House hunting with a family in tow can be a fun yet challenging adventure. Just picking a movie can be difficult enough, but finding a space that’s right for every voting member in the family? Now that’s a challenge!
There are a few factors to consider from the beginning to help find the perfect family home. Preparing for these five factors before house hunting saves the buyer a lot of headaches during and after the purchase.
1. Look for kid-friendly home features
From a full-out kid fantasy to little fun extras, it’s important to find a home that features spaces where children will thrive. A finished basement, for instance, can make a great game room, while a big yard is ideal for kids who love the great outdoors. Kids also tend to love nooks and secret passageways. Not every home will be equipped for kids from the get-go, so focus on kid-friendly potential.
Stay away from houses with potentially dangerous features, such as super-sharp corners, high decks with low railings and an abundance of built-in glass cases.
2. Choose a safe (and fun!) neighborhood
When a family buys a new home, they are buying membership to a new community as well. Potential buyers should take the time to stroll through the neighborhood and take note of its features.
Are there potential friends playing hockey in the cul-de-sac? Is there a nearby park where kids play and parents mingle? How about a community center for kids to do something enriching in a safe place? Would it be safe enough for kids to walk to nearby parks, minimarts or schools? The walkability of a neighborhood can majorly influence the decision of a one-car family.
Another factor to consider is whether the neighborhood’s personality matches the family. Buyers with families should consider where their families will be most comfortable. Maybe they fit well in a subdivision, or perhaps an eclectic neighborhood would feel most like home.
3. Find great schools
For most families, having great public schools nearby is a must. In fact, many families will settle for smaller, more expensive homes, just so they can be where the good teachers are. Start the house-hunting search online by simply noting the desired school district.
Then expand the search to the rest of the Internet, to find a plethora of parent reviews and school rankings. Make sure to research schools for current education as well as local options for further education. Keep an eye out for AP and IB courses, and high school graduation rates. You may want to use greatschools.org as one tool to research local schools.
4. Opt for low-maintenance features that will make your life easier
A low- maintenance abode is a must. Look for landscaping that features mature perennials and regionally appropriate plants that won’t need constant watering and upkeep.
Make sure any big-ticket extras, such as an attached garage or a deck, are already present. Building structures is a hassle and can be expensive. The costs are rarely recouped when the home is later sold.
5. Know the signs of foul play
That new sheen of paint might look nice, but it may be covering rot or something worse. The same goes for heavy caulking around doors and window frames. Even new siding can be a mere mask for flammable asphalt-based sheathing.
Older homes that haven’t been properly updated cannot only add unexpected costs to the buyer’s budget post-purchase, but they can also be a health hazard to the family living in the home. Research the house’s history online, and get the house thoroughly inspected by someone you trust before signing anything. Do not use an inspector recommended by the seller.
With a little forethought, finding a great home to fit the whole family is possible. Just remember these Family House Hunting Tips when looking for both a house and a community to call home.
Tali Wee currently lives in Seattle where she handles the Houston community outreach for Zillow. She is captivated by and appreciates everything real estate related. Tali is also a new homeowner and enjoys spending time on projects around the house.