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Navigating an Open House With Kids

Victoria Georgoff
April 15, 2015

Not sure if you need to find a sitter for a day of open house viewings? Here are a few pros and cons of taking your kids along.

When at the beginning stages of looking for a new house, you browse online listings, set up appointments with a real estate agent and, of course, attend an open house -- or 50 of them. But what do you do when you have a little one (or two) in tow? Should you bring your kids or leave them with a family member or sitter?

When making the decision that is right for your family, you have many factors to take into consideration, including the age of your children, your parenting style and how well the children are dealing with the idea of moving and change in general.

Here are some pros and cons to help you make your decision. And for more great advice on the moving process, go to Care.com/moving.

Why You Should Bring Your Kids to an Open House
About half of parents bring their kids on house tours, according to a 2015 Zillow survey of real estate agents. Is that a good thing?

  • Instills feelings of inclusion."It is good for kids to see the homes you are interested in, because they feel included and it helps them to visualize where they are going to be. You can also make a better decision based on their emotional responses to the home(s)," says Anne Voilette, the creator of FunMomBlog and author of "Smooth Moving".
  • Reduces anxiety. Attending an open house may reduce your children's stress about moving. The "new house" is no longer an abstract concept, and it becomes more concrete and real by visiting potential new homes.
  • May make you more competitive. "Open houses can be competitive for rental properties. The agent influences the owner by making suggestions as to who she considers may be the best tenants -- demonstrating your children are at the good end of the spectrum will help in your application," says Kylie Bevan, a health and relocation coach, author of "Your Relocation Solution" and 15-time intercontinental mover.
  • Validates their opinions. Cynthia Bowman, a consultant and speaker on parenting and travel, an experienced intercontinental mover and the founder of JoyJournist.com, recommends including older kids in the process by asking their opinions. "They will like that you consider their opinion. Communicate with them as you move from room to room of what each room is for, and ask them to imagine how they would like the room to look."

Why You Should NOT Bring Your Kids to an Open House
According to that same Zillow survey, half of agents suggest not bringing kids with you when viewing houses, to cut down on distractions. Here are some other reasons.

  • Risk of damage. Violette explains, "The cons are obvious ...you don't want them wrecking someone else's home or acting unruly while you're trying to talk to the real estate agent." Accidents happen, and it's possible your child could unintentionally break or spill something during the open house.
  • Emotional outbursts. If your child is upset at the thought of moving, she may have throw a temper tantrum or act out because she doesn't want to look at the house.
  • Distracting for everyone."Your focus may be more on your child's activity than the features of the property," warns Bevan. Wrangling the kids may distract you, lowering your attention to detail and making it harder to pay attention to the house itself. Even if you are able to tune your rowdy kids out, your children may disrupt other interested buyers who are looking at the same time.
  • Boring for kids. Toddlers, and even older children, can become bored easily -- and a bored child is a restless and irritable child. At worst children may become rambunctious and destructive, and at best they may ruin the fun for everyone else and cut the outing short.
  • Confusion. Your child may become attached to homes you aren't interested in and be confused as to why you aren't buying the one they want.

5 Tips for Bringing Kids to an Open House
If you do decide to bring your kids with you when you look at homes, here are things to keep in mind.

  1. Go at the Right Time
    Don't set yourself up for disaster by dragging along a child who is cranky or tired.

    “Timing is everything when it comes to young kids," says Amy Bohutinsky, chief marketing officer of Zillow. "Limit the number of houses you tour in the day and make sure you go when your child is rested and well-fed."
  2. Make It Fun
    Give your kids a special task to do. Bowman recommends giving your kids a camera so they can take pictures as you walk around the house. You can also give older kids a tape measure, sketch pad and colored pencils so they can measure the dimensions of their potential future room and plan the layout and room color.
  3. Prepare Them
    Talk to your kids about proper behavior when you are in someone else's home. Concentrate on not touching items that don't belong to them, especially when you tour another child's bedroom or play room.
  4. Work as a Team
    "If at all possible, take two people. One to keep the kids occupied, while the other person talks one-on-one with the real estate agent," Violette recommends. After one person has seen the house, you can flip roles if need be.
  5. Ignore the Pets
    Remind your child not to touch animals that do not know them in case there are pets present.

Want more moving tips? Check out this Moving With Kids Checklist.

Victoria Georgoff is a freelance writer and psychotherapist who enjoys writing about parenting, helping other parents and, of course, being a parent herself. Follow her on Twitter.

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