Congrats! You're in the market for a new house. You found a great Realtor and have your pre-approval letter in hand. After searching (realtor.com) online and narrowing down your list, you're ready to start actually going to some prospective homes. Before you go property-hopping, though, there are some pint-size participants to consider: your kids.
We all know home buying is a complex and sometimes overwhelming process. And if you've seen Pixar's " Inside Out," you'll be vividly reminded of just how downright terrifying and emotional a move can be for kids. After all, it's a new home, new neighborhood, new friends, and new schools. That's a lot of new stuff for tiny humans to process.
Here are tips from two Realtors who have children and have helped numerous parents survive the house-hunting process with their family (and sanity) fully intact.
Whenever possible, don't bring your brood
Parents might not like to hear it, but most real estate agents agree that its best if kids, especially the 9-and-under crowd, are left at home during showings.
"Kids are a distraction," says Kevin Curtis, a Realtor in Minneapolis, MN. He's the proud dad of two tweens. "Parents tend to spend more time watching their kids instead of looking at homes, and later they don't remember much about the properties we've looked at. The process has to be productive."
So hire a baby sitter or ask a relative to watch your kids during showings. Another option? Take an extended lunch break or half-day from work, when the kids are in school or at day care.
But if they must come, keep them busy (for your sanity as much as theirs)
If child care options are scarce and you're in a time crunch, keep the diminutive ones as busy as possible so you and your spouse can focus on the task at hand.
"An iPad is a wonderful thing on showings," says Lauren Sheehan, a Realtor in Portland, OR. "Make sure you have plenty of snacks and drinks with you, too. And if your kids are very young, ask your agent to break up showings over a few days."
Beware: Walking through owner-occupied homes where young kids live can be incredibly distracting for your own children, who will likely be fighting the urge to dig into others' toys. Help them fight this temptation by coming well-equipped with their favorite games and activities, Sheehan advises.
Maximize your time at each showing
Plan on spending 10 to 15 minutes at each property. If you've come prepared with the aforementioned diversions, you'll get in and out with minimal meltdowns and distractions. If you walk into a property and know right away that you don't love it, speak up so you can all move on to the next listing. You don't want to waste time when your kids are in tow.
To make the day flow smoothly, Curtis says most of his clients will follow him in their own cars so they don't have to deal with transferring car seats or moving toys and kids' essentials around.
"Taking their own car also gives mom and dad a chance to discuss, in private, their impressions of the properties we're seeing," Curtis says.
Build the excitement for them
Once you've chosen the right home, sit down with your kids (depending on their ages) and explain what they can expect in the weeks ahead. Sheehan finds that younger children love the idea of getting to "choose" their own bedroom and picking out decor.
Sheehan says older children might have more trouble adjusting to a move, so she advises parents to have an open discussion about the process early on.
"Don't spring this on them at the last minute," Sheehan cautions. "After you're under contract, bring your kids on a walk-through so they can see the house and share their opinions about it."
"Your attitude is everything, and it's up to you to provide reassurance that the move is a good thing," Curtis agrees. "Find pictures of new schools, parks, and nearby attractions, and show them to your kids. It helps build excitement for them -- and it keeps everyone in a positive frame of mind."
So take a deep breath, Mom and Dad -- you've got this! Happy house hunting!