8 Things Parents Wish They’d Checked Before Buying Their House

8 Things Parents Wish They'd Checked Before Buying Their House 956x538 blog


  1. Bedroom placement
  2. Sidewalks
  3. An open floor plan
  4. Easy sightlines to the backyard
  5. A flat lot
  6. Hot spots
  7. Amenities within walking distance
  8. The neighbors

[Edited transcript]

1. Bedroom placement

Janice:             Number one, is bedroom placement. She was house hunting as a new mom. Do you remember those days, new parents? All that mattered was that there was a nursery, enough room for a rocker, that was cute, not thinking that the master was on the first floor, and the nursery was on the second floor. Now you think back to when you had infants. You slept maybe what, a few hours a night, and every other moment you’re running to the nursery. Well, now you’ve added in a flight of stairs. That’s one thing to think about is the placement of it. On the flip side of that is, maybe the children rooms are downstairs and the master’s upstairs. I personally wouldn’t like that down the road when they’re a little bit older. It’s just something to think about, where they’re placed. How do you think of that?

Anthony:            Just so everyone listening knows, I’m going to approach this article from the Manhattan perspective and Janice, I’m relying on you to bring the suburban’s perspective. In the city, this is going to sound perhaps very foreign to a lot of people but, number one, you just happen to have more space when you have a kid. You might want to think about this. If you have an apartment that has both street-side facing windows and interior-facing windows, you might want the nursery to be in the bedroom that’s interior-facing because it’ll have less street noise, right?

Janice:             Ah, yeah.

Anthony:            If you want the kid to be able to sleep. That’s just one idea. In terms of apartment placement, in terms of where it is along the hallway, you might want to try to get an apartment that’s further away from the elevator or from the garbage compactor chute because there’s less foot traffic and less noise that might creep into your apartment. I was all into keeping my kids asleep, so that kind of stuff was important to me.

Janice:             Completely agree with you. That was just so important to make sure that they slept. That’s a good point. So, I guess you would have to go outside, and are you looking at a home? Are you looking at an apartment? Are you looking at a duplex? That’s a good point.

2. Sidewalks

Janice:             Of course, they talk about a cul-de-sac is the best option. I’m just going out on a limb and saying that when you’re buying somewhere in Manhattan, you’re not going to have a cul-de-sac. I, however, in the suburbs, we do have that option out here. However, it is really nice if you have sidewalks because that opens up so much more. That’s just something that they said to look at. Can you talk a walk? Can you go somewhere? How does that work in Manhattan? Obviously, no cul-de-sacs.

Anthony:            I think there might be one or two cul-de-sacs in some sort of throwback streets-

Janice:             Maybe.

Anthony:            In the middle of the buildings, right? The more general points would be, in terms of sidewalks, number one, the width of the sidewalks. Depending on where you live, if you live on, for city folks, they might understand, if you live on Broadway for example, the sidewalks may be wide but they’ll be crowded. Whereas if you live on a different avenue, they might be more narrow but less crowded. This matters because pushing your stroller around and having to navigate other pedestrians can be a bit of a bear.

Janice:             Yes.

Anthony:            The width of the sidewalk and how congested they are. In terms of safety, the underlying assumption is you want cul-de-sac because there’s less… I think the underlying assumption is because there’s less car traffic and you can just kind of play. Is that why that’s good?

Janice:             That used to be the case but anymore with the speed of traffic and texting, they whip around the cul-de-sac you still have to be careful. It’s definitely different now.

Anthony:            Here I would say, if you’re the kind of parent who wants to do this, research pedestrian and traffic accidents.

Janice:             Oh, good point.

Anthony:            There are just some intersections that are just substantially more dangerous than others. If you’ve lived in a city a while, you kind of knows which ones they are because the lights are kind of funky, and if a driver isn’t familiar with them they’re going to make the turn when they’re not supposed to, versus some more simplified or easier intersections where everyone knows to stop, kind of thing.

Janice:             That’s a great point because I know there’s a few stop signs around here that I would swear there’s a sign under that say “optional.” Those are in some of the side streets so that’s a good point to look at that.

