Home-listing service introduces accessibility information

The Kalamazoo Gazette – By spring the Greater Kalamazoo Association of Realtors will have a new tool in its Multiple Listing Service that shows the accessibility features of a home.“This will allow people to search for these features,” said Matthew W. Maire, executive vice president of the association.

“As baby boomers get older, it (accessibility) is going to be a bigger issue for all involved,” he said. “There was really nothing we had with our system to address the growing trend.”

Until now, Maire said, real-estate agents haven’t have a way to locate homes for sale that have accessible features.    

“We really don’t know what is out there as far as current inventory,” Maire said. “This is a good start.”

The association worked with the Disability Resource Center of Southwest Michigan and the Housing Accessibility Team to come up with a list of accessibility features to include in the listing service. Adding the feature required the approval of Southwestern Michigan Regional Information Center, to which the realty association belongs.

Maire said that once accessibility is added to the listing service, Kalamazoo will be among a small number of communities with a tool that real-estate agents can use to identify accessibility features.

Jared Arnold, a real-estate broker with Prudential Preferred Realtors, 6312 Stadium Drive, and a member of the Housing Accessibility Team, said he’s seen an increased need for accessible housing.

“As our culture ages, there are more people who want the convenience of not having stairs to climb all the time,” he said. “We have a growing number of new-home buyers who are empty-nesters and are buying their last home. They want to have a house that has newer and less maintenance and will meet their needs for a long time,” he said.

Here are the accessibility features to be included in the MLS:

  • Entryways — Is there a no-step entrance, covered entrance, a ramped entrance or a covered ramp? Is there a 36-inch entrance door?
  • Hallways — Are the hallways 36 inches wide? Are they 42 inches or wider?
  • Main floor — Is there an accessible main-floor bedroom? Is there an accessible main-floor half-bathroom? Is there an accessible main-floor full bathroom? Are there grab bars in key places on the main-floor living areas?
  • Bathrooms — Is there a low-threshold shower? Are there lever door handles?
  • Conveniences — Are there accessible electrical controls? Are there rocker light switches? Is the kitchen sink accessible? Is the bathroom sink accessible? Is there a main-floor laundry?

Arnold said having accessibility features included in the MLS is a benefit for buyers and for builders marketing homes that have universal-design elements.

Paul Ecklund, an Americans With Disabilities Act specialist with the Disability Resource Center, said he is pleased with the change in the listing service.

Arnold said he hopes the new listing feature is a first step in educating real-estate agents, builders and homeowners about the need for accessibility.

“The notion of accessibility, or accessibility in home design, is fairly fresh and new here,” Arnold said.

The majority of houses built today, Arnold said, are built from established house plans based on features that have sold well in the past.

“The home builders are really keyed in to what sells,” Arnold said. “They need to know what they’re building is something that people will appreciate.”

Changes occur slowly; for instance, many houses built before 1980 don’t have master-bedroom suites. Today, such suites have become standard features in new-home construction.

Likewise, before ranch-style homes became popular, Arnold said, most houses had banks of stairs that led up to their doors. Now, he said, most ranch homes have just single steps leading to their entrances.

“They’re all engineered with a step because this is the way it’s been done,” Arnold said. “Getting down to that single step took a long time.”

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