Over 10 years ago when my husband bought the house our family lives in now in McLean, Virginia, we were not married and we had no children. He says he bought the house because it reminded him of the house he grew up in. The house turned out to be a great place to live before children and after. However, there are a few features I wish my husband had the foresight to consider when he went house hunting that would make our lives much easier today with two young children, a boy age 3 and a girl age 4.
Whether your single or married, if you know you are going to have children one day and have decided to buy a residence now, there are several factors to consider. And these same factors apply to people who already have young children and are looking to move. First and foremost, you have to consider your family values – what is important to you, and how do you want to raise your children? The big things to think about are budget, lifestyle and time. Regarding budget, never bite off more than you chew. Raising children is expensive and your household expenses expand when babies come along. Lifestyle refers to how you envision your daily family living. In the Washington, DC area commute time and schools are two of the big lifestyle factors. And, finally, how do you want to spend your free time? At the pool, gardening, riding bikes, attending cultural events, entertaining at home, driving, tending to a working a farm?
Once you identify your family values, then you can get into the nitty-gritty of house hunting. The first factor is (as they say in real estate) location, location, location. Do you want to live in the city, the suburbs or a little of both? Before judging either option, all have their pros and cons for kids. The city is great for hopping right out your front door with the baby stroller and having shopping, museums, restaurants and parks right at your fingertips. Also, no car is required, but it can come in handy if you have somewhere to park it without getting tickets! The suburbs require a car and often times a longer commute, but you get more property for your money and a yard where your kids can play. Or you could live right in the town of a DC suburb, such as McLean which has plenty of housing options very close to the center of town.
Next, what type of dwelling do you want? Be careful to jump to conclusions. Houses, condos and town homes all have their pluses and minuses. A house has a yard for the kids, but some houses are not in neighborhoods and may leave your family feeling isolated if you’re the type who thrives on daily human interaction. Condos are typically close to all the amenities of the city, and if you hate lugging your kids’ stuff in and out of a car, then consider a condo where the stroller and an elevator is all you need to get going! Town homes typically cost less than single family homes in the same market place, so you could get a newer home. But, the first time you bring the baby home from the hospital, you, especially mom, will hate having to go up and down all those stairs! Consider style of dwelling too. As a Realtor, I often see fabulous contemporaries that are death traps for young kids – ledges to fall off, stairs to fall through and hard, stark surfaces to fall on.
Now that I am a parent I have learned that there are some key features to look for when buying a house where young kids will live. First, get an eat in kitchen or one that leads directly to the family room so the kids can sit at the table to do activities or eat a meal or play while mom and dad are cooking and cleaning. Second, a flat, fenced-in backyard (or a deck off of a town home you can gate off) will make your life much easier! Toddlers are known to bolt and chasing them into the neighbor’s yard or, even worse, the street while you’re trying to relax in your patio chair can be very frustrating. If possible, find a house with a space in a basement or separate room you can dedicate for a play area so that the bulk of the toys are contained in one area. (Turn this into a study room when the kids get older). Next, thinking again about your family values, do you want the master bedroom on the same or separate floor as the kids’ rooms? As babies, probably the same floor. But as the kids get older, you may want to be farther away! And, if the house you are able to buy requires your kids to share a room, so be it. That’s what they’ll be doing in college anyway!
Finally, always consider storage and organization options. When you have kids you start shopping in bulk. Where is all the stuff going to go? The modern solution is over-sized walk-in closets, which can be great until you go overboard and accumulate stuff just because you have the space to store it. Kids don’t need walk-in closets. Save those for you and your house guests. If you opt for a condo, make sure the condo has a separate storage area in the building for your overflow. If a townhouse, a basement comes in handy. If the detached home you like does not have a garage, is the yard big enough for a shed?
Having kids changes your life, and you need to be prepared! If you want to be able to grow into your home as your family expands then take the time to think about how you’ll do that and whether the homes you’re looking at fit the bill. If you’re thinking about expanding and need a bigger or different place to live in Northern Virginia, consulting an experienced Realtor at the Huckaby Briscoe Group will save you a lot of headaches down the road. Please call me any time at (202) 441-3630 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to help guide you in the right direction!