Tips for House Hunting with Kids

By Hans Brings

Buying a house is in equal parts exhilarating
and nerve wracking. Unless you have that perfect house just waiting for you,
financing ready to go, and no competing offers, your home search can be time
consuming and fraught with ups and downs. Add your kids into the mix, and you
might feel completely overwhelmed before you even get started.

There are
many compelling reasons to include your kids in your home search. Moving can be
a tough proposition for children, especially if they have to change schools and
make new friends. Small children might simply miss the familiarity of the home
in which they've grown up. Including kids in the search for your new home can be
empowering for them. They can feel that they have a say in the final decision –
the degree to which they actually do is up to you, but certainly most parents
feel that a new home has to be just right for the entire family.

If you
are moving towns, in a time crunch, or if you don't have childcare in the area,
you might find yourself going on a house hunt with your kids in tow. Here are a
few tips that can help you make your home search an experience that is tolerable
– or even exciting – for the entire family.

The more information you can find out ahead of time about the property
either online or from your real estate agent, the better background you'll have
to target areas of concern or interest when you go for the showing. Make lists
of everything you're looking for in a home and screen out any houses that don't
fit your needs.

Take your time. If possible, don't cram
all your showings into one day. If a full day of showings seems like a marathon
to you, just imagine how worn your children's patience will

Plan the day. Do you have a contingency plan in the
case of a meltdown? Can you take turns viewing the home with your spouse and
compare notes in the car?

Bring provisions. You'll need
ample snacks, drinks, and entertainment like books, crayons, and sketchbooks.
Portable DVD players, laptops, iPads, iPods, and handheld video games can work
wonders for "bored" kids, especially if you ordinarily limit their time with
such devices – and the promise of some technology time can serve as a reward for
good behavior during each showing. Make sure you're stocked with diapers, wipes,
and paper towels for any messes on the go.

Set ground
Lay out your expectations for your kids' behavior before you
even embark on your day, outlining things they must not do while they are
"guests" in someone else's home. Let them understand that you won't tolerate
running, fighting, sitting on furniture, or fiddling with other people's
belongings. Keep careful track of all of your kids at all times to make sure
they are observing the rules.

Take breaks. Have lunch a
restaurant your kids enjoy or take a midday break for ice cream or some other
treat. Stop at a park or playground in one of the neighborhoods you visit. You
can make the day a fun adventure that the kids enjoy and

Take notes and photos so that you
can revisit the details of each property later on when you are free from
distractions. If you find yourself with questions later on, you can contact your
agent for answers.

Prioritize. Make sure to visit the
homes that most interest you early in the day so that you don't end up missing
them if you have to cut the day short. If there are any homes that would be
"nice to see," but not compelling, save them until the end of the day and only
visit them if the family is holding together well.

Buying a new home is
one of the most important decisions you can make. It's imperative to make a
sound choice that will assure your happiness down the road. Including your kids
in your home search doesn't have to be difficult if you plan your search with
them in mind. You might find that they have questions about a property that you
haven't thought of – and their additional perspective could prove useful when
you finally make your decision.