Tips for House Hunting with Kids

By Hans Brings

Buying a house is in equal parts exhilarating and nerve wracking. Unless you
have that perfect house just waiting for you, financing ready to go, and no
competing offers, your home search can be time consuming and fraught with ups
and downs. Add your kids into the mix, and you might feel completely
overwhelmed before you even get started.

There are many compelling reasons to include your kids in your home search.
Moving can be a tough proposition for children, especially if they have to
change schools and make new friends. Small children might simply miss the
familiarity of the home in which they've grown up. Including kids in the search
for your new home can be empowering for them. They can feel that they have a
say in the final decision – the degree to which they actually do is up to you,
but certainly most parents feel that a new home has to be just right for the
entire family.

If you are moving towns, in a time crunch, or if you don't have childcare in
the area, you might find yourself going on a house hunt with your kids in tow.
Here are a few tips that can help you make your home search an experience that
is tolerable – or even exciting – for the entire family.

Research. The more information you can find out ahead of time about the
property either online or from your real estate agent, the better background
you'll have to target areas of concern or interest when you go for the showing.
Make lists of everything you're looking for in a home and screen out any houses
that don't fit your needs.

Take your time. If possible, don't cram all your showings into one day.
If a full day of showings seems like a marathon to you, just imagine how worn
your children's patience will be.

Plan the day. Do you have a contingency plan in the case of a meltdown?
Can you take turns viewing the home with your spouse and compare notes in the

Bring provisions. You'll need ample snacks, drinks, and entertainment
like books, crayons, and sketchbooks. Portable DVD players, laptops, iPads,
iPods, and handheld video games can work wonders for "bored" kids,
especially if you ordinarily limit their time with such devices – and the
promise of some technology time can serve as a reward for good behavior during
each showing. Make sure you're stocked with diapers, wipes, and paper towels
for any messes on the go.

Set ground rules.
Lay out your expectations for your kids' behavior before
you even embark on your day, outlining things they must not do while they are
"guests" in someone else's home. Let them understand that you won't
tolerate running, fighting, sitting on furniture, or fiddling with other
people's belongings. Keep careful track of all of your kids at all times to
make sure they are observing the rules.

Take breaks. Have lunch a restaurant your kids enjoy or take a midday
break for ice cream or some other treat. Stop at a park or playground in one of
the neighborhoods you visit. You can make the day a fun adventure that the kids
enjoy and remember.

Take notes and photos so that you can revisit the details of
each property later on when you are free from distractions. If you find
yourself with questions later on, you can contact your agent for answers.

Prioritize. Make sure to visit the homes that most interest you early in
the day so that you don't end up missing them if you have to cut the day short.
If there are any homes that would be "nice to see," but not
compelling, save them until the end of the day and only visit them if the
family is holding together well.

Buying a new home is one of the most important decisions you can make. It's
imperative to make a sound choice that will assure your happiness down the
road. Including your kids in your home search doesn't have to be difficult if
you plan your search with them in mind. You might find that they have questions
about a property that you haven't thought of – and their additional perspective
could prove useful when you finally make your decision. 
  Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2013. All rights reserved.