Learning the Lingo: “Universal Design”

The concept of Universal Design was established in the mid-1980’s by an architect, Ron Mace.  While the concept covers a broad range of design issues, the focus here will be as it applies to home design.

Universal design is meant to be a broader term than “accessible design” (which allows for use of facilities by persons with disabilities) in that the entire living and use environment has been designed and implemented to give the broadest possible use, by the greatest number of people.  Therefore universal design implies maximal use by the able-bodied population as well as those persons with physical challenges. (“Accessible design” implies design for improved use by those with disabilities)

Since Universal Design is by definition all-inclusive, there is no “average” user or owner. Further, and importantly for REALTORS, the design is such that any accessibility features are aesthetically integrated into the design so that the features are not seen as “handicap only” use, which traditionally compromised or stigmatized the property to the broader population when the home is offered for sale. (eg. Access to a rear yard via gently sloping walkways rather than by steps, or a swimming pool with a “beach entry”, rather than steps, etc.)

Another consideration. important to Universal Design is having the accessibility and usability elements integral to the home and environment economically, so that affordability is not sacrificed.  Homebuilders have long fought these changes and concepts on the basis of incremental cost, though experience in areas where this design concept has been used shows cost equivalency if incorporated at the design stage rather than retro-fitting.

This concept is increasing as homeowners envision staying in homes purchased in the buyers’ “middle age” into their older age, where issues of use and mobility play a larger role. The concept of “Aging in Place” will be discussed in a future blog.


Agents: Are You Ready to Work with a Homebuyer who has a Disability?

After sitting and discussing the matters of financing, price ranges, amenities, location and the like, we usually invite our clients to join us as we go visit and evaluate the properties that meet their needs. But if your client has a disability, you may want to handle things a bit differently.


Does the disability prevent the client from joining you in your vehicle? (This also may take away  from feedback and information exchange time)  Must they follow you or meet you at the property because their transportation is modified to meet their needs? And yours isn’t. This will change the timeline of showings (adding time) – particularly when you’re at the home. (more about this in a moment). Too aggressive a schedule isn’t for this scenario. You need to slow down the itinerary.

Unfortunately, in 2014, we still haven’t figured out that over 55 million Americans have a disability, and over 36 million of those people have some degree of physical limitation. Consequently, for the most part, the homes that meet most of their needs won’t have some of the  accessibility accommodations that help you conquer those invisible barriers you will encounter on that first visit. Like doorways, and hallways that aren’t wide enough. Steps instead of ramps. Steep driveways. Stairs instead of elevators. Gravel. Stepping stones. In other words, ask yourself: can I actually show them them this house today?

Since the “ins and outs” of the ins and outs of seeing the homes is more complex and time-consuming, your clients with disabilities will fatigue more quickly than most of your able-bodied clients. Being proud that you can buzz through three homes/hour for countless hours does your disabled client a disservice.



Working with a buyer with a physical challenge requires a different mindset from our business as usual model. A bit more pre-planning is required in several respects:

  • If the home is not already accessible for your client to see, have you made provisions to enable your disabled client to be able to navigate the property? Portable ramps? Alternate points of entry? Clear paths and pathways?
  • Does your Buyer want you to preview the property if it is not navigable? Certainly, higher price points often require or expect the preview, but for the physically challenged client, that service may be essential regardless of the cost of the home. Simply a matter of capability and logistics.



A little bit of prior preparation goes a long way. The internet era allows you to become more familiar with home accessibility options difficult to acquire or understand in the past. An entire industry has grown around the aging and physical limitations of the Baby Boomers. There are answers and resources aplenty.

As unlikely is this next statement may sound: you may end up knowing more about your client’s home modification needs than your client. A newly disabled client is dealing with his/her life changes, and would be looking to you as the advisor to educate them to possibilities. So, if your client hasn’t had time to learn the day-to-day accommodations to work with their limitations and disabilities – this may be one of those rare times when “asking the client” doesn’t help. Or limits thinking about the home to what neither of you know.

But if you don’t know, don’t fake it. You can always find out, but mistakes here are often downright dangerous.

Grant Programs to Assist Disabled Veterans

My experience tells me that as Agents who are working with a Veteran, we tend to limit our thinking to assisting our client utilize their VA Loan benefit. But in the situation where your Veteran has a qualifying disability, the ability to modify the residence to meet their specific physical needs can be a game changer.

Most communities have not defined, or identified, let alone possess the inventory of homes that have suitable modifications for your client with a disability. Your client may find a great home, at the right price, in a great neighborhood, and not be able to live there, because the home is inaccessible in important respects.

What can you and the Disabled Veteran your working with do?

There are two Veterans Administration Grant Programs that may provide you with your solution:

  • Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant
  • Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant

The fundamental differences in these Grants are with respect to the qualifying Disability.

