How to find the perfect family home

Two mothers describe their recent experiences of finding and moving into their new ‘perfect’ family homes

Moving can be stressful at the best of times, but moving with a young family or during pregnancy can be even trickier. Finding a great property can make it feel worth it, but what should you look for when it comes to finding the perfect family home?

Location, location, location

We all know that location is a key consideration when it comes to choosing a new home. Ideally, it will be in a safe neighbourhood near a local park, good schools and local amenities, and will offer a great view.

Location was a key concern for Dawn Martin, who moved in December with her partner and her two-year-old while she was pregnant. ‘We were looking for a good preschool for our daughter within walking distance and a nice area to bring a family up in,’ says Norfolk-based Dawn. ‘We were hoping to get a bigger house but sacrificed that for area.’

Being in the right area was also a major factor for Nikki Wickham, who recently moved into a 1930s semi-detached house in Kent. ‘We have two children in a very good school so our third gets in on sibling link, but we still have to be within two miles,’ she explains.

Safety first

Another key concern is safety. It is best to avoid living on a busy road, picking a property with a perilous garden or buying a house that is full of hazards. A narrow winding staircase, for example, can be risky when your children start to walk or if you need to carry them upstairs.

‘We lived on quite a busy road before with a bisected garden and this was a big no-no for our new home, which is in a lovely quiet cul-de-sac with access to fields,’ Dawn shares.

Nikki explains: ‘We wanted somewhere where I could see the kids in the garden if I was in the kitchen or the dining room, so we could keep an eye on them.’ She adds: ‘Some properties had those big windows that were floor level and opened out, so we were looking out for that, and banisters or stairs that were open.’

Size matters

If you have children or are planning to have children, it is worth looking for a property that has plenty of space, with a bedroom for each child if possible. It is also worth looking for large play areas inside the house and in the garden.

Nikki says: ‘The main things really were a good downstairs family living space and a garden. Storage was also important – we have a loft and a garage – and the entrance hallway needed to be big enough for storing coats, shoes and so on.

‘We looked for a home that was big enough for us now, but at a later stage we can put an extension on or do stuff to it to make it bigger still. That was quite a big thing.’

Be prepared to compromise

Both Nikki and Dawn realised during their searches for the perfect family home that it was impossible to tick every single box, and that some compromises had to be made.

‘You’re never going to get everything you want,’ says Nicki. ‘We’ve got three children but we’ve only got three bedrooms, so two of them are sharing at the moment. To begin with I wanted four bedrooms so they each had their own bedroom, but to get everything we wanted was proving more difficult, so we settled for three in the end, but we can actually add a fourth bedroom on.’

Dawn had a similar experience. ‘We were hoping to get a bigger house but sacrificed that for area. We never thought of looking at a bungalow being in our early thirties, but were pleasantly surprised with the layout. It has three good-sized bedrooms and room to extend if we wish to in the future. The garden’s not too bad on size either.’

Five dos and don’ts of picking the perfect home

Don’t rely on your emotions. It’s easy to fall in love with a place without thinking practically about what you and your family need, so avoid making any snap decisions.

Do check out the neighbourhood. ‘Have a wander round,’ advises Dawn. ‘We found that when we did this, if we bumped into anyone they would either smile or say hello, which was very nice, especially nowadays. We visited the preschool and took into account how far we were from the shops.’

Don’t blow your budget. You may be tempted to splash out on an expensive property, but don’t tie yourself into a mortgage that will squeeze every last penny out of you.

Do think about the condition of the house. Find out how old the boiler is and how well insulated the property is. Look out for damp, dodgy electrical work and subsidence. Ideally, your new home will only need minor alterations before you move in.

Don’t get carried away. Avoid properties or gardens that will be impossible to keep looking nice because they are so big.

Dealing with the move

Nikki Wickham’s family had outgrown their flat so they decided to sell up. However, when their house purchase fell through, she, her partner and their three young children put their belongings into storage and lived in a hotel for two months. They eventually moved into their new home five days before Christmas.

Nikki says: ‘Although it was quite stressful for us, it was all about keeping the children thinking it was all a big adventure; that we were going to go and stay in a hotel and that it would be fun. They absolutely loved it. They probably dealt with it better than we did!

‘We got them to pack their own little box with their favourite toys in. They took their favourite things and they were quite happy.’