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Is Your Family Moving? 6 Tips for House Hunting With Kids

Rebecca Desfosse
April 15, 2015

Kids and house hunting? Is it possible? Here are tips for making it work when you want to involve your kids in the home search.

Moving is stressful -- especially for kids who often have no say in the matter. Kids have their roots and memories in their current home and many children would choose to stay where they are if given the choice.

"It's important to involve children in the search for the house, so that they can see the potential of finding 'home' again," says Dr. Kristin A. Perret, a child and adolescent psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Taking your children along when house hunting will help get them excited about the idea of your family moving and relieve a lot of the related stress.

In fact, about half of real estate agents recommend involving kids as best you can when you're searching for a home, according to a 2015 Zillow survey.

Here are six tips for house hunting with kids.

And for more advice to get you through the moving process, go to Care.com/moving.
 

  1. Browse the Internet
    First, sit down with your child and look at some of the houses listed for sale online in your new town or city. While you're browsing, ask your child for some input. "This will allow your child to feel as if he has input into the process, which will, in turn, reduce feelings of helplessness and frustration in not being part of the decision making process," says Dr. Perret. Let your child give his perspective on what he likes -- and doesn't like -- about the houses you find.
     
  2. Don't Drag Them to Every House
    It might be in your best interest to leave your kids at home during the initial search, according to Francesca Messercola, a realtor at Betters Homes and Gardens Rand Realty who has been helping families find new homes for nearly a decade."Unfortunately, it can be distracting for the adults and emotional for the children," she says. If you can, wait until you have narrowed your options down to just a few houses before bringing the kids with you. That way, they won't get overly attached to a particular house only to have it not even be in the running.

    Debating whether or not to bring kids with you to an open house? Here's advice  Navigating an Open House With Kids to help you with the decision.
     
  3. Turn it into a Road Trip
    When you do choose to bring your kids along, make it a fun family event. Arrange a few family activities in the town or neighborhood the day that you're planning on visiting an open house. Visit a local eatery, library or a fun new park that will engage your little one. "The important thing is to encourage the kids to explore and see potential in their new home town so that they can feel a reduced sense of stress and begin to feel a sense of belonging in the new location," says Dr. Perret. To get an idea of some family-fun activities you can plan out in advance, talk with parents in a BigTent community near your new neighborhood.
     
  4. Give Him a Job
    Turn each house visit into an activity for your child. "Try to make a game of the visits. Ask them questions, have them take pictures and let them take notes on the properties you are looking at," suggests Messercola. Depending on your child's age, he can record information about the houses, such as the number of rooms, square footage and amenities. This will help your child remember the homes he visits and will make him feel more included in the process.
     
  5. Set Yourself Up for Success
    Be sure to bring plenty of games, books and small toys for your child to keep her occupied throughout the boring parts of the process. Stock the car with some kid-friendly music or a portable DVD player if you will be driving for an extended period. "I usually will bring small toys (flashlights and measuring tapes work, too) or an iPad," says Messercola. Remember to also pack plenty of snacks and drinks to keep little bellies full. Lastly, try to arrange to look at houses in the morning or after nap time when your kids are happy and limit your search to only a few houses at a time.
     
  6. Get Creative
    If your child seems stressed out by the idea of your family moving, think of unique ways that will engage and involve her in the process as much as possible. "Creative approaches can help both parent and child have a point of connection during a stressful time," says Dr. Perret. Have your kid sketch out their dream house in the car between open houses. When a home's features matches your child's drawing, point out that the backyard pool, nearby park or pink wallpaper fits her criteria.
     

Need more moving tips from the pros? Check out 14 Things People Forget When They Move.

Rebecca Desfosse is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and family topics.

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