Tips for Successful House-Hunting with Kids
Dreading the thought of house-hunting with your little ones? Read on for some tips on how to make it a little less daunting and a little more manageable.
It’s no secret that the housing market in Canada is tough right now. Prospective home buyers can expect several months of searching for a home, with countless viewings and open houses before finding “the one.” Although the madness has slowed somewhat in recent weeks, it is still a crazy time to buy. Throw some kids in the mix, and it’s almost unbearable.
When my husband received a job offer in a town an hour and a half away, we both had mixed feelings. We had recently come to embrace the city we grew up in and love the home we had made together, but the prospect of my husband commuting three hours each day was daunting. We decided to begin the search for a new home.
Let me tell you, trying to find a house in a town over an hour away from your current home is beyond stressful when you have little ones to tote along. Besides the logistics of it all—the sheer inconvenience of so much driving and entertaining irritated babies—the general stress that accompanies such a big life decision is definitely felt by the kiddos. They, too, know and love your home and will likely express some opposition to the move.
After over six months of searching for a home, I developed some helpful strategies to make the process a little less painful. Hopefully you’ll find something useful here too.
Keep the discussion around home buying to a minimum when the kids are around…
We definitely made this mistake. The decision to move and uproot your whole family is a big one and it requires a lot of discussion and research. Waiting until you’re alone to talk can be tough to do when alone time is already so scarce. But constantly having intense conversations about moving in front of your children is sure to increase the level of anxiety in your home. The goal is to get your kids excited about the house-hunting process, not dread it.
…but don’t leave your children in the dark completely.
At the same time, you don’t want to leave your children out of the loop. This decision will affect them too, and it’s important to make them feel like they’re a part of the family unit whose opinions and feelings are valued. Set aside some time to explain the situation to your child and give them the opportunity to ask lots of questions. Our daughter was very concerned about leaving all of her belongings behind. Once we explained that we would be taking everything but the walls, she was a lot more excited about the opportunities the move would provide.
Whenever possible, find a sitter for viewings or meetings with realtors.
Let’s be honest, viewing homes is not a fun time for most kids. They have to follow you around while you examine every nook and cranny and aren’t allowed to touch anything. Then they get to sit and watch you iron out the details with your realtor for about a half hour or so. Fun times! Do everyone a favour, and enlist some help. Find a sitter who will come to your home so that you can avoid having to pack up and take them anywhere at all, then leave some fun activities for them to do while you’re gone.
Prepare for the car ride.
If you’re unable to find a sitter, or if you’re trying to save some of that hard earned cash for the house itself, be sure to make the whole experience as pleasant as possible, especially if you’re travelling long distances. Pack a bag with some books, crayons, stickers or activity books that they’ve never seen before. Squeeze in the back with your kids and play with them. Sing. Dance. Do whatever it takes to make the car rides enjoyable.
Plan an adventure.
Whenever we were visiting new cities, we did a little research beforehand. We mapped out the library as well as nearby parks and trails, packed a picnic and planned for a fun-filled day. It took a lot of work, but it was worth it. Not only did the kids get excited about the house-hunting process, but we were able to get a feel for the city and its amenities. Win-win.
Talk about your feelings. And theirs.
Moving is hard for everyone. Be honest with your kids about your feelings and they will be more likely to open up to you. Allow your kids to be sad, but help them see all of the opportunities that change can bring. Once you know exactly what is bothering your child, you’ll be better equipped to help them think positively. On a particularly difficult day for my daughter, who was feeling worried about leaving her friends behind, she and my partner made a list of all the fun things we could do as a family in our new city. The anxiety dissipated and the excitement set in.
There’s no way around it: searching for a new home is exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Any little thing you can do to make it easier on your family unit will be worth it. On difficult days, try to focus on all the reasons you’ve decided to move and don’t forget—it’ll all be over soon(ish)!