We were asked to conduct a property search for Mrs Fletcher, a 40-year-old who was paralysed from the chest down in a car accident, and had associated heart complications. Prior to the accident she was living in a small rented terrace house. She was now looking to buy a property that would better meet her needs.
Our first step, as with every property search, is to determine exactly what those needs are. Many property search services are run by professionals with a strong background in property, however they don’t tend to have any medical training.
Because of this they focus on the physical fabric of the building – does a property have level access entrance and space inside for a wheelchair to be used. As specialist housing OTs we are able to see the full picture.
Our approach to a property search
Our assessment takes into account a range of issues, including determining the space needed for carers, manual handling and equipment. We also consider potential long-term needs.
All of these factors combine to give us an understanding of the necessary size and shape of each individual room. For example, in this case we needed a bathroom large enough to allow carers to access both sides of the bath.
We also established that she needed level access entrance; a living room and bedroom that we could install a ceiling hoist into; a bathroom (preferably ensuite) which could be turned into a wetroom, large enough for a shower chair and two carers; and doorways wide enough for wheelchair access. We also needed a living area for her carers.
Armed with this knowledge, and specific instructions around preferred location, property style, garden size and price, we started our online search. Key to all our thoughts, even at this early stage, is the concept that we’re not adapting a house. Rather, we’re creating a home for someone to enjoy living in.
The benefit of searching online is that we can see all potential properties. Pictures and floorplans give us a good indication of whether a property would be suitable.
We have tried speaking to estate agents as the first line of research, but were often not told about properties as they don’t think they are suitable – that’s a decision for us to make, not them, and exactly why our initial research is carried out online!
After shortlisting three properties and visiting them with Mrs Fletcher we selected a chalet bungalow. Many property search services would have discounted the property because of the stairs, however by thinking outside of the box we could see that it would provide the space for Mrs Fletcher downstairs, while the upstairs would be perfect for her care team.
While the property was well looked after, it needed a lot of adaptations, including:
- Level hardstanding at the front and side path
- New rear patio doors with level access
- Widening of internal doorways, with new doors
- Tiled floors to be laid
- Conversion of downstairs reception room to a bathroom
- Partial wall opening to make the new bathroom ensuite
Our approach has enabled Mrs Fletcher to find a property that needed minimal adaptations to fit her needs and enable her to live independently.
To find out how we worked with Mrs Fletcher on adapting the property, click here.