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Q&A: Do I Need a Bigger Home?

Q. Should I move to a bigger house to make more room for my growing family?

A. Don't call your real estate agent yet. Having a big house with plenty of room for children is nice, but it's not always the right solution. Here are some things to consider before putting up that "for sale" sign.

Emotional concerns. Expectant parents often overlook an important consideration: Moving can take you away from the emotional support system that you will desperately need after your baby is born. Here's what often happens: A couple lives and works in the city. The woman has friends at work and in her neighborhood or apartment complex. When the couple decides to start a family, they move out to the suburbs, and the woman quits her job to stay home full-time with her baby. The couple has a nice house, but the woman feels isolated because she's left all of her friends in the city. Being alone can be very depressing for a new mother who's home with an infant.

That said, if you can afford a new home that brings you closer to family and friends, moving might be a good idea.

Financial concerns. Buying a new house can also be a bad move if it leaves you financially strapped. Think twice before committing to mortgage payments that will leave you little money for the many necessities a baby requires. You'll be shocked at how fast the cost of diapers adds up. And if you buy a home with a mortgage that requires two salaries to pay, what will happen if one of you loses your job or wants to stay home with your baby? Being a new parent is stressful enough without adding financial problems to the mix.

Renovation issues. If you decide a new house is best for your situation, be careful not to take on more than you can handle as far as renovation goes. Ask yourself if you really have the time, energy, money, and patience to renovate a house while you are pregnant or have an infant. You might be better off buying a home that needs less work.

If you do renovate, keep in mind that homes built before 1978 may contain lead paint. Exposure to even small amounts of lead can be dangerous for your baby. If painted surfaces need sanding or scraping, stay out of the house until the dust is cleared away; you can get lead in your body by breathing lead-tainted dust, and that lead can cross the placenta and damage your baby's brain and nervous system. For more on lead paint, contact the Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov).

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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