Building And Designing Homes For People With Disabilities

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When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became a law 1990, it ensured legal rights across a variety of areas from employment to education, transportation and public accommodations in commercial buildings. While it addressed many major issues, one area where people with disabilities and their families continue to struggle is being able to live comfortably in their own homes. 

While there are standards to make private homes accessible, that doesn’t necessarily ensure 100% accessibility because every person with a disability has unique needs. Furthermore, these needs can change over time.

An Issue For Veterans

It’s an unfortunate reality that many veterans become injured during their service. Their lives are completely changed on a number of levels. Luckily, there are organizations such as Homes For Our Troops that build and donate homes to help this population.

The organization’s building requirements exceed ADA compliance and offer more than 40 major special adaptations to provide full accessibility. Some examples include lower countertops, roll under sinks, pull-down shelving, wider doorways, automatic doors, and roll-in showers.

“Many of our veterans use wheelchairs full time or wear prosthetics but prefer to use their wheelchairs at home. Most traditional homes are not wheelchair accessible, so many of the veterans are forced to wear their prosthetics for most of the day, which can be painful, or they are limited in what they can do within the home,” says Homes For Our Troops President and CEO Brigadier General (USA, Retired) Tom Landwermeyer.

The organization also provides additional amenities for recovery support such as therapy tubs, digital water temperature control, and dual zone HVAC systems to help with heat sensitivity due to limb loss.

Landwermeyer sees these homes as springboards to help rebuild lives. “Once these veterans receive their homes, they are empowered to continue to reach their goals and ambitions such as returning to school, pursuing careers, and starting/expanding families,” he says.

Interior Design And Accessibility

ADA compliance is only the first step to ensure accessibility. While many think about the interior design process as something that is just about attractive aesthetics, making rooms flow and choosing textiles, it has a very different impact for people with disabilities.

Wayfair recently collaborated for the second time with Homes For Our Troops to design a home for Marine Lance Corporal John Curtin and his family. Maggie Finnegan, who is the brand’s director of corporate social responsibility states, “It’s an honor to help welcome veterans home and provide them and their family with a space that’s been thoughtfully designed and styled to meet their specific needs, allowing them to live comfortably in a home they love.” 

After becoming a Marine at age nineteen, Curtin was injured a month into his first deployment. An explosion resulted in the loss of both his legs and severely injured his right forearm. While recovering at Walter Reed, he met his wife Brittany. They became parents to their daughter, Ashlyn, in 2017.

Wayfair’s style director Tara Donovan worked with the Curtin family to design and furnish every room in their 2,800 square foot home. For these kinds of projects, she shares that every aspect must be approached from a functional standpoint, beginning at the floorplan to the scale of the furniture, finishes, and materials.  “When designing an accessible space that’d specifically adapted to meet someone’s physical needs, it’s important to look for incorporate ways that will make the client’s daily routine a little easier.”

Donovan started by developing a floor plan that allowed for unobstructed circulation. Then it came time to choose the furniture. “Every piece of furniture selected had to add purpose to the space, so if it wasn’t functional it didn’t make the cut.”

Pieces were sourced with the goal of alleviating some of Curtain’s mobility restrictions. For example, the dining table has a pedestal base with an extended breadboard leaf. “This provides a ledge with enough clearance for a wheelchair to access without the obstruction of table legs,” Donovan explains.

Flooring is also important for people who use prosthetics and wheelchairs. The home was designed with low pile carpet because moving from one surface to another in a chair can often require strenuous effort. This surface provides a seamless transition. However, it’s worth noting that many people who use wheelchairs prefer hard flooring. 

The Reality Of Living With A Disability

However, veterans aren’t the only population with this problem. Caitlin Givens and her husband Charles Porter are parents to two children, one of whom has special needs. They live in a three-story row house in Washington D.C. So, carrying their daughter up the stairs every day is a way of life.

Space is also at a premium. “We completely gave up the idea of a living room and got rid of our coffee table to make room for a dedicated therapy/play space. Her equipment is all over the house and we trip over it all the time,” Givens explains. 

Elements of Effective Real Estate Websites: The Community Info Page

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Is your website a useful resource for community specific information in the areas you serve?

Unless you can show that prospective home buyers are flocking to, staying on and inquiring from your community info pages, then your answer to this question is most likely “No.”

We want to help you change that, especially since these pages are so important to the success of your website – for both SEO and lead generation.

