Having lived most of our adult life inside the world known as "Special Needs", sometimes we forget that our everyday experience, is not typical. Education is modified where possible, sports are ability-adjusted with Special Olympics, and everyday life is more insular and isolated.
We forget too, that behaviours we’ve adapted to as normal and necessary, seem odd and different to those without the life experience of living with those having special needs.
So it is too, when it comes to real estate.
Like a lot of real life adventures that don't exactly match up to “TV reality shows”, buying and selling a home doesn’t either. While it is supposed to be a Disneyesque experience, it can be anything but.
Packing up the family for a day of entering someone else's home, manoeuvring through traffic with GPS maps that sometimes lead you astray, and keeping kids fed and amused while trying to focus on the details of every home to pick the "right" future for you, can put the staunchest home buyer over the edge.
How about selling? Maybe that is easier... NOT. Keeping your house show home ready, adjusting your already tight schedule at the drop of a hat to leave the home for a showing, is also impetus for petty bickering and family spats.
Doing the same with special needs members of your family can take this to a whole new level of frustration many don’t understand.
So what are some things you can do to alleviate this stress and make the experience more tolerable?
Talk with your REALTOR®. Explain to them, your family situation openly and frankly. Talk about modifications to scheduling, accommodations to ensure you the opportunity to properly view homes, and provide knowledge of different behaviours of your family members. If you get an agent who doesn't understand, then find someone who does.
Talk with the members of your family who have special needs. The word "routine" is a part of the everyday lexicon. Adaptation and flexibility are often not even reasonable considerations. Start having discussions about changes in environment and the positives of moving to a new home/neighbourhood/city, well before you start, when possible.
Allow the family member with special needs to be part of the process. Take them with you. Allow them to experience the joy of picking out their room, their house, their yard. Let them ask lots of questions and have the patience to answer them all. We were quite surprised one time to discover that moving meant “leaving all my toys behind for whoever bought our house.”
Bring someone with you to help out and, plan a second viewing when possible for the house(s) you are seriously considering. Use one visit to let your individual with special needs see the home, and then another by yourself. This will give you all the opportunity to review the house in the way you need to, in order to decide.
Build a schedule to consider your needs. Whether buying or selling, the schedule needs to be adhered to if you have special needs members of your family. Build the process in so it is less of a burden and more of an adventure. Ensure your REALTOR® knows the schedule and is adaptable to it. Keep in mind though that when selling a home, the more constrained the schedule is, the more difficult it can be to attract buyers.
Take your time. Build the expectation slowly. This is critical. It is possible that you may not have this option, but if you do, understand that a long process is going to take even longer. Everything from allowing your family time to adapt to the idea to the actual process itself, to making many dry-runs to/from the new house, may be more drawn out.
Finally, don't apologize. Everyone has idiosyncrasies. From the unfocused "I'm not sure what I want" person to the OCD individual who cannot overlook the smallest flaw. From the "go-getter" who demands they know more about the industry than the professional to the laid back person who would prefer the agent make all the decisions. People with special needs just have a different set of idiosyncrasies. You have no need to apologize to anyone for having to make these adjustments in the process.
Have fun. Enjoy the experience and happy buying and selling!