Real-estate agents are experts in more than floor plans and financing. Here’s their best advice for finding a home fit for your growing family.

Family Moving Lays On Couch Surrounded With Boxes
Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Don't Rush To Buy

If you settle on a home just because you’re expecting, you may make a decision you’ll regret. I once had a young couple who wanted to get a one-story house with a yard and ended up buying a two-story home with a pool that left no green space. Several years later, they told me they’d been living with baby gates on the stairs and never used the backyard because the pool was a safety concern. The instinct to nest is understandable, but the truth is that babies don’t need much space and they don’t care whether they live in a house, condo, or apartment. Waiting also allows you to see what is truly in your budget once you become a parent. You will have less flexibility if you’re locked into a mortgage that’s too high. Be patient. It’ll pay off! —Cynthia Silver, of Century 21 Martinez & Associates in Las Vegas

Consider Location

A lot of parents-to-be tell me school districts don’t matter to them because this is their starter home. They plan to sell before their child is in school. But kindergarten will be here before you know it, and you may not be able to afford to move again in five years. It’s better to buy something smaller in a great school district and welcoming neighborhood, both for your peace of mind and for resale value. To get a feel for the vibe of a potential area, drive around at different times of the day (like on a weekday when school is out and on a Sunday afternoon) to see if families are outside playing in their yard. —Steve Goddard, of RE/MAX Estate Properties in Manhattan Beach, California

Imagine Living There

Think about how you’re going to use the space as a family. Homes with first-floor master bedrooms are popular, but they’re not ideal if you have young kids and have to run upstairs in the middle of the night. You might think you want a formal dining room, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown a house where it’s been turned into a playroom by a young family. The ability to keep an eye on the baby while you’re in the kitchen or living room ends up being more important than dinner parties. Be wary of open floor plans too. People get sold on the airiness but don’t consider how tricky it will be to gate off. —Sandra O’Connor, of Allen Tate Realtors in Greensboro, North Carolina

Inspect Carefully

If you do make an offer, don’t let your love of the house distract you from the reality of certain problems. Hire a good inspector to test for lead, especially if the home was built before 1978. Lead exposure can cause serious health problems, particularly in young kids. The inspector should also rule out radon and check for termites. To find out how well a home has been cared for, make sure the roof, electrical system, and exterior are examined. If problems are found, hire a contractor to estimate costs for repairs. —Lindsay Alteri, of Revolve Realty Group in Raleigh, North Carolina

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