If you have kids (or are planning to) and you’re shopping for a house, your what-to-look-for checklist is probably already a mile long. It’s probably a combination of what you need and what your kids need. Your home also needs to be able to transition between being a home to raise young children in to being a home for older children. To avoid getting swamped by the home buying process, focus on what you really want from your home. Beyond the basics of location, price, condition, and school district, what would really make a home a great fit for your family? Consider adding these 10 items to your home buying wish list.
1. Entry storage. From the strollers and car seats of the baby stage to the sports gear and backpacks of the older years, a never-ending parade of stuff comes with having children in the house — and the more places you have to put this stuff when you walk in the door, the better! Look for a house with built-in entry storage, from closets and cabinets to cubbies and shelves. Having an entry out of view of the rest of the house is ideal, so you can enjoy your home without staring at the gear in the entryway all the time. Also, make sure that the front door (or wherever you’ll be entering through the most) is wide enough to accommodate strollers and car seats. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration by checking for those things before you put an offer in.
2. Convenient laundry. A laundry in the basement may not be the first thing you notice at an open house, but if you have young children, you might want to give the laundry zone a little more thought. Having the washer and dryer on the main level comes in handy when you’re wrangling small children who go through more wardrobe changes in one day than Lady Gaga. A laundry near upstairs bedrooms is another good option, since this will likely mean a lot less schlepping of heavy baskets up and down the stairs. Also, make sure that wherever your laundry room is, it is easy to clean up in case of a leak or mess.
3. Stairs that can be safely gated. Speaking of stairs, if you are looking at homes with more than one level, pay attention to the stairs and railings. Look for stairs that can be gated easily at the top and bottom, and sturdy railings without any wide gaps. Airy, open staircases may look beautiful, but if you can’t easily block them, life with a little one will be very stressful. Also, make sure that the staircase isn’t similar to one of those modern ones where there are massive gaps that look down onto the floor below. Especially for the young ones, these steps can prove to be a hazard.
4. Ditto for the kitchen. While being able to see what’s going on in the living room while you chop veggies for dinner is a definite plus, it still pays to consider how you can gate off the cooking area to keep curious little hands out. Door openings that are larger than standard size may require custom (read: costlier) solutions. Of course, you may decide you don’t need to separate this area … but it never hurts to think about it before you buy.
5. Built-in storage. Built-in storage means more places to neatly stash your family’s stuff, without worrying about anchoring tall, topple-prone pieces of furniture to the wall. Ideally, look for built-in shelving in the living room or family room with open shelves above and closed cabinets below. Another great idea for built-ins is having it lockable. That way you can rest easy that your little ones won’t get into any chemicals or breakables while you aren’t looking.
6. Kid-friendly bathroom. We’re not talking about a themed bathroom here, but a functional space that will work well for your family. Look for a bathroom with a tub and plenty of room to maneuver — you may be spending a remarkable number of hours perched on a stool beside that tub, so comfort and spaciousness count! Other details to look for include a bathroom mirror that comes down close to the sink (so little ones can actually see themselves), storage space for bath toys and extra towels, and, if you have a large family, multiple faucets are a big plus. The more room the bathroom has now, the easier it will be down the road.
8. Fenced yard. Even a small yard can offer big possibilities to a child, from building play forts to digging in the dirt. For your own peace of mind, look for a backyard that is fully, securely fenced, so you can let creative play happen without worrying your little explorer will go toddling off toward the street. You won’t be worried about your little ones and they will be out having a good time.
9. A view of the outdoors. Being able to take care of a little chore inside and still have a view of your child playing can be a huge help. A bonus benefit of having a good view of your outdoor space — whether through generous windows, sliding glass doors or French doors — is that it will encourage you and your family to actually use it!
10. Master suite. As a parent, having a space to call your own is so important. Sure, you may end up sharing the space with a toddler who had bad dreams or a random pile of Lego bricks more often than you would like, but knowing that this space is officially yours is worth it. Look for a master bedroom with its own private bathroom and a spacious closet. French doors leading to your own private balcony or patio? Major bonus.