In this article we are going to explain why these pages are important, review some good and bad community info pages and then provide specific tips on how you can have one of the most effective real estate websites with the perfect community info page(s).

The Community Info Page

Is Anyone Even Looking at Community Info Pages Anymore?

The first answer to this is…

You should already know.

In other words, if you’re not tracking your real estate website’s analytics to follow which pages are attracting and capturing your visitors, then you need to start there first.

Assuming you have Google Analytics installed on your website, simply go into your content reports to see which pages are your most effective.

The other answer to our original question, “do visitors even view or care about these pages?” is ABSOLUTELY.

As a matter of fact, across the tens of thousands of real estate websites that we’ve reviewed we have found that the community info pages are consistently in the top 10 (usually right behind the homepage, MLS search and property details pages) in the following categories:

  • Most sessions (aka visitors)
  • Highest average time per session
  • Most effective at leading to a conversion

If you find this hard to believe, then you need to think about the typical browsing pattern of a home buyer (or seller) using a real estate website. It usually looks something like this…

How Visitors Use Most Real Estate Websites

  1. They get to a website from an organic or paid search result (usually landing on the homepage).
  2. From there, they want to see properties as this is typically the thing that brought them there in the first place.
  3. If they don’t go directly to see FEATURED PROPERTIES, then they’re usually doing their own search using whatever MLS search tool is provided (hopefully it’s something good as this will usually be your most effective lead generation tool).
  4. If they haven’t converted after looking at some properties, then they will probably leave and return later (or not at all) or do further research by confirming that you specialize in the communities they are interested in most. This is where those community info pages play their role.
  5. If, and only if, your community info pages are informative, interesting and well put together will those visitors decide to inquire with you. And if your community info pages are weak, or non-existent, then you have probably lost that visitor for good.
TIP: Did you notice how the ABOUT page didn’t make an appearance in those initial steps? Contrary to what many Realtors think, prospects don’t care about you…at least not yet. In other words, don’t make the website about YOU. Make it about helping your prospective home buyers and sellers. This starts with useful content, an easy to use search tool and a user-friendly website. Your face shouldn’t be the most prominent thing unless you’ve already established yourself as a recognized brand (e.g. Barbara Corcoran) that carries authority.

Reviews of Good and Bad Community Info Pages

As mentioned, we’ve reviewed and worked on tens of thousands of real estate websites. One thing remains constant….no site is perfect, nor will it ever be.

For that reason we want to be sure to preface the following reviews with the statement that we are not trying to criticize any of these websites.

Instead we are simply using them as examples to help Realtors who care about the performance of their websites to improve them as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Good or bad, we’re not intentionally calling anyone out. Hopefully that is understood and we thank you for allowing us to use your website to aid others in improving theirs, and hopefully your own.

Formalities aside, let’s take a look at some examples of “bad” and “good” community info pages.

Affordable beach communities you can commute from

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End every day with your toes in the sand. These beach communities are less than an hour from downtown.

It’s that sunny time of year when you end up spending half your workday staring out your office window wondering when your next chance to hit the beach will be. What if the answer was “right after work” every single day—right outside your door?

Affordable beachfront living does exist, even within commuting distance of pricey cities. We found five beach communities within an hour’s rush-hour commute of major metro centers, all of which have median home prices lower than the city’s. So go ahead and live the sunny, sandy dream. Your at-home beach is waiting.

 

Work in: Chicago

Live in: South Chicago

Chicago median sale price: $277,500
South Chicago median sale price: $91,000
Commute time: 45 mins

At South Chicago’s sprawling 142-acre Rainbow Beach Park, you can soak up the sun and enjoy an impressive view of the Chicago skyline at the same time. That skyline isn’t far away, either—it’s as short as a 45-minute commute to the Loop via public transit. Historically the heart of the city’s steel industry, South Chicago remains a working-class neighborhood today, with a median sale price for homes at $91,000—far below the citywide median of $277,500. Back in its industrial days, neighborhood steel mills stood on the lakefront, but today, the area is under redevelopment, with Steelworkers Natural Area and Steelworkers Park giving residents renewed access to the water where factories once stood.

One user of our What Locals Say neighborhood guide describes the community as “clean” and “convenient.”1 In the summer, the beach gets bumpin’ with DJ sets and the Make Music Chicago DIY music festival.


