If you have kid or plan on having kids, you’re probably trying to figure out what type of housing accommodation you should buy. Will you need more than two bedrooms? Will you need access to outdoor space, such as a courtyard or a backyard? What about access to community centres and schools? To help you select the right kid friendly home for your family, consider this list of seven factors:
- Location really, really matters
- Think space
- Safety considerations inside the home
- Suitable laundry access (yep, you read that right)
- A fenced-in backyard
- Easy parking (we’ll tell you why)
- And a home with your own parental retreat.
Spot a home with that meets these seven factors and you may have stumbled across the perfect family home for you.
1. Yes. It is all about location, location, location
You can change a lot of things about a house, but you can’t change its location (unless it’s a motorhome, but that’s a different story). This is why it’s important to put ‘great location’ right at the top of your kid-friendly list.
So, what makes a great kid friendly home and location? Here are some factors to consider:
- What schools are in the area and do they have a good reputation?
- Homes in school zones with good reputations tend to hold their value better than homes located in not-so-sought after school districts.
- How safe is the neighbourhood? What types of crimes occur most?
- All neighbourhoods will experience some sort of crime, but it’s the quantity and type that you should pay attention to. For instance, one real estate investor in Toronto, Ontario will only pick neighbourhoods with no violent assaults. His assumption is that communities where more violent altercations occur attract an element that he doesn’t care to rent to.
- Are there supermarkets, daycare centres, schools, parks all within walking distance or a short drive away?
- While most people check to see if a home is in close proximity to a super market or coffee shop, be sure to check out where the daycares are located and what kind of waiting list these centres have for infant, toddler and school-age spots. The better serviced an area is for daycare facilities, the easier it will be to find more affordable, good-quality care and the better chance you have of finding playdate mates.
- Is it situated on a busy main street or a cul-de-sac?
- When it comes to kids quite streets, like cul-de-sacs, are preferred. There are fewer cars, less foot traffic and more chance for your child to runaround without being disturbed by strangers. That said, it may be hard to afford a home on a quiet street in your preferred neighbourhood. When this happens, search out options that give your kids safe alternatives. For instance, do the backyards of the homes connect to allow for safe play
- Is it a family-oriented neighbourhood or more suited to young professionals?
- Many popular neighbourhoods tend to cater to a specific demographic and economic sub-set. While some cater specifically to families — such as Calgary’s newer communities in the SW and SE sections of the city, where neighbourhoods were built specifically with families in mind — others grow and develop based on who is currently living in the area. The trick is to examine the type of amenities and stores in the area and then determine who their preferred clientelle would be. Neighbourhoods catering to a demographic other than families aren’t bad but you may find it harder to meet other families or to find services that cater to your needs.
- Is it a transitioning neighbourhood (filled with a few young families and many more empty-nesters)?
- Another option is to find a transitioning neighbourhood. This is a particularly good option for buyers who can’t afford to purchase in an already established family-friendly community. A transitioning neighbourhood won’t have all the amenities or services that cater to young families but over time, as the demographics of the area continue to change, you will see more and more of it. Better still, if the neighbourhood really blossoms into a family-centric community, you may see a nice bump-up in your home’s market value. For tips on what communities may be transition, talk to your Realtor.
2. Size it up (because enough space really matters)
While tiny homes are trending, they may not be practical if you’re planning on having two or three kids. Having a home with enough space for your kids to play and spread out their toys is optimal. You’ll thank yourself in winter when the weather’s bad and they can’t go outside to play. Even if a house has a small living room, don’t discount it. If it has an extra bedroom this can double as their playroom or a games room when they get older.
3. Stairways and safety
A house with a stairway that can’t be safely gated or blocked off will make living very stressful once your kids start crawling or walking. In addition to stairs, there are some other safety factors to keep in mind:
- Are wiring and electrical sockets placed out of reach? If not, can they be child-proofed?
- Are closets and cupboards easy opening or could a child get trapped inside?
- Is there a pool and does it have a fully enclosed fence?
- Are there countertops in the kitchen or bathroom with sharp edges?
Look around any potential home you buy and see how and where you need to child-proof the home. If there isn’t an easy solution, you may be on the hook for an expensive fix — just ask anyone with an open-riser staircase.
4. Laundry access
A basement laundry may not instantly ring alarm bells but you may want to give it some thought if you’re looking for a kid friendly home. A downstairs laundry isn’t that convenient if you have kids. Schlepping up and down stairs with laundry baskets two or three times a day will get old pretty quickly unless you want a really great arms and leg workout. Look for a laundry room on the main level or near the bedrooms. This way it’s easy to pop in a load, then transfer it to the dryer when it’s done without having to carry loads of clothes up and down flights of stairs.
5. Fenced-in backyard
A fenced-in backyard, even a smaller sized one, is a great feature for a kid-friendly house to have. It brings peace of mind that your child is able to play outside safely without heading to the street once your back is turned. It also removes the possibility that they’re accessible to strangers. For this reason, look for homes that are securely fenced at the back, rather than at the front.
6. Easy parking
A home with a garage that has internal access is ideal when you have kids, especially when it’s raining and you’re laden with shopping bags. But if it doesn’t have this, your own private driveway or easy street parking is second best. Take into consideration that you’ll have family or friends with kids visiting as well. Will it be easy for them to find parking or will they avoid visiting if it’s too difficult or they have to pay for it? Easy parking access is definitely a worthwhile consideration for any kid friendly home.
7. Your own retreat
It’s important for parents to feel they have a space in their own home they can retreat to, especially when kids get older and don’t need as much supervision. A home with a master suite with an adjoining living room, private bathroom or patio can be just what you need to gain back your sanity and take a break.
If you’re not a parent yet, thinking of your future kids’ needs may seem odd now, but if you follow these tips to find a kid friendly home your future parent self will thank you later.