Home Lifestyle 10 Things To Consider When House Hunting With Chronic Illness / Disability

10 Things To Consider When House Hunting With Chronic Illness / Disability

by InvisiblyMe
A tiny toy house sat on a pine table with real keys next to it is the background. The post title '10 things to consider when house hunting with chronic illness / disability' is overlaid.
A tiny toy house sat on a pine table with real keys next to it is the background. The post title '10 things to consider when house hunting with chronic illness / disability' is overlaid.

The Stress of House Hunting

It’s no wonder they say that moving is one of the most stressful life events people experience. When dealing with chronic illness or disability, this process of house hunting can become more complex and beyond exhausting, but it’s a doable challenge.

How can house hunting itself be made a little more doable? Thanks to technology, more can be done online as you search through houses and make comparisons, check out specifications, look at photographs and explore maps, allowing you to be more selective when it comes to eventually viewing properties in person. Pace your activities. Take regular time out and prioritise self-care. Expect that the process is likely to encounter a few hiccups. Make lists to aid your memory & to help keep you on top of things, from the things you’re looking for in a house to the things you need to do and pack. Ask for help if/when you need it.

With house hunting, your degree of flexibility will of course vary depending on budget and situation, such as whether you’re buying a property, privately renting a flat or renting a council house. For those purchasing a property, it’s a considerable investment and accessibility is an important factor. There’s a lot to consider, and the picture can become a little more complex when factoring in illness and disability. Considering only around 7% of the housing stock in the UK provides the bare bones of accessibility, it’s reasonable to anticipate that some adaptations may be required.

What To Look For When House Hunting

A house needs to be manageable, practical and accessible. This applies to all sorts of conditions and symptoms, from wheelchair users to those with autoimmune disorders, chronic pain or chronic fatigue. It’s also worth anticipating your future needs and how those may change when deciding whether a house is a long term home.

An imagine of a house in the background and a for sale sign at the front.

Here are a few factors to keep in mind when house hunting –

1. Wheelchair Friend or Foe

This is obviously a considerable factor in any decision if you use a wheelchair. Is there adequate doorway accessibility with wider doorways, and preferably space in the entrance hall or foyer for manoeuvring a wheelchair? Is the flooring accommodating, such as with vinyl, hardwood or laminate, or is it obstructive to make moving difficult? Can ramps be easily added to front and back door steps?

2. Stairway to Heaven or To Hell

A photo of a white staircase in a house.

Age, disability, arthritis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue are just a few things that can make stairs a challenge to varying degrees, from downright impossible to a painful, tiring inconvenience. You don’t have to miss out on a second storey because the stairs are a challenge. These days, most properties can be adapted with a stairlift, with options for both straight and curved staircases. Thanks to advances in technology, motors are quieter and more powerful, with smooth mechanics and sleeker designs with slimmer rails. There’s excellent functionality to make them very user-friendly and one of the most popular providers, Handicare Stairlifts UK, have unique 3D technology to ensure the stairlift is the perfect fit for your stairs, whether straight or curved. There’s ample guidance and advice available to help you with your decision and to make sure you’re totally happy with the end result.

There are different styles to suit different budgets, and stairlifts prices in the UK will vary depending on the specification of the stairlift and the format of the stairs. Stairlifts can be life-changing additions, helping you or your loved one stay safe and independent in your/their own home. 

3. Bathing Facilities

Does the property have whichever option, bath and/or shower, that you find easiest? Is there a bathroom at ground level for ease of use? Baths and showers can be made a little more practical and safer with small adjustments, like anti-slip mats, grab rails and shower chairs. 

4. Bacteria & Pollution

This is worth anyone checking out, especially if you have allergies or are immunocompromised. Are there any signs of water damage or mould around skirting boards, walls or ceilings? Is the property near a road, and will there be much pollution when you open your windows?

5. Kitchen Fittings

Are the heights of worktops & cupboards suitable, especially if you use a wheelchair? If not, do you have the budget for a refit? Dishwashers, ovens and stovetops, and spaces for washing machines and tumble dryers are all modern conveniences that used to be luxuries, but are now very helpful for those with health struggles and fatigue, allowing day to day things to be a little more convenient.

A photo of a large modern kitchen.

6. Storage Space

Anyone apart from the incredibly minimalistic will require storage space, but if you have a lot of belongings, especially factoring in any mobility aids and medical products, they’ll need a place to go that’s safe to reach and easily accessible. We’re short on storage space in our house and it’s not ideal having things stored in inconvenient places like on top of wardrobes where it’s dangerous to reach down. If the property is compact, what ways can more storage be realistically added?