 

Work in: Boston

Live in: North Quincy

Boston median sale price: $885,000
North Quincy median sale price: $455,500
Commute time: 22 minutes

Boston is visible from the beach and just 22 minutes away on the T from the North Quincy neighborhood of Quincy, Massachusetts. Forming a narrow, 2.3-mile strip along the northeastern edge of the North Quincy, Wollaston Beach is the largest beach in Boston Harbor. A jogging and biking path runs the length of the beach, and it’s also home to two yacht clubs.

Sounds fancy, but with a median sale price of $455,500 (nearly half of Boston’s $885,000 median), it’s a more affordable alternative to the city no matter if you’re into the beach life or not. What’s more, one resident says, “there are so many amazing walking restaurants within walking distance.”2 Try The Clam Box or Tony’s Clam Shack, both directly across Quincy Shore Drive from the beach, for some fresh-caught seafood goodness.


 

Work in: San Francisco

Live in: Daly City

San Francisco median sale price: $1,400,000
Daly City median sale price: $944,000
Commute time: 15 minutes

affordable beach neighborhoods

Just 15 minutes south of San Francisco by car or rail, Daly City has three different beaches, which are loved by nearby locals for their views and unique personalities. Mussel Rock Park Beach is known for its paragliding activity and rocky trails, Phillip Burton Memorial Beach for its large cave, and Thornton State Beach for the equestrian trails that connect to the waterfront.

Daly City’s median sales price of $944,000 may seem hardly a bargain, but it remains nearly half a million lower than San Francisco’s median of $1,400,000. And, surprisingly, the beaches here aren’t that well-known beyond Daly City locals. Local news source SFGate says it’s hard to believe Mussel Rock’s coastal lookout, rock formations, and miles of beach “could get overlooked by so many people.”


 

Work in: Washington, D.C.

Live in: Edgewater

Washington, D.C. median sale price: $585,000
Edgewater median sale price: $386,250
Commute time: 50 minutes

Less than an hour’s commute from the metropolis of Washington, D.C., Beverly Triton Beach in Edgewater, Maryland, is both stunning and serene. And the median sale price of $386,250 in Edgewater is well below D.C.’s $585,000 to boot. With a chill pace and fewer than 10,000 residents, it’s a whole different world from the frenzied Capital. “Anything you need is within walking or short driving distance,” says one resident.3

The local beach sets the tone. It’s part of the larger Beverly Triton Nature Park, with about five miles of nature trails where visitors report seeing everything from osprey to crabs. And while Beverly Triton may be the community’s biggest beach, it’s not the only one. Woodland Beach also includes a small strip of sand, and nearby Quiet Waters Park has a dog beach in case you have hounds who want to get in on the fun.


 

Work in: New York City

Live in: Midland Beach

New York City median sale price: $1,250,000
Midland Beach median sale price: $507,500
Commute time: 40 minutes

Staten Island‘s Midland Beach is a hub of activity in the summertime. Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk, which runs the length of the beach, is packed with joggers and cyclists, while sunbathers catch rays on the sand. At night you can see the regular fireworks displays from neighboring South Beach, which also hosts concerts and other special events. And youngsters are sure to love running through the turtle-shaped fountain. Although Midland Beach is a 45-minute drive from New York City, its median sale price is $507,500—well below the Big Apple’s median of $1,250,000.

The beach neighborhood has something else that’s hard to come by in the big city: small-town connection. One local who has lived in Midland Beach for two decades says, “We know everyone, which we’ve found makes living here so much more enjoyable.”4 Once well-known as a resort town, Midland Beach is no longer a tourist attraction, but its restaurants, parks, and namesake waterfront still give it the feel of being on vacation without leaving home.

Want to find a home that’ll make your summer perfect? See what’s available now on Trulia.

 


 

1. Michelle L., February, 2019 “The neighborhood is clean and tidy for the most part, so it’s usually a nice walk…………………” / Glenda BJ, November, 2018 “I drive to wherever I need to go. It’s convenient to get downtown. Busses run frequently and the South Shore train is another convenient way to get downtown.”

2 Sarah Z., July, 2018 “The beach is very close. There are so many amazing restaurants within walking distance. There are activities for kids and adults alike.”

3 L M., July, 2018 “close to many great shops and restaurants. anything you need is within walking or short driving distance. being so close to the water is also nice”

Trulia resident, 2018“I have lived in the neighborhood for 21 years we know every one which we found makes living here so much more enjoyable, our neighbor watch out for each other.”