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Investing in Inclusivity: Special Needs Vacation Homes

In this guide, we delve into the world of special needs vacation homes, a unique and increasingly popular segment in the rental market. Learn what makes these properties stand out, their types, and unique amenities.


By Karolyn Hutson

Published on July 10, 2023

Rentals built to serve guests with special needs are more than just accommodations; they are thoughtfully designed sanctuaries offering comfort and accessibility to guests. Whether you’re a property owner seeking to make your home more welcoming or an investor exploring this unique segment, this article provides invaluable insights. We delve into what makes these homes unique, their various types, ideal locations, cost factors, and ways to make your property stand out.

Are you curious about the various types of vacation rental properties?
Our overview of different Airbnb property categories can get you started.

What Makes Special Needs Vacation Rentals Stand Out

When it comes to special needs vacation rentals, what truly sets them apart is their uniquely designed infrastructure, prioritizing accessibility and comfort for individuals with specific needs or disabilities. The layout of these homes is thoughtfully planned to facilitate ease of movement, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable stay for the guests.

  • Design and Accessibility: Special Needs vacation rentals are designed to be barrier-free, featuring wider doorways and hallways for wheelchair accessibility, lower countertops and appliances for easy reach, and zero-step entries into the house. These design elements are inherently unique to these properties, making them more accommodating and convenient for guests with specific needs.
  • Specialized Amenities: These rentals often provide amenities tailored for their guests. This can include adjustable beds, bathroom aids such as shower chairs and handrails, visual aid features such as braille indicators, or auditory aids like flashing light doorbells for the hearing impaired.
  • Personalized Services: Special Needs vacation rentals often stand out by offering personalized services for guests. These services can include in-house nursing or physical therapy, specialized equipment rental, or even personalized activity recommendations that are accessible and enjoyable.
  • Greater Potential for Returns: As an investment, Special Needs vacation homes can offer higher returns. Given the specific nature of these homes and the increasing demand for such accessible accommodations, these properties often command higher rental rates. Moreover, the loyal customer base that these properties attract often leads to repeat bookings, making it a sound and stable investment.

Types of Special Needs House Vacation Rentals

There are various types of vacation rentals, each catering to a unique set of requirements. From homes with minimal modifications to highly specialized units, these homes provide a spectrum of choices for prospective guests.

  • Wheelchair Accessible Homes: These homes are modified to accommodate wheelchairs with features like ramps, wide doors, and roll-in showers.
  • Hearing Impaired Friendly Homes: Equipped with visual alert systems, these homes cater to guests with hearing impairments.
  • Senior Friendly Homes: These have features like grab bars, non-slip floors, and low-height furniture, catering to the needs of elderly guests.
  • All-Inclusive Homes: Offering comprehensive modifications, these homes cater to a wide array of special needs, ensuring a comfortable stay for all guests.

The demand is not uniform across all cities; it largely depends on the demographics, local attractions, and accessibility of the area. Cities that attract a higher proportion of seniors or those known for their accessibility-friendly infrastructure tend to have a higher demand for vacation homes serving those with disabilities. Here are some U.S cities that stand out in this regard:

  • Scottsdale, Arizona: Scottsdale has long been a favorite for retirees, thanks to its warm climate and excellent healthcare facilities. Additionally, the city’s commitment to accessibility, like wide sidewalks and wheelchair-friendly public transportation, makes it an excellent location for Special Needs vacation homes.
  • Orlando, Florida: Known for its amusement parks, Orlando also stands out for its accessibility-friendly infrastructure. Many of the city’s attractions are equipped to accommodate guests with disabilities, making it a popular choice for Special Needs vacation homes.
  • San Antonio, Texas: With its rich history and vibrant culture, San Antonio attracts visitors of all ages. The city’s River Walk, lined with accessible restaurants and shops, is a big draw for seniors and individuals with specific needs.
  • Portland, Oregon: Portland is renowned for its extensive public transportation network and accessible attractions, making it an appealing city for individuals with specific needs. Its numerous parks and gardens add to its allure as a destination for Special Needs vacation homes.
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico: Santa Fe’s pleasant climate, art scene, and cultural attractions are a draw for seniors. The city’s accessibility initiatives and the availability of healthcare services make it a popular location for Special Needs vacation homes.

Common Amenities for Special Needs Airbnbs

The typical amenities in a special needs vacation home might include wider doorways and hallways for wheelchair access, ramps and lifts where stairs are unavoidable, and specially designed bathrooms with grab bars, shower seats, and non-slip flooring. Kitchens in these homes often feature lowered countertops and appliances for easy access, while bedrooms might have adjustable beds for added comfort.