7. Wonder Walls

If you need grab rails fitted to the likes of bathroom walls, are the walls strong enough to tolerate them? I wouldn’t have trusted the bathroom wall to manage a toothbrush holder in our last house, let alone the partial weight of a human clinging to a rail.

8. Impact of Upkeep

Many people with chronic illness and/or disability find fatigue to be a significant challenge. It’s worth factoring in the size of the property, and the resulting maintenance and upkeep that would be involved. This is especially important if you don’t anticipate having help with these things, from cleaning and vacuuming, to gardening and mowing the lawn.

A photo of a house with green grass all around, along with an integral garage and driveway out front.

9. Advice & Financial Help

Are you eligible for help with costs to adapt the property? An occupational therapist can help assess your needs and make recommendations. In the UK, residents with disabilities may be able to apply for financial support, such as with a Disabilities Facilities Grant. If you’re not sure what help you may be able to get, speak to your medical specialists, local community organisations and local council. If you’re thinking of a stairlift, speak to the provider who will be happy to assist in discussing your options and to help find what’s best suited to your budget.

10. Location, Location, Location

Is there easy parking at the property or access to public transport? Is it near a GP practice or hospital? Does the local area seem comfortable, safe and low stress? Take some time checking it out, Google search for information, take a walk on Google Maps and check nearby amenities, and ask for opinions online forums.

The Google Maps logo.

No property will tick every box, but it’s worth listing what you’re looking for in a house/flat and the local area, then prioritising the most important aspects. What is a ‘must have’? What can be adapted to suit your needs after purchasing, like putting up grab rails, the addition of ramps, or the installation of a stairlift? If you’re not in a position to house hunt, could any of these alterations and adjustments be applied to your current property? 

Caz  ♥

[ This is a sponsored post written by myself & all opinions are my own. ]

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Terri, Reclaiming HOPE October 24, 2019 - 3:52 pm

These are some outstanding tips Caz! When we bought our home, we made a list of things we absolutely needed to have. It included many of the things you’ve mentioned: main-level living, well-built, close to hospitals, at least two baths, etc. We had 12 items on our list, and our home ticked all but one of the boxes. Unfortunately for the dogs, they’re the ones who lost out on the deal, as they couldn’t have their doggie door (although our main living is ground level, our back deck is at second-story level since we live on a hill).

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 5:26 pm

It’s great you made that list and thought in advance about what the must-haves were. Getting 11 out of 12 wasn’t bad at all! Shame about the lack of doggie door but hopefully that hasn’t been too much of an inconvenience. It’s wonderful to hear you liked the post, Terri – thank you!  ♥ xx

Sandee October 24, 2019 - 3:06 pm

Yes all good things to consider when house hunting. I have stairs and am healthy, but my age is making the stairs more and more of an issues. Never even thought about that so many years ago.

Have a fabulous day and rest of the week, Caz. ♥

InvisiblyMe October 26, 2019 - 4:24 pm

I don’t think you’ll be alone with that, Sandee – not many would consider years in the future and problems with stairs, not unless they were already a challenge at the time of buying the house. Thank you for sharing your thoughts lovely – I hope you & hubby are having a relaxing weekend ???? xx

Darnell October 24, 2019 - 3:14 pm

Very good tips. I’m wondering how many people already have the perfect house but declining health or disability impacts those worry points? That’s my dad’s problem. Pain makes #8 point a big challenge for him, especially since he wants to be independent. This might be a topic to address in the future.

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 5:04 pm

I think you’re absolutely right, there must be a lot of people that are happy with where they live or simply don’t want to move, yet are finding age/disability/illness makes a lot of issues worrisome. I’m sorry your dad’s in that kind of situation. Most of us probably want to keep our independence for as long as possible, and it must be awful to feel that you’re hampered in your ability to manage or be independent in your own home. It’s good to know there are some ways to make life a little more manageable as you shouldn’t have to move if you don’t want to or can’t financially afford to. Thank you for sharing, Darnell. x

Benjamin F Bell October 24, 2019 - 3:21 pm

Excellent article!

