As any parent can tell you, sometimes just taking kids on a five minute run to the store can quickly become chaotic, nevermind a whole day of house hunting. Add to it the stresses of being in a stranger’s home, worrying about a large financial investment, and it’s nearly a perfect recipe for disaster. We all love our children, but it isn’t always easy to balance the tasks in front of you and their needs at the same time. But fear not, searching for a home with kids doesn’t have to be impossible and it certainly doesn’t need to drive you to the brink or make you give up your home search. There are some quick pointers and tips to try and help you keep the young ones in line and everyone just a little bit saner throughout the process.
Tip 1: Timing. If at all possible, try to schedule your appointments at times that your kids are at their best. If mornings are always rough, consider pushing back those first showings. Schedule frequent breaks to regroup and get the sillies out or even to accommodate a nap or two. But also remember that everything will take a bit longer with children – from getting in and out of the car to lunch breaks to viewing the homes. Plan for extra time and keep the schedule flexible to accommodate for those extra minutes.
Tip 2: Food. Start the day with a good breakfast and keep that trend going. Keep snacks in the car or on hand to occupy little hands and fill little bellies. Never underestimate the ferocity of hunger on a kid’s attitude (or a parent’s for that matter). Try, if at all possible, to bring healthy, clean snacks. Just imagine what Cheeto fingers do to a stranger’s white curtains or what Hi-C Fruit Punch looks like on their new carpet. If at all possible, do try to keep these snacks in the car or outside. Accidental spills in a stranger’s house or potential allergy flare ups could cause much bigger headaches later on.
Tip 3: More Food. Take time to break for lunch. Not only is it a good time to clean up and fill up, but it is also a good time to stop and reflect on the homes, narrow the search, and just regroup for the day.
Tip 4: Distractions. In the age of technology, electronics can be a parent’s lifesaver. Educational games on a phone or tablet may be great distractions that keep kids mellow instead of running through homes jumping on all of the furniture. Not a fan of technology? You can still keep children’s attention focused with games or songs.
Tip 5: Divide and conquer. If possible, bring a second adult on the house hunt. One parent could keep the kids wrangled in the backyard while the other peruses the property and then you can swap. Devise a buddy system (either with a parent or older sibling) in which children aren’t left unattended.
Tip 6: Beware of Pets. Every homeowner is different and every pet situation can be complex. Some owners elect to remove their pets from homes entirely for every showing. Others kennel animals or just advise potential buyers to stay out of pet areas for the initial showing. But others have animals freely roaming their homes for every showing. Pets can pose problems for kids on several fronts. First, allergies. Both kids and adults can have allergies to pets, pet dander, or other associated aspects of pets. The pets might have allergies too (think of them eating snacks dropped or left behind). Second, injury. A pet left in a home may normally be calm, but they may also not be used to being around kids or kids may not be used to handling pets. Pets get scared, nervous, and don’t always react how they would under normal conditions. You are strangers in their home and they may bite, nip, scratch, or claw. Don’t let your children find out the hard way.
Tip 7: Manners. It’s worth a lecture or two to children before and during the day about respecting other people’s property. Remember that home sellers have allowed you to come through their private spaces with little to no information about you at all, so they have to rely on an unspoken trust that you and everyone with you will treat their property respectfully. They may have precious family heirlooms on display that are irreplaceable or easily broken. A cool toy in their kid’s room might be easily picked up by your child, who may not think much of it at the time, but no one wants people going through their personal belongings. Respect that privacy and space and help your children understand they should as well.
Tip 8: Involvement. This may be the opposite of Tip 4, but when it comes to kids, there is no right answer. Depending on the child(ren)’s ages or temperaments, having them engaged in the process may actually be a huge help. Learning to read the MLS sheets or property flyers, taking a video of the home for review later, jotting down notes and features, or even planning layouts are all good tasks for kids to keep them involved. Plus, you could even throw in a little math homework by having them calculate prices, interest, square footage, and more.
Tip 8: One Word, Babysitter. For your own peace of mind and sanity, it may be worth it to invest a bit of money in a babysitter. This may allow you to be more focused on the task at hand, move through properties quicker, and make a decision on the right home for you in a more efficient manner. You can probably speak more openly with your agent about finances or technical questions as well. As an added bonus, there may even be a bit of time left at the end of the day to stop off for a cold beer or glass of wine.
image courtesy of MichaelLaMartin