Buying a home is an exciting process but when you have kids, it adds a layer of complexity to the home buying process. You need to take into account your wants and needs, but also those of your children. But not to worry. This guide will help you focus on what to consider when buying a home with kids so you can easily find the perfect home for you and your family.
Include your kids in house hunting
When you’re house hunting with children, you’ll probably want to wait to involve your kids in the process until you’ve narrowed it down to your top choices. Start your search online, visit the house without your kids first and then bring your kids along with you only if a house is a contender.
While leaving your kids at home during the first tour helps prevent distractions, you don’t want to leave them out of the process entirely. In fact, involving your kids in the house-hunting process is key to making moving more exciting. With a little advanced planning, taking your kids to revisit houses you’re interested in can be a pleasant experience.
First, if you’re touring homes with a realtor, consider driving your own car since it will be outfitted with car seats and your kid’s accessories. That way you don’t have to shuttle all that gear into a different car.
Finally, if scheduling allows, try to keep your home tours to just one or two houses at a time so your child doesn’t get too bored or overwhelmed by the entire process. And be sure to schedule tours at times when your child will be more awake and happy — and not right before or during nap time.
By bringing your child along to see select homes, not only will you help prepare them for the ultimate move, you’ll also get some unique insights. Although you will have the final say over what house your family ends up living in, your child may notice things that you don’t. Ideally, the house will be one that you both like.
If all of you enjoy the house, consider venturing out to local shops or restaurants to get a better feel for what your daily life would look like in the community. This also can help ease the transition of moving.
Research local school quality
If you’ll be sending your child to public school, you’ll want to consider buying your home in a high-ranking school district — and that the home itself is located within the respective district boundaries. Researching school districts before you begin your search will help you keep your house-hunting focused. Try using a site such as greatschools.org or niche.com to research local schools.
There’s another perk to keeping your search focused on areas with high-quality public schools: Research shows that homes located in top-rated school districts fetch a higher price and tend to sell faster too. For a more in-depth look into this topic, check out Opendoor’s findings on how school ratings impact home prices.
Consider house size and layout
If you have kids already or are planning to grow your family, a bigger home may be a better choice. For instance, you may appreciate plenty of storage space for your children’s toys or sports equipment — and a designated playroom where the kids can be loud while you have relative quiet elsewhere in the house. If you’re planning on watching your kids grow up in the house or intend to grow your family, you’ll have to ask if the home is big enough to accommodate future needs.
Another factor to consider is the floor plan. It should match your family’s lifestyle. For example, if you want to sleep in close proximity to your infant, be sure that your bedroom is on the same floor as your child’s.
Key things to look for are: size of the kitchen and dining area, number of bedrooms and number of bathrooms. Is the kitchen and dining area big enough to accommodate everyone? Would you have enough space to invite extended family over? While the number of bedrooms is clearly important, the number of bathrooms is an equally important factor.
Many children might not want to share bathrooms — or you may decide that you don’t want to have to share a bathroom with a couple of teens!
Keep the location on top of your mind
When it comes to finding a home for your family, location matters. Not only do you want to consider proximity to the schools your child would attend, you also want to consider the type of street the house is on. For example, a house on cul-de-sac or quiet side road may be safer than being on a main road due to less traffic — even though you might have to drive a little further to reach restaurants and shops.
Location is not just about the type of street you live on, it’s also about the community you select. For example, if you choose a city over a small town, your children will be closer to culture but might not have as much access to nature and green space as they would in a less densely populated area.
A small town may provide you with a stronger sense of community — a perk for kids — but you might have to drive farther to check out a museum opening or theme park. There’s no right or wrong choice here — just different variables to consider when making the decision with kids.
Check the overall safety of the home
If you have small children, you’ll want to be sure the house and property are safe — or can be easily child-proofed. For instance, a house with stairs can be dangerous for a toddler. Is there a way the stairs can be gated off? Of even more concern are open staircases where rambunctious kids can climb onto — and potentially fall off of — railings.
With kids, it’s not just the inside of the house you need to worry about. Properties that have water features on-site — such as a small pond, creek or a swimming pool — can be a drowning hazard. Is there a way to fence these off? And speaking of fences, with young kids it’s helpful to have a fenced-in yard so kids can’t wander off — or wander into the road.
Whatever the safety issue is, if there’s not a simple and affordable way to mitigate the problem, cross the potential house off your list.
Research the neighborhood
When you’re touring the home, it’s best to reach out to or observe the neighbors. A recent survey by Berkshire Hathaway found 50% of homebuyers ranked friendly neighbors as their top neighborhood feature.
Do other families live in your preferred neighborhood? If yes, your child may be able to make a friend or live near classmates. Is the neighborhood a safe place? Check out the crime rates of the neighborhood using online tools: Safewise.com has some good recommendations to check neighborhood safety. Also, try taking a walk around that area to get a feel for where you might live next.
Evaluate the vicinity of recreational amenities
If you have small children, a playground nearby is a bonus — or consider if the home’s yard is big enough for a small playground or swing set. If your kids play sports — or if you imagine that they will one day want to be involved in youth leagues — it’s worth considering the home’s proximity to fields where youth teams play.
If your family likes to swim, see how far away the nearest community pool is — and if the drive seems too far, keep your focus on homes with pools or homes with a large enough backyard so you can have a pool installed.
By taking the time to prescreen houses before bringing your kids on a tour — and paying attention to details that will affect your family — you can find a home that will be perfect for your family, where you can watch your children thrive for years to come.
Related guides and blogs
→ Checklist for first-time home buyers (infographic)
→ How much does it cost to buy a house
→ Navigating a buyer’s market vs. seller’s market
→ Should i get pre-approved for a mortgage before looking