Anthony:            Just one example, we live by a highway that comes off the George Washington bridge which is where everyone from Upstate New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania is how they enter New York, or many of them. Most of the country, you can do a right turn on red, yes?

Janice:             Yes.

Anthony:            That’s not allowed in the city.

Janice:             How many people actually know that?

Anthony:            Exactly. There’s a lot of folks who unknowingly will make the right turn on a red and if you’re living by a bridge or something that’s close to where out-of-towners are coming, you’re more likely to have that kind of misstep, if you understand.

Janice:             Yes. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah, because you can turn on red here unless it’s expressly written. Interesting.

3. An open floor plan

Janice:             I kind of agree but, kind of disagree with this one because now with this HDTV, everyone wants an open floor plan, they want to see the sight lines. The way it is now you want everything open which is beautiful but, I remember when my kids were little and if they had that much room to have full reign, I think that would have been a little more stressful. Whereas if we had rooms that I could cordon off that’s one less room to clean that they couldn’t get into, that you had to baby proof. That’s just me, personally. I think when you’re looking at it and you’re seeing an open floor plan, think about that. Are you okay with the child having full reign of everything, or did you want to have a family room that you could just leave adult? That kind of thing. I know it’s probably different in Manhattan, how about it?

Anthony:            This is totally foreign. That would be an extra bedroom, right there.

4. Easy sightlines to the backyard

Janice:             This is more of a suburbs thing because you can have a backyard, and you can situate where you want to have your… some people work from home, where they want their bedrooms, so they can see the backyard. It’s not always completely possible, but it’s a really nice bonus if you can just look outside and see them playing on the swing set. The author made the comment here about whiffle ball out back. My children alone spent at least eight hours a day playing whiffle ball out back with the kids, so it was fantastic to work inside, look outside, everybody’s fine, but again, a little different in Manhattan.

Anthony:            There are some similar type situations. Let’s say number one, there are brownstones or townhouses that have backyard areas but, if my memory serves me correctly in those cases they’re kind of linear. You pretty much always have a sight line to that backyard area. Another corollary would be if your building or community of buildings has a shared playground or courtyard where the kids play, then you might want to have a unit that’s facing the courtyard so you can keep an eye on the kids from your unit.

Janice:             Oh.

Anthony:            The drawback to that is if you have a unit that’s facing the shared playground it might get a little noisy. You’ve got to figure out what’s right for you.

Janice:             Part of the trade-off, to see which way works for you at that point.

5. A flat lot

Janice:             Again, that’s something maybe outside of the city. Around where I live there’s lots of rock and there’s lots of mountains, so you may have a flat lot, you may not, but it talks about here, if you have an extreme hill in your yard that could pose some problems with the children. Can they not even play out back because it’s so steep and it ends up in a ravine? That’s something to think about although it looks really pretty with the rolling hills, can they ever play outside?

Anthony:            This actually does kind of apply to Manhattan. Proper Manhattan in particular has a lot of hills and valleys. It may be not for your particular unit, you’re in an apartment, but your street. If it’s on the top or a bottom of a very steep hill, and you’re about to have a kid, don’t underestimate what a pain it’ll be to push that stroller up that hill every time you’re coming home.

Janice:             That’s a good point.

Anthony:            Or the flip side, if you’re going down a steep hill, things get icy here in the winter, and it can be kind of treacherous. Steep hills can be a problem here as well.

6. Hot spots

Janice:             Okay, very interesting. It seems like then she almost flips in this article and starts leaning more towards a little bit of the Manhattan area where she talks about hot spots in older homes. For example, radiators and crates. They get hot in the winter. You’ve got all the steam outside, radiators, baseboard heating. That’s something you have to think about. If you have a crawler in the house and you have baseboard heating, that could definitely pose a problem. If you do live somewhere that you can fix that, that’s going to be dependent but you’re going to really want to take that into consideration if you’re going to have a crawler or a bunch of crawlers for the next quite a few years through winter.

