By Thomas Spahr
Visions of meltdowns, fights, broken glass, tiny handprints on walls and windows, and carrying the tired kid sack-o-potatoes prevent many shoppers from bringing their kids along while shopping for a home. However, if you can swing it, children can bring different perspectives and even some magical insight into the home search process. Not to mention the buy-in factor; engaging in the search fosters a sense of contribution and influence over one’s destiny. I love it when my clients bring their kids, they always have a unique take on each place and their observations are often blunt and funny.
When we began our recent home search, my wife and I decided to include our 5-year-old son Zephyr in the process. Zephyr was very apprehensive about moving away from the yellow house that was home for the past three years, having developed a connection not only with the house, but also with the neighbors, school, parks, and overall community. This is normal behavior when it comes to a major change and adventure. To overcome that anxiety, we helped him imagine what he wanted in a new home, which opened him up to the opportunities of embracing change. His list was short and to the point: 1) a treehouse and 2) a bedroom upstairs. While we didn’t promise to deliver on these requests, we were able to set some criteria that were important for him. We are still working on the treehouse (essentially a backyard clubhouse), but he got the upstairs bedroom with a great view of neighborhood below—which he sleeps in every night now (score!). Our checklist was also simple: proximity to his new school, a good entertaining space, and a neighborhood with mature trees, charm, and walkable amenities.
So pack up the kids and bring them along. Here are some recommendations that will keep the home search pleasurable for everyone involved.
With adults, I usually limit showings to a maximum of 10 each day since most people’s brains turn to mush after viewing so many places. With kids, you probably want to limit the showings to around 10.
Discuss the schedule with your kids before starting. Establish your expectations for their behavior and cooperation. Plan a fun reward for the end, like checking out a new park or testing the neighborhood’s ice cream offerings.
I think this is very important when bringing the kiddos. Don’t have them sit in the corner—give them assignment. They can search for their future room, tell you where they’d place their bed and toys, find a secret hideout (you’ll be surprised at the hidden gems that will be uncovered) or just find one thing that they love about the home. This can create excitement for children and gets them invested in the home search process.
Bring shoes that are easy to get on and off or shoe covers
Kid shoes can get messy quickly and with any home search, shoes need to come off and on frequently, which can be a pain with kids, so be prepared. Alternatively, you can purchase shoe covers from Home Depot, Lowes, or your local hardware store.
Bring water and a snack
Just like any other excursion, bring hydration and fuel to keep the blood sugar normalized or face the wrath of cranky kids.
When I was young, idealistic, and sans-child, I scoffed at the idea of pacifying a child with an electronic device. Silly me. Bring an iPad, iPhone, games, books, or whatever because it is only a matter of time before they lose interest and will want something else to pass the time.
If you have a lot of showings scheduled, consider taking an opportunity to visit a nearby playground, a local eatery, or some other point of interest that will be fun for the family. This is probably sound advice for shopping without kids—it is always great to get to know the neighborhoods where you are shopping for a home.
This is an exciting time for you and the family. Enjoy the thrill and excitement of finding a new home as most of us only get to shop for a new place so many times in our lifetimes and this is a great opportunity create a shared experience that you and your children will remember for some time.