Buying a home is a process: defining your budget and your “need-to-haves” versus your “nice-to-haves” requires a serious conversation with yourself. Buying a family home is a whole other beast. With children (future, on the way, or already born), you'll have to predict and foresee what you and your family will need in the years to come -- a hard thing to do for even the most A-type planners among us.
Through my own personal experience as a mother and my professional career as a realtor, I have learned what people commonly overlook when buying a family home. Here are 8 key things to look for when searching for your first family home!
1. Location is still everything. Getting around the city is challenging, but it’s twice as hard with a baby or child in tow. While a charming location like the West Village may be your ideal neighborhood to spend a Sunday exploring, that doesn’t mean it’s where you should be looking for your first family home. Beyond the obvious, like proximity to schools, practicality becomes key. Being near a drug store, grocery, playground and a wide array of kid-friendly restaurants becomes more important than having a cool place for coffee. Trust me, you will adjust.
2. You need a bathtub. While a standing rain shower is chic, it’s a pain to wash even the most well-behaved toddler in without soaking yourself. A tub with a shower head allows your bathroom to service both a baby and you. Also, should you choose to sell your home, buyers will notice the lack of tubs. It’s a big negative of some of the new construction builds.
3. Noise. Most buyers worry about being on a low floor, at a busy cross section or next to a late-night venue or hospital, which increases noise from the street. But what about what I call “day noise?” If you have young children who are napping during the day or are asleep at 6:30 PM (wishful thinking), the general noise level is something to consider, as odds are, while you may be out of the house all day, your child won’t be. Charming prewar windows are a nice perk but may need a practical upgrade, like double pane new windows or city quiet windows. Remember that making upgrades like these can add cost to a transaction.
4. Monthlies. When you become a family, costs naturally go up. Food, child care, school and so on -- your monthly costs will grow. While it’s commonplace to say that your housing costs shouldn’t be more than 25% of your monthly income, even that can feel oppressive when you are adding new reoccurring family related costs monthly. Slightly higher monthlies that didn’t faze you pre-kids may begin to feel taxing.
5. Lobby and Elevator. A more short-term concern: that incredibly charming non-doorman building or the amazing pre-war lobby with all the stairs? Or the tiny elevator? Not ideal for the baby years (and all the heavy baby stuff that comes with them). If you know that you'll be hauling a stroller on a daily basis, you may want to consider a building that has an elevator big enough for your stroller.
6. Laundry. Many people think an in-unit washer/dryer is not necessary – they send their laundry out or do laundry once a week. With a growing family, having easy access to a laundry every day – whether it’s in your apartment, on your floor or at least in your building, is a necessity.
7. Layout flexibility. Some people get very hung up on the perfect layout for their life right now. However, having a family means that your life will go through countless iterations. Having a layout that is flexible – whether that means turning a den or part of a common space into a third bedroom or a small nook that could be a makeshift nursery or playroom becomes as valuable as the flow from the dining to living room or a well-placed powder room.
8. Resale Value. Last, but not least, your first family home is not the place to overpay or do a very specific/costly renovation. Even the most carefully laid family planning can go awry, and you can end up needing to sell or move from a home faster than the recommended five year-stay to recoup your investment.
As a native New Yorker, Allison (Alli) Chiaramonte has been honing her passion for New York City real estate since birth. With a real estate attorney and a real estate investor/manager for parents, Alli has real estate in her blood. Alli works for Warburg Realty and brings an enhanced understanding of luxury marketing, design aesthetics, negotiation strategy and best-in-class customer service. She's also bought, sold and renovated multiple properties personally and is now a parent and homeowner on the Upper East Side.