We met 5 years ago, and are married as of this July! We bonded over a shared love of board games, as well as animals: a few years ago, Clover the cockapoo joined our family! Colleen grew up in Connecticut, went to college at MIT, and now works as a computer programmer. She uses a wheelchair, so accessibility was a big consideration when buying a house. I have lived in Massachusetts my whole life, and currently work as a dog walker.
After trying a different real estate agent, Corinne came highly recommended from a family friend. She was willing to work at our pace - we weren’t in a hurry to buy, and above all wanted to find a home that worked for us. Corinne really understood what we needed, and brainstormed what types of houses would meet our needs.
We were spending so much on rent, and decided it would be better to own. We wanted a bigger space for hosting friends and family. We love to cook for and hang out with our friends, so having an accessible space means more socializing!
Clover also influenced our decision! She demanded a fenced-in yard all to herself, and we couldn’t deny her.
That we did it! When we were in the middle of buying it seemed to take forever, but now we’re homeowners. In hindsight, it seems like it should’ve been harder.
Finding an accessible house, or a house that we could easily make accessible. We ruled out the majority of houses immediately because they didn’t have an accessible entrance during the open house.
After we bought the house, it took about a month before Colleen could live there. We needed to modify the bathroom so Colleen could use it. We replaced the sink with a smaller one so she could enter the bathroom, installed bars around the toilet and shower, and replaced the round bowl toilet with an elongated one. Most of these changes happened before we moved in, although there were occasional days of showering at the gym and using the bathroom at Lowes.
There was a ramp in the garage (which is part of why we bought the house). It took us about a month to get ramps for the other doors, and during that time Colleen could only enter and exit through the garage.
We’re continually making improvements and repairs to our home, which I’m sure all homeowners can relate to. The biggest project was our accessible kitchen renovation.
When we bought the house, the kitchen was not accessible. It’s much easier for Colleen to use a wall oven, as a standard oven door gets in the way of her chair. Similarly, the cabinets beneath the stovetop and sink block Colleen from getting close enough to use them. The existing refrigerator had a top freezer, which Colleen could not reach. And the counters were not a good height for chopping. Also, the stove top had the controls in the back – so if Colleen wanted to boil water or use a frying pan, she had to reach over a hot surface – that’s not safe! This amounted to a full kitchen remodel.
All of this would have been out of our budget without the Massachusetts Home Modification Loan Program (HMLP). This is a state program that offers a “0% interest deferred payment loan for home modifications that make the house more accessible for disabled or elderly people”. The program gave us a substantial loan for the renovation that we do not need to repay until we sell the house. For more information on the HMLP, see www.mass.gov/home-modification-loan-program-hmlp
We found a contractor who has worked with this loan before, and was not balked by the prodigious amount of paperwork. Our contractor was Brian Harvey, and his company is Harvey Home Modifications (www.harveyhomemods.com). Brian and his team were incredible to work with, and came up with several ideas to improve our kitchen and house that Colleen and Raymond hadn’t considered. They were great communicators, and got the entire project done within the planned time frame (just about 5 weeks!).
Even with the renovation finished, we still keep adding things to improve the accessibility (like pull-down spice racks, or a hanging pot rack for additional storage).