How to Buy a Kid-Friendly Home

Family sitting in living area. Photo courtesy of GettyImages/Westend61.

Features like quality schools are important to consider when looking for the perfect home for you and your kids.

Some homes are kid-friendly. Others are designed primarily for adults. If you have children or plan to start a family, you should choose a home that will be safe and appropriate for your kids as well as other people’s children who might visit you and yours.

Here are five features you should look for:

1. Safety and security

Fences and sidewalks might not be top of mind for home buyers, but they’re important features for safety, especially for young children, and they’re not always included in new home developments.

“If you have young children in strollers, kids learning to ride bikes or you take daily walks with your dog, you’ll need sidewalks to get around your neighborhood safely,” says Sophie Kaemmerle, communications manager at public records aggregator NeighborWho.

If a home you like doesn’t come with a fence around the yard, find out whether the homeowner’s association will allow you to add them and if so, which types are permitted.

“Fences provide privacy, give you peace of mind when your kids play outside and are perfect if you have a family dog,” Kaemmerle says.

Even in neighborhoods with fences and sidewalks, some homes are safer than others due in part to their proximity to road traffic.

A cul de sac is ideal for children to play safely outdoors. If that’s not an option, look for a street that doesn’t lead to a shopping mall and doesn’t connect two busier streets. Either of those factors can mean there will be more traffic on the smaller street.

2. Quality schools

Top-rated schools are a must-have for many families.

A survey by the National Association of Realtors found half of home buyers who had school-aged children considered school district quality when they selected a home. Only 11 percent of buyers without school-aged children considered this factor.

When you buy a home, you should research school districts even if your children aren’t yet old enough to start their formal education.

“Many newlyweds and parents with babies don’t think about finding a new home near a top-notch school, but you’re going to want a great school for your children,” Kaemmerle says.

3. Convenient schools

Even the best-rated schools can lose their appeal if they're located too far away. Indeed, the NAR survey found 45 percent of buyers with school-aged children considered school convenience while only 6 percent of buyers without school-aged children weighed this factor.

“Many young families ask how long the ride to school is,” says Marcel Finkelstein, sales associate at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Florham Park, N.J.

It’s no wonder school convenience is so important. In a survey, ride-share company HopSkipDrive found 44 percent of parents said they were “stressed out coordinating transportation at the beginning of the school year.”

Before you choose a home, practice your drive to and from the local schools in the morning and afternoon on several school days to find out what the traffic patterns are.

4. Nearby play places


Conveniently located neighborhood parks, sports fields and other public play areas are another big plus for families, especially in neighborhoods where such amenities are few in number.

“We see a ton of supermarket and grocery stores opening,” Finkelstein says, “and name-brand pharmacies are everywhere, so it’s no trouble to find those. It’s the distance to the school and community playground that will make kids and parents happy.”

Practice the walk to find out how long it will take you with a stroller or young children. If you choose a home that’s located on a hill, using a stroller may be difficult.

5. Flexible floor plan

Open-concept floor plans have been standard in new construction homes for years. This type of layout is a smart choice for families, says Joan Brothers, broker/owner of Manhattan Boutique Real Estate in New York City.

“A home with an open floor plan provides enough space for a family with kids who need supervision. With the kitchen, dining and family rooms opening onto one another, you can watch the kids while you’re doing your chores,” Brothers says.

Bedrooms are another key floor plan consideration. Parents of infants or young children may want bedrooms closer together while parents of teenagers or living-at-home adult children may want bedrooms farther apart or on separate floors.

Flex spaces can accommodate both needs. Lexington Village at Avondale, a new home community in Chicago, offers floor plans with a third-floor master bedroom suite plus a flex room. The flex space can be used as a baby room for an infant or a playroom and TV area for young children, and then repurposed for the parents’ use when the children are older.

Other kid-friendly floor plan features are a playroom located off the kitchen and a large kitchen island where children can do their homework while the parents prepare meals.

To make sure your new home is kid-friendly, talk to your builder about these and other family-oriented features and options that you want.

“It’s important to have a home that accommodates a family-friendly lifestyle,” says Brent Gibadlo, vice president at Nexton, a new home community in Summerville, S.C.

Marcie Geffner is an award-winning freelance reporter, book editor and blogger whose work has been published by a long list of financial, mortgage and banking websites, trade magazines and newspapers. You can find her on Google+.

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