Property hunters with a disability who are in the market for a new home claim they are severely limited by the options available to them.
A website set up to promote accessible property says the UK market is fragmented, underdeveloped and in serious need of both investment and co-ordination.
It says part of the problem with effectively marketing these types of properties is that there is no commonly agreed definition of what makes a home accessible.
And the range of possible accessible improvements is so broad that many in the industry simply ignore the sector altogether, it adds.
The needs of people with a disability are so diverse, and the range of adaptations so complex, that many advertising platforms fail to distinguish accessible homes from regular listings.
This means there is valuable housing stock currently on the market that is not being promoted as accessible.
Conrad Hodgkinson, who has been running the accessible property.org.uk website for almost a decade, is keen to see disabled-access properties bought into the mainstream.
“About 10% of the population identify themselves as disabled and an ageing and less mobile population will only add to the pressure for the greater supply, identification and marketing of accessible and adapted property,” he says. “But many estate agents are failing to recognise this.”
The owners of accessible homes have been turning to private house sales services after struggling to sell through traditional estate agents.
They claim that mainstream estate agents fail to properly publicise the carefully thought-out, and often exceedingly costly, accessible improvements that have been made.
Private sales websites like The Little House Company have reported cases of homeowners approaching them after receiving negative feedback from mainstream agents.
Nick Marr of The House Shop (formerly The Little House Company) explains: “The owners of accessible homes are increasingly turning to direct sales or peer-to-peer selling to market their homes after failing to find suitable buyers through estate agents.
“Over the years, we have had a number of homeowners with a disability approach us after being advised by their agent to rip out or downplay accessible improvements so that their property appeals to the broadest possible market.
“For homeowners who have spent, in some cases, tens of thousands of pounds improving and adapting their homes, this is the last thing they want to hear,” says Nick, co-founder of TheHouseShop.com
He is quick to point out, however, that estate agents are not entirely at fault. They quite simply do not have access to a marketing platform that allows them to distinguish between regular and accessible homes.
Nick has attempted to help agents effectively market accessible homes by text-mining property descriptions in agents’ data feeds and picking out accessible terms.
This allows The House Shop to display a dedicated Accessible Property section where home-hunters with a disability can easily find estate agents’ properties that suit their needs.
Nick advises agents that use agency software to ensure that these companies also pass on any highlighted accessible features to marketing platforms like property portals such as his.
While this may be a small step forward, it is nonetheless a step towards better recognition of the value of accessible homes in the mainstream market.