General Eligibility:

  • (From the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) “If you are a service member or Veteran with a permanent and total service-connected disability, you  may be entitled to a Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant or a Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant.”

An Overview of the disabilities distinguishing the programs is provided below:

Specially Adapted Housing  (SAH) Grant:

  • Loss, or loss of use of both legs, or
  • Loss, or loss of use of both arms, or
  • Loss, or loss of use of one lower leg, together with residuals of organic disease or injury, or
  • Loss, or loss of use of one leg, together with the loss or loss of use of one arm, or
  • Blindness in both eyes having only light perception, plus loss or loss of use of one leg, or
  • Certain severe burns, or
  • Loss, or loss of use of one or more lower extremities due to service on or after September 11, 2001, which affects the functions of balance or propulsion as to preclude ambulating without the aid of braces, crutches, canes or wheelchair

The number of Grants that can be used: Maximum of 3, up to the maximum dollar amount allowable. For fiscal year 2014, the maximum dollar amount is $67,555.

Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant

  • Blindness in both eyes with 20/200 visual acuity or less, or
  • Loss or loss of use of both hands, or
  • Certain severe burn injuries, or
  • Ceratin severe respiratory injuries

The number of Grants that can be used: Maximum of 3, up to the maximum dollar amount allowable. For fiscal year 2014, the maximum dollar amount is $13,511.

Our Service members take care of us. With the awareness of what we seem to be obscure grant provisions, we can take care of them. While finding a suitable home for any Client has its challenges, the special case of working with a Disabled Veteran, may find that there is assistance in taking that “good home” and making it a “perfect home”.

This blog post is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather an attempt to make other agents aware of some assistance when working with a Disabled Veteran.

For more comprehensive solutions, and instructions on how to apply for these grants, one can contact the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, or contact their regional VA office using 1-800-827-1000.

Wheelchair Accessible Home in Chandler, AZ for Under $300K !!

Looking for A Beautiful Accessible Home in Chandler Arizona?


What makes this home Accessible?

  • Zero Grade Threshold at Entry
  • Roll-In Shower
  • Hard Floors (Tile)
  • Grab Bars
  • Raised Commode
  • Expanded Turning Radius in Bathroom
  • Exterior Curb Cuts
  • Wider Doors and Hallways
  • No Interior steps


This 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom is spacious at over 2600 square feet! Additionally,  the home sits on a a one-third acre cul-de-sac lot, for great outdoor enjoyment.

Very low HOA fees (under $300/year) and easy access to main roads and freeways, make this home a must see.

This single story home has upgrades throughout – bay window in the living room, kitchen island and pantry, sky lights, plant and pot shelves, upgraded appliances, and enormous 32′ x 12′ covered patio for the entertainer in you. Also: oversize RV gate and tall cover for your outdoors toys.


I f you would like to see this home, give me a call at (480) 980-8877 today.

What This Real Estate Agent Might Not Do For You

Dear Client,

We sat down and talked about the services that I can provide to assist you with your upcoming real estate transactions; but it appears that you’re unclear as to what this Real Estate Agent ISN’T:

  1. I am not a CPA, an IRS agent, or your tax advisor. There are usually tax consequences for the choices we make when buying a home. Or, at the least, financial implications of those choices. Is my money doing better if I buy as a cash buyer? Maybe. Should I finance? Maybe. It may depend on what other things your money does while you’re asleep. Is this or that deductible? Your CPA should know, I don’t read IRS Publications for a living. We should both be worried about what I don’t know in this area.
  2. I am not a home inspector. In my decade plus of real estate, I’ve been in thousands of homes more than you have. That doesn’t mean I can or should interpret why that appliance doesn’t work, what that water stain means, or whether that smudge is mold or not. Here’s the contact information for a number of home inspectors that I’ve used and rely on. No, they’re not free, but they have training and licensing I don’t. My guesses aren’t what you need.
  3. I am not a Prophet or Prognosticator. Edgar Cayce passed away in 1945, but you can try him anyway. Apparently that was his thing. Will prices and home valuations go up or down in the next decade that you said you plan to own the home? Yes, they will go up or down. Remember the recent “housing bubble” that even the experts misunderstood at the time? I’m not an economist, either (thank goodness). I’d love to paint you a rosie picture. But I’m not a painter either.
  4. I am not a School District Administrator. Although I’m a parent too, I can’t influence the hiring of teachers or the establishment of school curriculum. I know that the choice of school district is important to you. Do you still have the online links to school grading and evaluations that I gave you? No? I’ll resend. My personal experiences with School District A are just that. Personal.
  5. I am not a tour guide. Hopefully, we will enjoy the time we spend together identifying the perfect home for you. There’s much about the area and neighborhoods, and current real estate market conditions that we will discuss as we look at homes for you. Red flags to be aware of. I’m trained to make accurate assessments of what the market says is a fair price for the home you’ve decided to buy. I have resources available to me that non-agents don’t (it’s part of my overhead being in this business) so I’m likely to discover gems that you’ll miss using the national online real estate data bases. This is a cooperative effort so I love your imput. But that Zillow algorithm you’re using to set an offer price? No one is taking responsibilty for it’s accuracy, are they? By the way, that $4 million dollar home that you’ve always wanted to see, but is 10 times what you can afford – it’s not on today’s agenda. I probably won’t say this to you, but my time is valuable (so don’t waste it). If you want “to see how the other half lives” watch HGTV. On second thought? Don’t.
  6. I am not your bartender, hairdresser or clergyman. I really, really want your input and feedback regarding your home search. You’ve hired me with a purpose, remember? But convincing me that the world conspired against you and led to that short sale doesn’t help you. If that narrative makes a difference to a lender who can find the right loan product for you, fantastic! Let’s go for it! But it’s not really me you need to convince. Here’s a biggy for me: if you and your spouse don’t agree on this home buying adventure, aren’t on the same page with price or property, please don’t ask me to take sides with one of you. If I do, you’ll be having the same conversation with your next agent. And not because I left you.
  7. I am not your spouse’s cousin’s husband. Sometimes this process requires the disclosure of personal and financial information (the above observations notwithstanding). So while you’ll keep some degree of peace in the family working with him (you hope), do you really want to do it at the expense of having that smarmy little bugger giving you a “knowing smile” next year at Thanksgiving? He’ll never un-know what he found out. By the way,I already have commitments for Thanksgiving. I have relatives too, so I understand the pressures, but your best choice isn’t always the path of least resistance.

