While house hunting with children isn’t the perfect scenario, sometimes it just can’t be avoided. Instead of letting the kids get the best of you, have a game plan in place that keeps them busy and keeps your sanity intact. Here are a few tips.
Call in a favor or hire a sitter. During the hectic early stages of house hunting, if at all possible, leave the kids with a trusted family member, friend or a babysitter. During the school year, look at homes while the kids are in class. If you are distracted by their presence, you may miss key details about a property. You may find later that you can’t recall which house had what features because your mind was on your children’s behavior more than on the house. Don’t feel guilty. You can involve the kids later when the time is right.
Be prepared. Bring iPads, games, books and other items that will hold the attention of your children for long periods of time. If they are car-seat age, follow the real estate agent in your own vehicle, dramatically cutting down on the exhausting transfer of items. This also gives you and your spouse the chance to talk privately after each showing.
Put older kids to work. Ask older kids to research nearby schools, parks and other attractions on their tablets or phones. Or create a list of must-have features and let the child check for them. You might also want to assign a child to photograph the houses you tour.
Keep your visits short. When you are in a seller’s home, hold younger children by the hand and have older children stay close to you. If a child needs to use the bathroom, use the facilities at a nearby park or fast-food restaurant rather than the restrooms at a seller’s home. Bring along snacks and drinks — for the car only. Finally, know your kids’ limits. Ask your agent to keep the search in bite-size chunks that youngsters can manage.
When to involve the children. Once you’ve narrowed the choice of homes, begin to involve the children in the decision process. During these second showings, ask for their input. Begin to discuss which rooms could be theirs, but be sure they understand that the adults will make the final decision. With children middle school aged and up, be sure to handle their apprehensions with grace. Preteens and teens are much more affected by leaving behind friends and attending new schools. Thoughtful one-on-one discussion with them is vital.