In addition to the standard modifications, they also boast some unique amenities that cater to the particular requirements of guests. These can include:

  • Auditory aids: For guests with hearing impairments, these homes often feature visual or tactile alarms, flashing light doorbells, and telephones with adjustable volume controls.
  • Visual aids: For visually impaired guests, these properties may include braille labels on appliances, high-contrast paint colors for easy visibility, and tactile guides to help navigate the home.
  • Specialized equipment: Depending on the guests’ needs, these homes may also provide specialized equipment such as shower chairs, patient lifts, or even adjustable height tables and desks.
  • Accessible outdoor spaces: Many Special Needs vacation rentals also make an effort to ensure their outdoor spaces are as accessible as the indoors. This includes wheelchair-friendly paths, tactile paving for visually impaired guests, and accessible outdoor furniture.
  • Sensory-friendly spaces: For guests with sensory processing disorders, these homes might offer quiet spaces with soft lighting, noise-canceling headphones, or even sensory toys and resources.
  • Accessible transportation: Some properties might also offer accessible transportation options, such as wheelchair-friendly vehicles for airport transfers or sightseeing trips.

How Much Does a Special Needs Vacation Home Cost?

The cost can vary greatly depending on location, size, and the extent of specialized modifications in the property. Typically, these homes might come at a premium due to the specific amenities and modifications they include, such as ramps, lifts, and accessible appliances. Here’s a rough estimate of how much a accessibility vacation home might cost in the cities mentioned:

  • Scottsdale, Arizona: Given its popularity among retirees, homes in Scottsdale can be quite pricey. A Special Needs vacation home can cost anywhere from $400,000 to $800,000, depending on its location and amenities.
  • Orlando, Florida: With its vast array of accessible attractions, Orlando’s property market is in high demand. A Special Needs vacation home in Orlando can range between $350,000 and $700,000.
  • San Antonio, Texas: Despite its rich culture and accessible infrastructure, San Antonio’s real estate market is still relatively affordable. Prices for a Special Needs vacation home may vary between $250,000 and $500,000.
  • Portland, Oregon: With its commitment to accessibility, properties in Portland are quite sought after. A Special Needs vacation home can cost anywhere from $400,000 to $800,000.
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico: Santa Fe’s property market mirrors its rich cultural scene. A Special Needs vacation home can set you back anywhere from $350,000 to $700,000, depending on the home’s size and location.

Remember, these figures are only rough estimates, and actual prices can vary based on market conditions and the property’s specific requirements.

What Factors Affect the Cost of Special Needs Vacation Rentals?

Several factors influence the cost of special needs vacation homes. These include the extent of modifications, location, property size, and demand in the area.

  • Extent of Modifications: The level of necessary modifications can greatly affect the price. A home with more extensive modifications like ceiling track lifts, ramp installations, accessible bathrooms and kitchens, or sensory-friendly rooms can demand a higher price than a property with minimal alterations.
  • Type of Equipment: Accessibility rentals often require specialized equipment such as adjustable beds, auditory and visual aids, and more. The cost, quality, and quantity of such equipment can directly impact the overall cost of the property.
  • Maintenance and Upkeep: These properties require regular maintenance and timely upgrades to ensure the specialized features are safe and up-to-date. This can include replacing ramps or lifts, upgrading auditory or visual aids, or maintaining sensory-friendly spaces. These ongoing costs should be factored into the total investment.
    Special Needs Certification: Certain certifications, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, can boost the property’s value. These certifications offer a form of assurance to guests that the property has met stringent accessibility guidelines.

How to Make Your Special Needs Rental Property Stand Out to Guests

To ensure your special needs rental stands out among the rest, it’s essential to provide an unrivaled level of service and accessibility. But what makes a special needs property truly special are the extra efforts that show you genuinely care about your guest’s comfort and convenience.

  • Offer Concierge Health Services: Partnering with local health service providers to offer on-call assistance could be a lifesaver. Guests would appreciate the convenience of a physiotherapist or a skilled nurse just a call away. This offers peace of mind and showcases your commitment to their well-being. The costs may vary depending on the region and service provider but could be offered as an optional service to the guests.
  • Provide Specialized Equipment: Offering specialized equipment such as shower chairs, patient lifts, or portable ramps can make a world of difference to your guests. These could either be included in the rental or offered as rentable extras. Depending on the item, the cost could range from $100 to $1,000.
  • Personalize the Guest Experience: A small gesture such as a personalized welcome note in braille for a visually impaired guest or a list of nearby accessible activities could turn a great stay into an unforgettable one. These gestures are cost-effective and demonstrate your attention to detail and sensitivity to your guest’s needs.

Our Thoughts

A vacation home serving those with special needs is more than just a niche in the rental market; they symbolize inclusivity and the joy of travel for everyone. As an owner of such a property, you’re not just providing a service but also contributing to a larger cause of making travel accessible for all. Investing in these properties is not just about financial gains. It’s about making a difference and creating lasting memories for your guests.

Written by

With over six years of short-term rental hosting experience, Karolyn has helped hundreds of guests have an enjoyable experience. I love writing and am passionate about real estate, hospitality, and photography. Karolyn holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism and enjoys sharing her experiences to help others.