Room for a nursery? Check. Good school district? Check. Home buyers with kids (or who hope to have kids soon) know to look for properties with certain kid-friendly characteristics … but do you know all the things you should check?
Confession: I actually ended up buying a home that I thought would be perfect for my family, but once I moved in, I realized it was missing certain things that could have made my life there a whole lot easier. So just to be safe, check out this list of features that parents should factor into their house hunt, but often miss. Make sure they’re on your radar, so you don’t buy a place you regret!
1. Bedroom placement
When I was house hunting as a new mom, all that mattered to me with the nursery was that it had enough room for a rocker, changing table, and crib. Yet what I didn’t ponder seriously was the fact that our master suite was on the main floor, and the nursery one flight up. That meant I was running up and down those stairs nonstop, prompting me to grumble (often), “In our next home, all bedrooms will be upstairs!”
While parents know to find a house with ample bedrooms for their kids, what they sometimes fail to factor in is where those bedrooms are. Many parents prefer a layout where their kids’ bedrooms are fairly close to their own since it keeps their kids within earshot at night. However, bedrooms on separate floors can work for parents who prefer a bit more privacy.
Many parents are wary of buying homes on busy streets, lest their little tykes end up chasing baseballs into oncoming traffic. For this reason, the best option is a cul-de-sac.
But here’s what’s often overlooked: sidewalks. They offer an extra layer of safety, since they provide a buffer between cars and kids at play, and are crucial during the stroller/trike/wagon phase. But that’s not all. “Sidewalks invite you to go for a family walk. They’re the perfect place to set up a lemonade stand, and they make an ideal canvas to show off your mad art skills with sidewalk chalk,” says Ali Wenzke, a Chicago-based author who is writing a book called “The Art of Happy Moving.”
3. An open floor plan
While bonus rooms and basements are nice for corralling rambunctious kids, they’re not so great for toddlers who have to be constantly supervised. This is why the “great room” concept, with the kitchen, dining, and family room all opening onto one another, still rules for families, says Rose.
“When your kids are young, they need to be in clear sight while you are working or preparing dinner,” recommends residential real estate expert Alison Bernstein of Suburban Jungle. “So make certain the home has enough space on the main floor for kids to play, where you can still go about your chores.”
4. Easy sightlines to the backyard
All parents know the importance of having a yard, but unless you plan to go outside every time they do, you’ll also want to check how viewable that yard is from indoors. Are the kitchen windows situated so you can cook and clean while the kids play Wiffle Ball out back? Or if you work from home, does your desk have a clear view of your kids’ sandbox or swing set? Trust us, a backyard won’t give you much peace of mind if you can’t keep an eye on your kids.
5. A flat lot
You’d be amazed at how many baseballs you’ll lose with even the gentlest of slopes. But add an extreme hill, and that can put a serious crimp in any bike riding or skateboarding your kids want to do. According to a dad of two Bill Fish of Cincinnati, OH, “My 9- and 13-year-old sons don’t ride their bikes much, because the hills on our street and surrounding area are just too steep.”
6. Hot spots
If access to hot spots is a concern, especially with younger children, you might consider a fire pit instead of a fireplace as usually less time is spent outside and a fire pit can easily be covered up or even portable (out of sight means out of mind).
7. Amenities within walking distance
While most people love the option of being within walking distance of stores and restaurants, this desire is particularly heightened for families with young children, who quickly realize how burdensome it gets to pack up the car with strollers and bags. So check the surrounding area to see what’s walkable—a coffee shop? Playground? Daycare? It’ll make a huge difference.
8. The neighbors
Drive through the community to get a feel for the neighbors. Are they walking their dogs, socializing on the corner, kids shooting hoops in the cul-de-sac? This is very important, especially when looking for a home where your children will feel safe and have friends to grow up and play with. To be extra cautious and secure, you can also check The National Sex Offender Public Website, which allows you to pinpoint the locale of any sex offenders in a neighborhood.