms for a personal office area, giving you plenty of space to set up a comfortable and productive workspace.
Cutting Out Closing Costs
It’s not surprising that the largest barriers to homeownership are the expenses, especially for younger individuals or families. In 2017 alone, over 53% of millennials stated that their primary challenge in affording a home was not having cash on hand for a down payment.
Fortunately, today’s prospective homeowners have a number of resources at their disposal that can make this substantial purchase more financially accessible, especially when it comes to closing costs. As a bundle of taxes and mortgage-related fees, closing costs typically range anywhere from three to six percent of your purchase price. Depending on the value of your home and the state you live in, this could amount to several thousands of dollars you’ll need to cover before your move-in day.
To alleviate these initial expenses, some individuals who are new to the home buying process will opt for a loan type that forgoes closing costs or down payments. VA loans, which are backed by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, eliminate down payments completely and significantly reduce the closing costs you’ll be responsible for. This makes VA-backed loans a potential option for disabled veterans looking for new, more accessible housing.
Cutting down on your closing costs doesn’t have to stop there. Once you’ve settled into your new home, you should research the latest opportunities to reduce your monthly bill even further. One solution, known as a no-closing-cost refinance, helps current homeowners refinance their high-interest mortgages without incurring upfront closing costs.
No-closing-cost refinances work best for individuals who wouldn’t otherwise have the savings for all the fees related to their new loan. Since your closing costs will be added to your principal or adjusted for a new interest rate, no-closing-cost refinances may only end up saving you money if you plan to live in your home for less than five years. That’s why you should do your research beforehand to make sure that your refinance strategy aligns with your home expectations.
For further financial assistance, check out resource hubs like this one from the United Spinal Association, which outlines information around accessible housing laws, public housing, and other housing assistance.
Smart Tech Amenities
Our final home accessibility trend that you should keep an eye out for during your house hunt is smart home technology. In 2020, the term smart technology serves as an all-encompassing name for the multitude of digital tools, resources, and services that serve all kinds of needs for homeowners. Many homes already feature smart home capabilities in some capacity, so it’s a good idea to keep these listings in mind as you peruse available homes.
Smart homes work with the help of two key technologies: automation and the Internet of Things. As its name suggests, automation is defined as the automatic control of electronic devices in your home. For example, your home might automatically adjust the thermostat at night to save on your heating bill during the winter.
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a device’s ability to access the internet and other internet-connected gadgets in your home. This allows separate areas of your house to effectively “communicate” with one another. In an IoT-powered home, your coffee machine can start up a new brew in the morning after your alarm goes off, and your security system can alert your personal phone after detecting suspicious activity.
Using IoT and automation in tandem within your home unlocks a number of benefits that can help homeowners remain self-reliant. Virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa allow users to control other smart elements of their home with only their voice, making them a great option for those who aren’t fully mobile or have trouble visually navigating smart apps on their phones.
For homeowners in the Deaf or hard of hearing communities, smart light bulbs provide an effective way to communicate with others. Typically these types of lighting fixtures are programmed to turn on or off on a schedule, but you can also use them to blink or flash at the arrival of a guest on your doorstep or when your phone receives a new text message.
Despite the hardships that the world has collectively experienced this year, 2020 has also shown promising signs of a future where everyone has equal access to their own home. Keeping these accessible home trends in mind will not only alleviate the stresses of purchasing a new home but will also help you find a home perfectly suited to your needs.