So the time has finally come. Your second baby is on the way; your spouse just got a new job; or your child is about to enter kindergarten and you know it’s time to move to that really good school district. So – do you involve the little people in the house hunt? Is their buy-in worth the trouble of toting them to open houses and showings? Do you want to expose them to the ups and downs of home offers and negotiations? While there is no right or wrong answer, it’s worth exploring a few variables – and thinking specifically about the age of your youngest family members.

Teeny tiny ones (age 3 and below) don’t have the reasoning/decision-making capabilities to contribute to the house-hunting conversation. Instead, for these little people, you need to think carefully about what they’ll need in a few years. Specifically:

  • Identify what kind of configuration will work for your family. Especially with infants, toddlers, or young children, it’s usually best to have kids’ rooms near the master. And if you’re planning on having #3, and giving each kid their own room? Best to look for a home with four bedrooms on the same floor. Similarly, if you are set on having a dedicated play area or loft space, then make that part of your criteria.

  • Be on the lookout for safety concerns. No, you can’t baby-proof an entire house, but you can make smart decisions about where your kids will be spending a lot of their time. Unfenced front and back yards, pools, floating staircases, sharp corners and steep drop-offs can all be potential hazards.

  • Look carefully at school districts. Websites like greatschools.org can help you understand which schools and districts perform best, and can/should guide your search. If private schools are a possibility, you’ll want to consider drive times and tuition rates as they relate to home options.

  • Seek out kid-friendly amenities. Playgrounds, neighborhood pools, kid and family-friendly events, and parks packed with strollers, wagons and picnic blankets are all good signs that your little ones will have plenty do in their new home – and plenty of other little people to interact with (and other parents for you to mingle with, too!).

Little decision-makers (ages 4-12) have big imaginations, ever-changing needs, and inquisitive minds. The best part about these house-hunters is they can often help you look at a home in a new or different way than you would ordinarily. A few tips for involving them in your home-buying decision:

  • Sit down and discuss priorities with them. Let them explain why they want a giant yard with a pond and/or a treehouse and/or a hammock in the living room. You don’t have to make any promises, but it will help you understand where they’re coming from – and what they value.

  • Keep them on the bench until you’ve narrowed it down. Once you’ve identified a handful of homes as your final contenders, then it’s time to bring them along for some showings. Give them assignments during the home tour, like “note-taker” or “photographer,” so they feel like an integral part of the process, and can refer back to their notes later.

  • Invite them to browse homes online with you. It’s fun to go home shopping from the comfort of your couch. Let them tell you what they like/don’t like about homes that meet your criteria – and encourage them to voice questions you might ask when you see the homes in person. You might be surprised what helpful things they come up with.

Big decision-makers (ages 13+) are the most sophisticated, and perhaps the most realistic of the kid real estate consumers. Teenagers often have big opinions about the move, and may be particularly anxious about changing schools, making new friends, and creating a new routine. A few ways to address their concerns:

  • Ask for their input. If they insist that they no longer want to share a room with their sibling (and the budget allows for it), it might be time to look at a new arrangement. Or if they beg you for their own chill-out area in the basement, it may be worth exploring floorplans that accommodate their requests. Again, you don’t have to make promises, but listening will help you understand their emotional process.

  • Keep them apprised. Though you don’t necessarily have to share every gory detail of the offer and sale, young people generally appreciate being kept in the loop on what’s happening around them. Be honest about which homes are the top choices and why – even if the list doesn’t include their favorite.

  • Enlist their help with design choices. Asking for help with paint colors, a few new decorative pieces, light fixtures, and rugs in the new home can make teens feel invested in the move. Have them create Pinterest boards of their favorite design themes and research options for decorating or arranging their new bedroom. If you’re feeling really brave, give them a budget and let them re-design the living room or dining room. They’ll love the responsibility – and you might even turn them into the next Joanna Gaines.

Okay – so now you’ve got a game plan on how to approach the big move with your kids. What other resources do you need? Shea Homes has a variety of informational guides to help you at every step, from the New Homebuying Guide to the Home Loan Guide and even a glossary that explains home buying and building terms. We’ve got you – and your kids – covered. Please reach out to us for information on joining the Shea Homes community. We can’t wait to welcome you home!

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