Guest Blogger Lauren Heinken, Student Occupational Therapist
The Current Market
Over the last few years housing prices have been on the rise throughout most of Canada. The GTA in particular has seen soaring real estate prices, but this done little to deter buyers. Houses are selling quickly, and sellers often receive multiple offers that are well above asking price. This makes purchasing a home difficult, and those with accessibility needs may face additional challenges throughout this process. This, combined with an aging population of people trying to downsize or find more “suitable” homes, makes for a unique opportunity to enlist the expertise of an Occupational Therapist (OT) for buying consultation.
An Unlikely Partnership
It is not often that one would think of an OT partnering with a real estate agent or broker to provide homebuyer services. However, this synergy, as I will explain, could have beneficial outcomes for all involved.
OTs are all about helping people function, and our homes are at the core of where we spend most of our time. The home can be a support or a barrier to our physical, mental and emotional health. It can help us go about our daily activities easily, or can make managing a struggle. It can impact our mood – positively or negatively and either be a determinant of good health, or a cause of injury, sickness or death. Therefore, finding the right home is essential for reasons beyond just aesthetics, price tag and neighborhood. Yet, homes vary greatly, and the current real estate market moves quickly, so finding just the right fit, especially for those with a disability, can prove difficult.
An OT is well suited to assist in the home buying/modification process, and can bridge the knowledge gap that may exist in addressing the unique needs of the person with realtors who have their own knowledge of homes, the housing market, and the buying process. Realtors and OT’s joining forces has the potential to change the way people with unique accessibility needs shop for, and purchase, their next home.
The infographic below summarizes a potential service delivery model involving OT and real estate:
Funding for this service could come from multiple sources, including the real estate agent or brokerage, the customer themselves, and there are also grants and charitable funding options that might be available. If the real estate brokerage is providing payment they will incur OT fees as part of their cost, so as to provide an accessible home buying experience for their clients. Having this service as an available option may help the agent or broker to attract a new segment of the home buyer population, thereby increasing their own marketability and profitability in this area. This would ideally produce positive economic gains for the brokerage that far exceed the costs they will be paying for OT consultation. Or, at the least, the OT should be a “vendor” on the list of other vendors the agent typically supplies to clients during the buy / sell phase (i.e. like movers, stagers, painters etc.). Then, the client can call the OT to discuss pricing as they would any other supplier.
As the OT profession grows over time, opportunities for partnership with other professionals outside of the usual allied health circle are going to become increasingly common. Thinking forward to opportunities that may exist creates the opportunity for OT’s and other professionals to work together for optimal service outcomes.