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. 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 — and then share your own ideas in the Comments.
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.
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 — in a mudroom or off the kitchen, for instance — comes in incredibly 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.
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.
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.
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), and storage space for bath toys and extra towels, and if you have a large family, multiple faucets are a big plus.
7. Bonus space. When you have kids, extra space is always a good thing. Look for an area of the home that has the potential to be used in a number of different ways, from playroom to home office to nursery for a future sibling. If the space (attic, basement) is not finished, find out what it would take to make this area usable in the future.
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.
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.
Tell us: Do you have kids in the house? What features do you love the most (or wish you had) in your home?
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