Anyone who says being a parent is easy may just be plain evil, but it can be made easier. Your family home can either work with you, or against you. For instance: while you struggle to carry the groceries from the car up the garage steps, your child has scaled their way to the top of your head and is now brandishing a toy figurine like King Kong. You love them, so you let them continue because you think you’re home safe. But you have forgotten about those two steps that lead down to the kitchen. As you collapse to the ground with your toddler gleefully yelling “Timber!”, you imagine the cruelties you would inflict on the architect who decided steps down to a kitchen were a good idea. On top of this, your kid might be giggling but you have just felt that squelch of the eggs that have broken your fall.
Avoid scrambling your eggs: what to look out for in a family home
Avoid floorplans that don’t suit how your family works on a day by day basis. As babies and toddlers, your kids often need attention throughout the night, for feeds and for a soothing hand as they battle all those colds. The last thing you want is to have to navigate stairs at three in the morning. A family home with multiple living areas also means multiple baby gates and monitoring of toddlers’ whereabouts. Look for more open plan living as a new parent, where for the next five years you won’t have to look far to find the top of their heads darting about.
If you ask most people to recall some favourite memories of their childhood, more often than not they take you back to a ball game or hide and seek outside in the garden. There is a magic in the limitless possibilities a garden offers to a child. Consider homes where you can create healthy, outdoor memories with your kids.
With competitive markets and increasing property costs, this isn’t always easy. If you need to sacrifice on the yard, is there parkland close by?
Room for improvement
Even if the home suits your needs now, is there room for renovating? If not, can the existing floorplan cater to changing lifestyles? If it is clear you will need to sell and find a new home in five years, be sure that this won’t leave you in a risky financial position. Real estate is often a long term game and it is hard to predict how the market will perform in one year let alone five.
This is an obvious one for those with future teenagers and needs no explanation. If your house only has one bathroom, is there room to add another in the future?
Beyond any necessary renovations, what about short term upkeep? If the family home is fully carpeted, will this be easier or harder to keep clean? Consider floorboards as an alternative, and an achievable and relatively quick renovation. How easy will it be to keep living and kitchen areas clean? Does the backyard need constant attention?
This is definitely on the mind of every parent, and for good reason. As a parent, you want your kids to be close to good schools. As an investor, it is important to recognise the value of school zoning on capital growth. It is up to you to decide how much of a priority schools play in your buying process. Remember that there are more and more high-quality schools developing in areas with more affordable properties.
Finally, what are the neighbours like? It is a cultural norm in Japan to see children as young as five travelling to school alone. While you may not be ready for this degree of separation, you do want a safe neighbourhood for your kids to grow up independently. Seek out properties with close access to facilities and amenities a young family may want, such as libraries, shops, community centres and pools. Look around the local shopping hubs of suburbs to get an idea of parenting and family community groups that can provide you with a backdrop of support through those early years.