So let’s get back to doing what I do best: Finding you the perfect home, and assisting you through the transaction, and “having your back” at every step along the way.


Your Real Estate Agent

Nothing Dies on the Internet

Blogging in Perpetuity: Nothing Dies on the Internet

I was recently reminded of this when I received a phone call from an individual last week who came across a post I made (on a another blog I discontinued 3 years ago), about a federal housing subsidy program that was discontinued 5 years ago. Nothing Dies on the Internet. (except of course the money we spend on pay-per-click )

Realizing this Great Truth, I felt it Useful to Remind Myself that:

Not every idea we have is a good one.

Not everything we say is worth hearing.

Not everything we post or update to the Internet should be there. But like ball-point ink on those white summer slacks – it’s there forever. Wow, did I really say that?

Those pictures of your vacation, with your drinking Chardonnay out of the bottle may not have the positive effect on your friends and clients you might have liked. Venting your political frustrations at your opponents has a way of capturing a wider audience than you intended. Because Free Speech is a Guaranteed Right, doesn’t mean that a little thought and common sense shouldn’t be used in the free exercise thereof….

Because the internet is relatively anonymous, unreason sometimes trumps reason. It’s okay to be passionate, and for those of us in sales positions, passion is not only a plus, it’s what gets us up in the morning. Need to be angry, negative, sarcastic, or downright mean: chat rooms were made for you!

Blogging to build a following, create relationships with clients, prospects, fellow professionals, establish your chops, or educate? Remember: Nothing Dies on the Internet. Like the drunk who wakes up wondering what happened the last 15 hours, the thoughtless post is out there, in all probability, in Perpetuity. Can’t get it back. Even if you Delete or Erase – it’s there, on some server, waiting to give you an unpleasant surprise one day.

Or, in my case, a phone call from an angry individual who wants to use a long defunct funding program, because they only found it yesterday “on the Internet.”

What Is Title Insurance?

Title insurance provides coverage for certain losses due to defects in the title that, for the most part, occurred prior to your ownership. Title insurance protects against defects such as prior fraud or forgery that might go undetected until after closing and possibly jeopardize your ownership and investment.


Prior to the development of the title industry in the late 1800s, a homebuyer received a grantor’s warranty, attorney’s title opinion, or abstractor’s certificate as assurance of home ownership. The buyer relied on the financial integrity of the grantor, attorney, or abstractor for protection. Today, homebuyers look primarily to title insurance to provide this protection. Title Insurance companies are regulated by state statute. They are required to post financial guarantees to ensure that any claims will be paid in a timely fashion. They also must maintain their own “title plants” which house duplicates of recorded deeds, mortgages, plats, and other pertinent county property records.

Why is title insurance needed?

Title insurance insures Buyers against the risk that they did not acquire marketable title from the Seller. It is primarily designed to reduce risk or loss caused by defects in title from the past. A Loan Policy of Title Insurance protects the interest of the mortgage lender, while an Owner’s Policy protects the equity of you, the Buyer, for as long as you or your heirs (in certain policies) own the real property.

When is the premium due?

You pay for your Owner’s title insurance policy only once, at the close of escrow. Who pays for the Owner’s Policy and Loan Policy varies depending on local customs.