Ten Tips for Buying Your Family Home
Thinking about buying your perfect family home? Deciding which home to buy is complicated enough when you’re just thinking about yourself. But when you’re planning to have kids, you have to make sure that your house will work for them, too.
Before you even start thinking about what your family’s home will look and feel like, get your financial and emotional house in order. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to what type of house you want—or even if you want a house at all—and how much you can or should pay for your house. If the down payment is an issue, investigate down-payment assistance programs and look into low- or no-down mortgages.
Under the new tax law, most people won’t be able to deduct mortgage interest, so it may not be in your financial best interest to jump into home ownership and its accompanying headaches “for the sake of the kids.” If you’re a stressed parent who sinks the majority of your time and money into a house, you aren’t doing your family any favors.
But if you’ve thought through all the aspects of homeownership and you’re still ready to go for it, start looking! As you house-hunt, here are ten considerations to keep in mind:
If you have your heart set on your kiddos attending a particular school, you’ll need to move close enough to make that dream a reality, especially if you need to be zoned to that school. That usually involves a higher house note or a longer commute. Of course, you want the best for your kids, but you have to be practical. If you can’t—or don’t want to—swing a sky-high mortgage payment or a super-long trek to town, figure out an acceptable school for your kids to attend and look in nearby neighborhoods.
2. Proximity to your people
“Your people” can be friends, family, other parents, work, or people from your home country. Yes, consider where the kids will go to school, but attend to your own needs, too. If Mom and Dad aren’t happy, nobody’s happy.
3. Floor plan
Open floor plans are all the rage, but it’s nice to be able to close up the kitchen with a gate, or close off the dining room with a door. Do you have enough storage space, or, at least, is there room to add storage space without a major renovation? Overall, does the floor plan make good use of space? If it doesn’t, you’ll be better off in a smaller house that uses space more intelligently.
4. Ease of maintenance
If you or your partner like to fix things around the house, by all means go for a charming century-old bungalow. But if home maintenance isn’t your cup of tea, opt for low-maintenance modernized digs. The same concept goes for the grounds—if you want to spend as little time and money on your yard as possible, don’t buy a house on a huge lot.
5. Cost to maintain
What’s the homeowners’ association fee? Is the fee in line with what homeowners in similar subdivisions are paying? How high do the water bills get? (In an increasing number of municipalities, water bills are skyrocketing.) And what about the gas, electric, and/or fuel oil bills?
Although natural gas may not agree with people with severe allergies, modern gas heaters and water heaters are more cost-effective than their electric counterparts. Also, most cooks prefer natural gas. All things being equal, if you have to choose between a house with a gas stove and heating and one that uses electricity, go for gas!
6. Single or double-story?
In a two-story house, the rooms on the second floor tend to be hotter, which will drive up your electricity bills. You may also be worried about your kids tumbling down the stairs. (I taught my kids to slide down carpeted steps on their tummies with their feet first.) All of the kids’ bedrooms may be on the second floor, while yours will be downstairs. Is that what you want? If so, that’s fine, but think it through beforehand. And even if you do opt for a two-story, think twice about getting one with a soaring, expensive-to-heat-and-cool cathedral ceiling with an open second floor. Those cathedral ceilings look impressive, but the added heating and cooling costs will ding your bank account.
7. Carpet, tile, hardwood, or laminate?
Sure, you can always change these floor coverings out if you want to, but it will take some time and money to do that. If the floors aren’t to your liking, mentally factor in the cost of bringing them up to speed.
8. Opt for an actual bathtub, preferably a garden tub
Many houses these days just have showers, but bathtubs are always nice, especially with kids. You can enjoy quality bonding time while your little ones play in the tub, or you can even enjoy your own healthy, well-deserved Epsom salt soak.
9. Prioritize a fenced yard
If you’re buying a house with a yard, make sure it’s fenced, or factor in the cost to get it fenced. A fence-less yard gives you no peace of mind when your kids are playing outside.
10. Skip the pool
Pools can be fun for adults and children alike, but think long and hard before you buy a house with a pool. Pools are costly to maintain, and they can be dangerous. Home swimming pool drownings are the second leading cause of accidental death in children under five. If you absolutely must have the pool, factor in the cost of having it securely fenced off from the yard and the house, both for the safety of your own kids and any visitors you may have.
Bonus Tip: Homeowners Insurance
Be sure to evaluate your homeowners insurance options and make sure you are getting adequate coverage for all your needs. Having a quality insurance plan will help make sure you and your family are safe and have coverage should anything happen to your home.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of what to look for in a house, but it covers most of the bases. Think through what you want and need, and enjoy your house hunt!