Most parents would admit that it is ideal to leave the children with Grandma, a trusted friend, or even drop-off childcare when house hunting. However, this is not always possible. I have personally house hunted with my children in tow and have worked with plenty of families during the home finding process. The following are my top ten tips for making the search as enjoyable as possible for the entire family.
Step One: Plan and Pre-Shop
Make sure your REALTOR® has interviewed you fully and has zeroed in on your family’s needs prior to setting up a home search. This will allow your agent to spend less time researching properties that aren’t suitable for your family, producing more relevant results and more targeted “yes” list. If you are ambitious, never hesitate to drive by properties prior to touring them with your REALTOR® and children to see if you like the surrounding neighborhood and the homes curb appeal.
Step Two: Limit the Number of Homes You Tour Per House Hunting Session
If you and your REALTOR® have completed the first step, this part should not be tough to accomplish. I would avoid viewing more than three to five homes back-to-back, unless you have special circumstances and your kids have the temperament for it. My kids limit was three homes before they started complaining and after five they were usually well over it. As grown-ups, we get excited about houses and the possibilities each one presents. To them, unfortunately, it is more like sitting at the DMV all day. Also, never feel obligated to tour a house if you drive up to it and know right off the bat it doesn’t work for any reason. Your children (and your REALTOR®) will thank you!
Step Three: Set Clear Behavioral Expectations and Rewards with Your Children
How you do this will depend on the age of your children and your parenting style. With my very young children, I had a “no touch” rule that I enforced strictly. Remember, you’re often touring homes where kids reside and their toys are very tempting. I would follow up each showing with a small reward. With older children, I have found that letting them know how many homes you are touring and promising a fun outing for lunch where they can stretch their legs and blow off steam is helpful. A picnic in the park is more kid friendly than forcing them to sit in a restaurant and listen to more real estate speak and provides them both a reward and a needed break.
Step Four: Split the Day If You Need to View Multiple Homes
If you are on a compressed time frame and need to view multiple homes in just a couple of days, my advice would be to split the day. Schedule a morning session while everyone is fresh, plan a break for lunch, naps, play time, have a mid to late afternoon session and then break for an early dinner. Regroup after dinner to discuss what you’ve seen, plan the next day or write an offer. If there is a multiple offer situation with an earlier deadline, flexibility will be needed but generally this is a good rule of thumb.
Step Five: Stick to One Geographical Area Per Session
Try not to travel more than fifteen minutes or so between homes. For example, if you are looking in Holly Springs in the morning, I would wait to look in Wake Forest until the evening session when the kids are rested. This allows you to cover as much ground in one area as possible without spreading them too thin and wasting unnecessary time in the car.
Step Six: Pack Everything and Anything Your Children May Need
Pack plenty of snacks, spare clothes, activities, wipes, bandages, a bag for trash, bags for wet or dirty clothes, and even if you think you’re done potty training, do yourself a huge favor and bring along a portable toddler potty. If you’re a parent, you know that strange places don’t always work for young kiddos but the Baby Bjorn Potty is familiar and will prove useful. You’re going to have to just trust me on this one.
Step Seven: Divide and Conquer
Don’t be afraid to delegate the initial showings to your spouse and let them veto the homes that don’t work and just show you the ones that have potential for both of you. I am a REALTOR®, but I am also the preview spouse in my family. This step saves an enormous amount of time and energy.
Step Eight: Include Your Kids in the Process
While I wouldn’t ask my children point blank if they can picture themselves living in a specific home (or leave the final decision up to them), asking them what they liked about a potential match is a way to help them feel considered and involved in the process. If they have strong negative feelings about a home and it can’t be chalked up to being unhappy about moving generally, listen to them and ask probing questions. The issue could be as simple as not liking the wall paper but sometimes kids are able to pick up on things that adults overlook, like not having enough space in for something very important to them.
Step Nine: Be Decisive
Doubt means no. Listen to it. It is way too easy to settle because you have grown tired of the process and want to just be done with it, especially when the kids are showing exhaustion and you have your existing home under contract or a relocation date looming. On the other hand, yes means yes! If you have found what you are looking for, it meets your criteria, and you have a positive gut feeling that this is “the one,” do not hesitate. In a competitive market, you may not get a second chance to make an offer. I have countless stories where someone finds the right home early in the process because they put the time and effort into pre-planning and pre-shopping, but it happened so quickly they second guessed themselves and lost out.
Step Ten: Enjoy the Process
House hunting is what you make of it. I see it as an opportunity to dream and try on what change will look and feel like. You’re not shopping for a new dress or suit, you’re shopping for the place that will be the backdrop to some of your most treasured private moments. This is a big deal! Take a breath. Watch your children explore and dream along with you knowing that whichever home you choose, you have each other and this is a new beginning for all of you.
About Jennifer Bennington.
Jennifer Bennington is a full-time sales associate of the Fonville Morisey Realty Lochmere office.
Jennifer is a member of the Raleigh Association of REALTORS®, the North Carolina Association of REALTORS®, and the National Association of REALTORS®.
Fonville Morisey Realty has 11 sales offices, with over 850 associates and employees throughout the Greater Triangle region. FM offers mortgage, insurance, property management, title services, real estate education courses and relocation services through its divisions and partners. For more information about Fonville Morisey Realty, visit www.fmrealty.com.