AGEWISE KING COUNTY: Everyone Deserves a Home That Meets Their Needs

Barry Long Homes, Lifestyle with Dogs.jpeg

Everyone deserves the opportunity to find a home that meets their needs. That seems like a common-sense statement but, to people affected by many types of disabilities, that is simply not always the case in the real estate industry. This became obvious to two local Realtors® who were focused on helping this underserved segment of the population.

As a real estate broker with John L. Scott Real Estate, I become aware of this need as a new agent when a close friend with multiple sclerosis needed a home with basic accessibility features. It became painfully evident that there was no way to search for homes that met those needs on the industry’s listing databases.

Barry Long, left, and Tom Minty, at podium, presenting the Northwest Access Fund Best Practices Award on behalf of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service last fall.

Barry Long, left, and Tom Minty, at podium, presenting the Northwest Access Fund Best Practices Award on behalf of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service last fall.

In 2004, I founded a company, ABLE Environments, to better serve this segment of the population. It wasn’t until 2017, when I met Barry Long, a motivational speaker and like-minded broker for Marketplace Sotheby’s International Realty, that things really started gaining traction.

Barry has been paraplegic for over 25 years. He wanted to champion more effective service for real estate clients with disabilities throughout the industry. We decided to combine our efforts and make a difference together. Our first challenge was to improve the way that accessible homes could be marketed and found.

The Multiple Listing Service is a database of homes that are listed for sale that can be searched for specific features, as defined by the listing brokers. For years, there were only two features that a broker could check to identify an accessible home—checkboxes for “Disabled Access” under both Interior Features and Exterior Features. There no definition for that term and listing brokers had no idea of what it meant or why it was important. When a broker used that feature, rarely did it provide information that helped them find an accessible home.

Barry and I knew this all too well and we approached the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) with a request that they change the system. Wonderfully, the NWMLS met our request with enthusiasm and asked us to lead the way.