I work with a lot of young families looking to purchase their first homes in Seattle. Part of our discussion is what kinds of things to look for in a ‘family’ home. Of course everyone has their own opinions on this (won’t you share yours?) but here are some that frequently appear on the must-have list:
- Schools – It’s a given that families with children will ask me about the schools in the area. Even if you are not thinking about kids right now but they are in the future, please still give this some thought. Say you buy a home now that you want to live in for many years (real estate is a long term investment after all). What if you have kids in the next couple years and find that you don’t like the schools in the area? You will most certainly move again.
- Proximity to Parks – There is always a need to get the wiggles out, or with babies escape the cabin fever that can set in from being at home too much, so it is very nice to have a park within a walking distance from your home. The closer it is the more you will use it. I really underestimated the need for City parks until I had kids. Fortunately Seattle works hard to maintain and build more parks in our neighborhoods.
- Can you see into the backyard?– First off, you don’t need a backyard. Children growing up in condos are just as happy as those with backyards, especially if you take point two into consideration. But… it is nice to have a yard and if you must have one, perhaps you want to consider the layout of the home. Can you see into the backyard from the kitchen or living room? I didn’t think of this when we bought our house (before kids) and you can only see the yard from the bedroom windows. They will have to be a bit older for me to unleash them to play by themselves back there because I can’t easily see them from the main part of the house.
- Do you need a family / rec / play room?– Oh do I sometimes wish we had another room for all the toys! But then I would just be in there hanging out. So does it really matter that the main part of our home is a living room / toddler play land? Not to my family. But as we all age, we hope to finish the basement into a family room where the kids can hang out with their friends. Point being: when your babies are small you will want to be near them anyhow, so the toys will live in your space not matter what, but it is nice to have some future expansion potential!
- You need storage! – I don’t care how minimalist you are, you need storage when you have kids. The biggest challenge I see for storage-challenged families are strollers. How many strollers have you seen parked on front porches or just in front of the house in the street? If you are not lucky enough to have a garage, you may consider where you are going to put the future red wagons and tricycles.
- Neighborhood– Coming back to location, which you will find me time and time again declaring as THE most important thing to consider when buying a home. Ask yourself: Are there other children for my kids to play with? Do I feel OK letting my kid bicycle up and down the street? It doesn’t mean your have to move to the suburbs. My street in Ballard is definitely urban. We get the cars driving too fast and we have Smoke Shop and Love Zone around the corner. As my kids and I play with rocks in front of the house we see red wagons rolling to the neighborhood park, other parents and kids from the block come over to chat, we plan a pumpkin carving party… that’s what makes this a family neighborhood.