How to choose a home for a growing family

It’s never been easy to buy a home for a growing family; nowadays parents have even more to think about when ensuring the property meets the needs of their children and themselves.

Shaun Rademeyer, CEO of SA’s biggest mortgage originator, BetterLife Home Loans, says the first thing to consider is that you can change almost anything about a home except its location. Therefore, choosing the right area is essential.

Other important factors include:

  • Safety and security: Children need safe places to play and to meet or visit with their friends. This is one of the reasons that gated developments and closed-off neighbourhoods are so popular with family homebuyers.
  • Good schools close to home: As well as wanting to provide a quality education, most parents with school-going children would like to save time spent travelling to-and-fro for sporting and other extra-mural activities, and thus don’t want to live too far from the school gates.
  • Other families: It’s great to live in an area where many of your neighbours are at a similar stage of life and your children can all grow up together.
  • Proximity to work:  Spending more time with their children and less time commuting to and from work is a major consideration for most parents.

The next thing to think about, says Rademeyer, is a home that will “grow with you” as your family’s needs change, and some features to look for in that regard are:

  • Lots of storage: Having children means having more stuff. Make sure your home has long-term storage like a basement or shed as well as plenty of easy-access storage like closets and cabinets. It is also really useful to have an additional room that can be used as a playroom or as a music and computer room for older children
  • The correct floorplan: Some family homes have the master bedroom at the opposite end of the house to the children’s bedrooms, and that may be appealing to the parents of teenagers. However, those with young children will probably feel more secure having all the bedrooms together.
  • Family space: You may not be an award-winning chef, but a good kitchen can be a major gathering place for a family. It’s also a good idea to look for a home with a large informal living space that everyone can enjoy together.
  • Extra accommodation: Working parents with young children may also need a home with room to accommodate a full-time au-pair or nanny, and those with older families might also need extra space for grandparents to visit or even live.

Then finally, it is really important for buyers to be realistic about what they can afford – taking into account the additional expenses involved in raising children and saving for long-term goals such as tertiary education or their own retirement, advises Rademeyer.

“Small children may need daycare, for example, and the cost of private schooling for older children is very high. Then there are things like school field trips and sports tours, extramural classes and family holidays to include in the budget.

“All of these activities come at a cost and may affect the size of home loan for which parents can qualify, and thus what they can afford to pay for the family home. Indeed, we always suggest that they consult a reputable mortgage originator such as BetterLife Home Loans so they can establish their property budget before they go house-hunting.”