Anthony:            This is an issue in the city. What they call pre-war buildings, which I think are buildings built before 1945, I don’t know the exact definition. They tend to have radiators and hot water heating systems. You’ll have these radiators that are super hot to the touch. You will scald yourself. My personal philosophy is, because I grew up in a building like that, you get burned once and you learn your lesson.

Janice:             So, you grew up knowing don’t touch those. It hurts.

Anthony:            Do not touch that thing. There’s no need to build a box around the radiator or worry about it too much, unless your kid doesn’t learn quickly.

Janice:             That’s a good point. You may not have any control. Everywhere you’re looking that may be the only kind of heat, and you might just have to work around it.

Anthony:            It’s actually better heat than the pushed air heating systems because that’s super dry.

Janice:             Yeah, forced air.

Anthony:            The radiators are much better for your skin in the winter.

7. Amenities within walking distance

Janice:             I would also have put “slash driving distance” because depending on where you live you may only be able to drive there. You may only be able to walk there. She talks about playground, day care. Depending on where you live, you may want that, or you may want to be far away from that, but if you have kids, you’re probably going to want to venture out. Just look what’s around you. Is there things you can do that aren’t a two-hour drive? Like you said, within walking distance in the city. What’s around? What can you get to?

Anthony:            In the city there will always be good stuff in walking distance. The question is what kind of stuff is that? What I mean by that is, if you’re living in Midtown or Flat Iron or SoHo, I guess you would maybe call those the more hip areas. Yeah, sure, there’re going to be a lot of great cafes and restaurants and bars but will there be a pediatrician? I don’t know about that.

Janice:             True.

Anthony:            Or day cares, or children’s museums, that kind of stuff-

Janice:             Yes.

Anthony:            Within walking distance. A lot of people don’t know this, there are a lot of neighborhoods in Manhattan that are super kid friendly, that are-

Janice:             Oh.

Anthony:            Yeah, within five blocks you’ll have six different playgrounds, two different pediatricians, all sorts of choices. Don’t expect that to happen in Times Square.

Janice:             Right, right, but again, if you can just keep your eye out for something like that. Are you going to have to get in the car and travel to go somewhere, or is it a couple of blocks over? You definitely want to look outside of your area, a good radius around.

8. The neighbors

Janice:             Finally, she talks about the neighbors. She specifically stated that it would not be good to hear a year later that you were living nextdoor to a sex offender. I would encourage everyone, of course, you can look that up online before you move. There’s a website and I’m sure you’ll put the link to the whole article in there, and it explains how to get online and look for that. Of course, you want to check that out. It changes all the time, so maybe check every couple of years if you want to. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I would also add in with the neighbors if you have kids, you probably can’t tell right away if they’re going to be quiet, but if you walk in and you see a whole group next door living in their 20s to 25, I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t exactly quiet at that age. You maybe want to feel that out if you have a couple of party houses around you. [crosstalk 00:13:42]

Anthony:            The flip side to that, I don’t know how much research you want to do but if the apartment below you for example, is retirees or elderly folks who will complain every time your kid bounces a ball, that might not be the best unit for you either, from a city perspective.

Janice:             True. Very true. Really, I would say, with number eight, I would go with your whole surroundings for neighbors. What do they like? Will you fit, and will they fit? Because it’s kind of a back and forth, like you said.



Original post by Cathie Ericson (@CathieEricson, on LinkedIn)

How to Buy Your Perfect First Home” on Amazon (https://amzn.to/2Szksrf)

Download the Episode

Buying a home? Pick up a copy of my book:

home buy cover

How to Buy Your Perfect First Home: What Every First-time Homebuyer Needs to Know

Available at Amazon.com

Questions answered in the book:

A testimonial from a reader:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Very comprehensive – covers all important points and even points I hadn’t considered.  Style is straightforward, practical, no BS… and I liked that there was even a little bit of humor sprinkled in. Loved the checklists — what questions to ask; what to look for during open houses; how to get finances in order; etc.”

*Disclosure: Links to my book are “affiliate links,” and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.