Late summer and early fall are traditionally times when families get serious about home buying. According to the National Association of Realtors® Profile on Home Buyers and Sellers, 8 in 10 home buyers worked with an agent to purchase a home in 2015, and agent use is even higher among buyers ages 36 to 50 (87 percent) and 35 and younger (89 percent)—the demographics most likely to have school-aged children.
While in the past buyers placed a premium on school districts, times and tastes have changed. These days, home buyers with children are also interested in the layout of a house, and they have a checklist of features they’re looking for.
City dwellers tend to prefer townhouses, condos, and apartments that are within walking distance to kid-friendly amenities, and that have elevators for easily hauling strollers and bags up and down stairs. Suburban and rural customers, on the other hand, usually look for wide-open green spaces for playtime, and neighborhoods where they can connect with other families with children.
Most home buyers with younger children want a fenced-in yard, preferably flat, where kids can play safely, away from traffic. A mud room or breezeway serves as a spot to deposit shoes and coats after muddy or snowy play sessions. Even better: a mud room with a bench or built-in unit with storage cubbies, which doubles as a place to pull on shoes and corral backpacks, dog leashes, hats and gloves, and other accessories.
Wide stairs—such as from the garage into the house, or between floors—are especially appealing to families with small children, and make it easy for a parent to carry a child, a laundry basket, or grocery bags up and down.
The majority of families will ask specifically to see properties with an eat-in kitchen or an open kitchen/living room. A kitchen island with a breakfast bar is a sought-after spot not only for casual meals, but as a place for kids to do homework, play board games, or do craft projects while Mom and Dad are cooking, assembling lunches, and cleaning. Likewise, many families now prefer an office nook within the main living area to a dedicated home office. This allows adults to be more available to their children during work sessions, and helps them keep an eye on their kids’ online surfing habits.
A dedicated indoor play area is a huge bonus for a home. Whether this is rec room in the basement or an extra bedroom repurposed as a playroom, a play area allows the family to contain most toys and other kid-size messes to a single room.
A must: At least two full bathrooms. If one of those bathrooms has two sinks, so that more than one family member can get ready for the day or for bed at a time, the house is likely to be even more appealing. A laundry room on the main living floor is especially beneficial for parents of children who are too small to be left unattended.
Modern families are looking for homes with plenty of storage and organization—closets with racks and shelves that can be reconfigured to fit different types and sizes of items, as well as storage nooks in unexpected spaces, such as under staircases.
A space that’s both large and flexible enough to accommodate a family’s changing needs. For example, as children turn into teenagers, many will want a separate living area. A house that has bedrooms on two floors offers Mom and Dad the ability to keep kids close when they’re young, then move them upstairs as they get older—and turn the downstairs into their own private sanctuary.
When marketing or showing a home to a family, be sure to highlight these types of features. The parents will be grateful you’ve kept their specific needs in mind, and the kids will be tickled to discover a fun feature like a playroom or a moveable bookcase with storage behind it. The more points you can help check off the family’s wish list, the more likely they are to view you as a trusted partner in the home-buying process.