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Buying a home

What to look for in a family home


If you're buying a home to live in, odds are you'll want to keep doing so for at least a few years. That means thinking ahead – not just buying a house that meets your needs now, but one that will continue to meet them as your life evolves. For some people, that'll mean making sure there's space for a dog, or a home office for a growing business. And for a lot of people, that means making sure the new house is kid-friendly.

If you don't have children, you should think about whether you may in the next few years. And if you do have children, you should think about how their needs may change; the features you'll want for your baby are different to those you'll want for a toddler, or an older child.

Outdoor space

Does the home you're considering have a secure outdoor area where kids can play? A small deck or paved courtyard may not cut it when your little one's curiosity is matched by their ability to walk (or – even scarier – run!).

In certain high-development areas, big backyards are becoming less common as multiple properties are squeezed onto single blocks of land. If your property doesn't have a backyard, is there a front yard that's fenced off to prevent toddlers toddling onto the street?

Remember to check that, if the house does have a place to play outside, that it's visible from within the house. This will come in handy when your kids are old enough to run outside and play by themselves, but still so young that you'll want to keep one eye on them.

If there is no sizable and safe outdoor area, check whether the property is within walking distance of a park. You'll still have a place for you and your kids to stretch your legs, and you may even get to know your neighbours a little better while you're there.

Stairs

Does the house have a lot of stairs? If so, these can present a safety concern, especially when you have kids with the exploratory spirit of a mini-Magellan. It's not a complete deal breaker, as you can always install safety gates where necessary, but it's something to think about.

Layout

A home's layout is a big factor in how suitable it is for kids. An open-plan living area means that your wayward tot is visible more often, and less likely to crawl into a nook or cranny that hides them from your view.

Also, you should note the distance between the bedrooms. If the master bedroom is a long walk from the other rooms, that may not suit parents of a young child who'll wake up multiple times a night.

Car parking

You'll want to make getting a baby from the car to the house as simple as possible, especially if you're wrangling shopping bags at the same time. A safe, secure parking spot – say, a garage or carport – that's close to the house with minimal obstacles is ideal.

Storage

One thing people don't always tell you when you're thinking of having kids is just how much stuff comes with them. It keeps accumulating, especially around birthdays and Christmas time – clothes, toys, books, toys, furniture, and more toys. A house with ample storage, or with enough space for you to install your own, is a must for soon-to-be parents. Do the bedrooms have large wardrobes? Is the linen cupboard big enough for all the towels, blankets, sheets and so on that you'll have to shove in there?

Kitchen

Kids need to eat (shocking, I know). They also love to cook, especially if there's a chance they'll get to lick icing off the beaters when they're done. A small kitchen, limited in accessibility and storage, isn't very well suited to a growing family. Look for a kitchen that has ample storage space, and preferably one that forms part of an open-plan living area, where you can keep an eye on younger kids if they're in the lounge room while you cook.

Ideally, you'll find a kitchen with these features that can also be gated off, to keep curious young fingers away from hot stoves and sharp knives.

Bathroom

A large bath can make it a lot easier to get your kids clean at bath time, especially if you have more than one. It'll also help if you have enough space to comfortably sit by the bath and dry them off afterwards.

And – as with the rest of the house – the more storage, the better.

Location, location, location

It's the question that every family asks (or should ask) when looking at a property: How close is it to schools (And kindergartens, childcare facilities, etc.)?

Having schools conveniently located is a huge selling point for families, especially since they'll probably be taking advantage of that convenience for years.

Of course, it's not just the location of schools that's important: it's the quality. Parents are naturally concerned that the schools in their area have a strong reputation. It's worth talking to locals, and consulting government sites like My School, to form a clear impression of the schooling options in your area.

Ultimately, every family's needs will be different. Before you commit to any new property, make sure you've thought about what those needs might be. If you're honest and thorough in identifying these needs, it'll be a lot easier to choose the perfect home.

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