Congratulations. You just got to the area. You’ve unpacked. You’ve done your shopping. You earned a break. Now you’re left wondering: what the heck do I do now?
How To House Hunt With Kids
Generally, if you have children, the best thing to do when looking at houses is to leave them with a babysitter or family member. Looking at homes and making decisions on such a large purchase can be stressful and overwhelming enough without splitting your focus between the house and the kids.
Still, things happen. A babysitter may be outside of your budget or a trustworthy caretaker may just be unavailable. If that’s the case, there are things you can do to make sure your kids stay safe, well-behaved, and happy while still having a good look at what might be your future home.
You should always let your realtor know if you kids will be coming with you for a showing. Some realtors may have techniques they use to help distract or engage your kids, or they may want to bring in a colleague who can help keep you both from being distracted by entertaining your child. Kids are also a wild card - your day of showings may end earlier or you may need to take an unexpected break if they're with you.
While it’s common for realtors to want to drive their clients and talk about homes in the car, if you’re bringing kids it’s better to take your own. You don’t want to have to move car seats, toys, changes of clothes, and snacks. The kids will feel more comfortable in an environment they’re familiar with, too, so your car becomes “home base” during a day of showings.
Make sure you don’t plan to look at too many homes at once - build the breaks you need into the schedule you’ve made with your realtor. If you’re nursing, make sure you discuss when you’ll need to stop. It’s also a good idea to take a break to take younger children to parks, plan naps if your kids usually take them at a certain time, and make arrangements for meals and snacks.
Maximize your time. Don’t risk your kids getting bored looking at a house that you already know isn’t the one. If you see a home that isn’t in the running, speak up about it and move on to the next one. Your realtor would rather drive to another home you might like than waste time boring both you and your children.
Houses staged for showing or belonging to sellers who don’t have kids may not be childproof. Expensive or fragile objects may be easy for a toddler to grab when you’re walking through a home. Your kids should also wear shoes that are easy to take on and off in case you are touring a home that requires it – that saves time for you and for them.
Kids get bored and may want to explore, which can lead to accidents. Make sure that if your kids understand that they are in a stranger’s home and what that means as far as a "touching-and-wandering-off" policy. Even childproof homes may still have sellers with kids living in them, and you don’t want your child going through another kid’s room. If your kids are young enough, holding them is probably the best option to keep them out of trouble and keep your focus on the home.
It’s easy to miss things about a house when your children come along. Paying attention to them means you aren’t paying full attention to your tour. If you are touring homes with a partner, you can take turns looking at homes. One parent can watch kids in the car or the house while the other gets the tour, or one parent can go out and tour homes alone, coming back later with a short list for the other to look at.
Kids who are sufficiently entertained and fed are less likely to fuss and cause a ruckus. Make sure you plan ahead and bring snacks and toys. If your child has access to a tablet, gaming device, or a phone with games or movies that they like they can be entertained for a long time. Bringing your kid’s favorites also means they’re less likely to mess with a resident child’s toys. You can keep kids excited to “pick” their new room and take breaks to show them that there are things in the area to like if they’re not so sure about moving. On top of parks, you can take a long break at a restaurant or attraction or drive by their new school.
Teenagers will want to be a part of the decision-making process. They have opinions – as you’re probably very aware - and may even ask questions you wouldn’t necessarily remember. Important things that might not be on your mind like what kind of internet the house is wired for or whether the local Starbucks has a drive-thru may place one home ahead of the other, and your teen is probably ready to ask them.
If your children are old enough, you can give them “jobs” to keep them entertained. You can play House Bingo, making a list of features you’re looking for that the kids can check off of a list every time you look at a home. Bonus: this can help you remember which features each house had. It comes in handy when the twenty different homes you've seen start to blend together.
Kids and especially teenagers can be in charge of taking pictures of the house, keeping a list of things you liked about it, or doing research on the internet about the area. You can also keep your children engaged by having them design their future bedroom or drawing their dream home, then pointing out features they mentioned in the homes you like. "Hey, Jordan, I see you'd like your own bathroom. The last house we looked at has that."
While hunting for houses with kids may take more time and energy than leaving them behind, it’s not impossible. With the right attitude and preparation it may even be an enjoyable experience for you and your kids. Just knowing that they “helped” pick your new home out may even help them adjust to the change.
Seth Gold brings his life-long passion for real estate and extensive marketing experience to Domicile Realty. As he works with his clients, he is very aware that they are making one of the biggest and....