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 5:21 pm

Thank you, Benn! I hope you have a great week ahead ???? x

Masha Ellman October 24, 2019 - 3:37 pm

You always have such great advise. As we get older we have to adjust to life, when I was looking for a house the one thing I knew I had to have is a one level house and boy am I glad I did because now climbing stairs is hard for me, and also after knee replacement that would have been impossible. You’re so right about wheel chair accessability, after the surgery I was using a walker and I couldn’t fit it through the door of my bathroom, I had to maneuver it sideways and angled to get through, the hight of the toilet matters too. All of your points here are on target, great advise. Thank you dear Caz <3

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 5:24 pm

It definitely sounds like you may the right call with your house, though having it wheelchair friendly with the door frames isn’t something you would have anticipated before having that surgery and needing to use the walker. It’s good you were just about able to manage by angling it and squeezing through! I’m really glad you liked the post, thank you, Masha!  ♥ xx

Lily Pierce October 24, 2019 - 6:40 pm

Thorough and relevant advice, Caz! 🙂 These are all things I’ll have to think about if/when I move.

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 5:28 pm

I hope you can keep these sorts of considerations in mind if the time comes for making a move. Thanks for the comment lovely! ???? xx

Anne Fraser October 24, 2019 - 6:51 pm

Good article. My mum became blind when she was older and her open plan stairs were a nightmare. Luckily she was able to get a stair lift fitted.

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 5:30 pm

I’m so sorry about your mum, Anne. That kind of thing isn’t something you necessarily imagine happening or being something you need to consider when buying a house, so I’m glad she was able to get a stairlift fitted – they really do seem to be incredible adaptions to keep people independent and able to stay in their own homes. Thank you for sharing this  ♥ xx

Bree October 24, 2019 - 8:49 pm

excellent post. I have lived in some shockers, one that had terrible mould, ceilings falling down, leaks etc lucky we were only in it 1 year. I have certain things on my list, such as heating and cooling and dishwasher. Currently living in a place that ticks all that except it has one bathroom with toilet in the bathroom. With two people who have issues with tummy at times can prove a bit hard. Next home…must have separate toilet…will see lol

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 5:32 pm

Yikes, I bet that was a long year you spent at that old house. I can’t imagine having only one bathroom when living with someone else in the household, two bathrooms is on the must-have list! Fingers crossed you’re able to get that ticked off in the next house. Thank you for the comment, Bree – I hope you have a lovely week ahead ???? xx

Kymber Hawke October 25, 2019 - 3:27 pm

You make such good points in this article, Caz. We’re about to undertake a major remodel of our home, so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I have my wheelchair to consider, but there’s so much more to consider, too. Thanks for writing this.

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 5:34 pm

I’ll have to do another post in future specifically about alterations and adaptions for homes, too! Are you in the thinking & planning stages of the remodelling, or is it starting to get underway? Wishing you all the very best with it, I hope everything goes as smoothly as possible! ????

Kymber Hawke October 30, 2019 - 3:02 pm

Thank you 🙂 We’re in the planning stages at the moment. It’s exciting and overwhelming. LOL

da-AL October 25, 2019 - 10:53 pm

excellent advice. would like to add one more: don’t make any decisions less than 24 hours after having had surgery & the like…

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 5:39 pm

Hah, that’s a very good one to add!! No major decisions after surgery, or after a few glasses of wine ???? xx

Jay October 26, 2019 - 4:46 pm

All of these are important considerations for sure. And it’s important to realistically look ahead to the possible future outcomes of your disease, because your needs today may not be your needs next year, let alone in 10.

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 5:41 pm

Absolutely, it’s that kind of forward-thinking that we may not necessarily employ when house hunting. I never used to think about future needs and how the current situation may change, at least not until chronic illness became a thing in my life. Thank you for the great comment, Jay ???? xx

Nyxie October 26, 2019 - 8:15 pm

Great tips. These things certainly need to be considered before buying a home if you suffer from a chronic illness. I don’t mean to be rude in what I’m about to say next, but my friend’s mother in law is buying a new home and I briefly made a statement for her to think about what she’ll need when she’s older i.e wheelchair access, stair lifts etc.

Luckily a lot of homes over here now have wide enough doorways for wheel chairs, however just going by our stairs, it would be too tight for a lift.

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 6:00 pm

I think it’s a wise to suggest that rather than rude; a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily think about changing mobility and needs in the future when buying a home, not unless they already have such worries and difficulties now. It’s good the doorways are usually wider over there, they seem predominantly pretty narrow in the UK, making it hard to get in with shopping bags let alone a wheelchair. With lifts, I was surprised with how much neater these have become over time. They’re so streamlined now that most staircases will, hopefully, likely suit one of the styles. Thank you for the comment lovely! I hope you have a good week ahead  ♥ xx

Michelle October 27, 2019 - 5:30 pm

What a great list of things to consider in a new home! I would love to be a home owner again, though I really just want a little condo with low maintenance care, but definitely one without stairs, with an accessible bathroom. It’s hard renting and having to keep the modifications down to those approved by a landlord. Xx

InvisiblyMe October 27, 2019 - 6:39 pm

I’d like something like that too, something simple and low maintenance. It’s a shame accessibility and adaptations are harder and more complicated when renting, you definitely don’t have the same kind of flexibility over customisation compared to being a homeowner. Thanks for sharing your thoughts lovely – I hope the week ahead is kind to you xx

Rosie October 27, 2019 - 7:03 pm

Google Maps was such a handy tool for me when I was looking for a place to rent. I didn’t really know Cambridge all that well before I moved here, so it was useful to get a feel for distance to town centre/train station, local amenities and just the general ‘atmosphere’ of an area and narrow down options before I went over in person to view a few places. One thing I never gave a moment’s thought to when I was looking was space out front or back access for wheelie bins… I seriously underestimated just how much of a pain it is having to manoeuvre them through the house every week!

InvisiblyMe October 29, 2019 - 4:03 pm

It’s great Google Maps have been so helpful for you, too! Amazing isn’t it? I love being able to walk places but also be able to more accurately judge distances, see what local amenities are nearby, that kind of thing. Very versatile. Good point about the wheelie bins, we’re lucky in having some space at the side of the house around the back as it must be a total pain trying to drag them through the house every week! Thank you for the comment lovely  ♥ xx

Mary (cactus catz) October 27, 2019 - 7:43 pm

Those are good ideas for what to look for. It’s also a good list for myself as I get older. I really don’t want to do stairs any more. My last apartment was on the 3rd floor and no elevator and while it was easy when I first moved in, over time, it became very hard on my knees. Now I live in a place with just one floor and that has made a huge difference in how often I go outside.

InvisiblyMe October 29, 2019 - 4:09 pm

A third floor and no elevator, that’s not helpful for people at all. It’s brilliant there are stairlifts that can adapt homes so you can make use of a second story, but obviously it’s not as easy if you’re in an apartment building dealing with external stairs. It sounds like you did well with opting for one floor with your current place, Mary. It’s awful to think you’d be trying to minimise leaving your apartment and going outside because of difficult stairs to manage. Thank you for sharing your thoughts  ♥ I hope this week is kind to you xx

Ami October 27, 2019 - 8:15 pm

Excellent points made, Caz! Definitely saving this for future reference! ????

InvisiblyMe October 29, 2019 - 4:13 pm

Thanks, Ami! Glad you liked the post – hope you’re having a positive week so far ???? xx

The Oceanside Animals October 27, 2019 - 10:13 pm

Charlee: “These are important considerations! I know one reason Mama and Dada like the house we have now is that it’s all one story, no stairs.”
Chaplin: “Hmph. They could have gotten stairs for now so I would have someplace high to look down from, and then gotten a single story house later. But whatever.”
Lulu: “They didn’t even have you when they got this house, Chaplin.”
Chaplin: “Well that’s just a failure to plan ahead.”

InvisiblyMe October 29, 2019 - 4:30 pm

How rude of Mama & Dada to not consider they may have had a Chaplin in future who wanted a second story from which to watch over his kingdom! ????
Thanks for the comment guys – Hope you’re all behaving yourselves this week!

Chocoviv October 28, 2019 - 6:59 am

Great tips!

InvisiblyMe October 29, 2019 - 4:32 pm

Thanks, glad you liked them! Hope you have a great week lovely xx

Nisha October 28, 2019 - 3:23 pm

Yes they are all wonderful tips to keep in mind . I think staircase especially is an important one. Also one bedroom in the lower floor is very essential . Thank you for sharing these awesome tips !

InvisiblyMe October 29, 2019 - 4:40 pm

Stairs do seem to be quite problematic for a lot of people so it’s good to keep in mind practicalities and logistics. Glad you liked the post, and thanks for your comment, Nisha! ????

Michelle Tikalsky October 28, 2019 - 6:08 pm

I bought my first house at the end of last year. I did all of the work at home. The only thing I had to do in person was signing the final paperwork to make the place mine and get my keys.

Finding the perfect place you can afford is hard work because there is so much competition. When I was searching for a place, I didn’t see anything that mentioned accessibility. This would useful to add as there are a lot of people who need it. Great advice

InvisiblyMe October 29, 2019 - 4:42 pm

You’re right about the competition to find a place and it’s great so much can now be done remotely, I do think this is where technology can excel and be very useful (rather than a hindrance!) I don’t think accessibility often (v.v.rare) gets a mention in house listings, and if it does it’s because it’s a retirement property. Ageist much?! Thanks for the comment lovely – hope you’re still loving your home! ???? xx

Azra October 29, 2019 - 8:31 pm

These are very helpful tips. Post is so nicely written, everything makes sense and goes together. Love the post Chaz. xx

InvisiblyMe October 30, 2019 - 4:02 pm

Aw, it’s great you thought the post worked well, thank you! I hope you’re keeping well, Azra, and that you have a lovely rest of your week ???? xx

Christy B October 29, 2019 - 10:28 pm

An excellent guide to use to find a house that will meet personal needs on a daily basis. There’s a lot to consider and you outline the main points so well, Caz!

InvisiblyMe October 30, 2019 - 4:03 pm

There really can be a lot to consider, but hopefully it can be helpful to break it down rather than overwhelming. Glad you liked the post, Christy! Thanks for the lovely comment ???? xx

Lindsay October 30, 2019 - 4:59 am

This is an excellent list! When my husband and I bought our house 4 years ago (this month! we just celebrated our 4 year house-aversary!) it was an incredibly stressful time for me. One of the most stressful of my life, actually. I thought moving would be simple – after all, we hired movers and I wouldn’t have to physically lug endless boxes around – but it was so stressful. The bank required more and more paperwork for our mortgage, we almost lost the house, my symptoms flared and I ended up in the ER, our washer leaked as soon as we moved in, and my husband’s parents (who we had agreed to help take care of as they age) moved in WAY earlier than expected. I was a mess during that time.

We bought a house with stairs which wasn’t my first choice, but in this part of the country, 2 stories is pretty standard. We specifically looked for stairs that weren’t steep and had a handrail, in case I needed to rest. We also found a house with a bedroom on the first floor, in case I was too tired to make it upstairs to the master. I wish I had read this post 4 years ago for the other helpful tips!!

InvisiblyMe October 30, 2019 - 4:09 pm

Woop, happy House-iversary to you both! I’m sorry it was such an ordeal, it’s true what they say about moving being one of the most stressful life events. It’s exhausting even without too much physical work when you’re able to get movers to do that side of things. Nothing ever seems to be made easier for people either in terms of paperwork and all the hoops to jump through. Sounds like you had a heck of a lot going on around that time and it just shows, with you ended in A&E, how much stress can affect us physically. A bedroom on the first floor is definitely a helpful option. I assume there’s a toilet on the first floor, too? It’s swings and roundabouts really isn’t it, you can never seem to get everything you want and need in a house so it’s trying to tick as many boxes as possible. Do you still love it there..? I really hope so! Bet the thought of moving again isn’t an appealing one! Thank you so much for sharing your experience lovely. I hope you have a restful week, Linds ♥ xx

Jacqui Murray November 1, 2019 - 2:29 pm

Good point about the Wonder Walls. I am house hunting so have bookmarked this.

InvisiblyMe November 1, 2019 - 5:29 pm

I think it can be very easily overlooked. I hope these points may come in helpful, Jacqui – good luck with the house hunting and the writing challenge!! xx

The Lonely Author November 3, 2019 - 11:46 am

This is such a wonderful and thoughtful post. There are so many issues that need to be dealt with and planned for when a person with chronic health issues begins the process of house hunting.

“A house needs to be manageable, practical and accessible.”

When building my little hut in the Carribean I planned for the type of issues that may come up in my future. I built a ramp so I don’t have any steps to walk up to get to my home. Walking up and down stairs tends to aggravate my back pain, so a ramp was very helpful. In case I am in am ever in wheel chair the bathroom sliding door to the shower is extra wide.

Little things like that can help in the future. When searching for a home we need to lookm at two things 1) what we need now 2) what me may be needing in the future.

Great post. xo

InvisiblyMe November 3, 2019 - 6:01 pm

Sounds like you’re already a step ahead in this, Drew. Not many without or even with chronic illness conditions, myself included, necessarily think about the future, our evolving health and how our needs may likewise change a little further down the line. Really glad you liked the post, and thank you for such a thoughtful comment! x


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