Moving with toddlers, Part 1: "Real Estate Adventure!"

Hubby and I have happily rented through our graduate and early professional careers, mainly because we were never certain we'd live in one city long enough to warrant buying. (See the great NYTimes calculator if you're struggling with the rent/buy decision.) 

In this upcoming move, though, we know we'll have a five-year commitment. So we just returned from our first formal house hunting trip. It was also our first housing search with a two-year old in tow. 

Whenever we're getting ready to leave the house, I ask D if he's ready for an adventure. At his age, every outing is an adventure: even the grocery store holds endless appeal. But even as he grows older, I hope that we infuse even the most ordinary, routine trips with the spirit of adventure. So late last week we embarked on a "Real Estate Adventure!" What follows are ten tips that helped make our trip not just bearable, but fun.

  1. Lean on your real estate agent. A good agent will give you time alone exploring the upper floors. A great agent will play hide and seek with your kid downstairs. [side bar: I cannot say enough good things about the awesome agents at Redfin!]
  2. Have teeny toys on hand. Stuff your pockets with these dinosaurs and cats so they're at the ready if a tour goes long or if the condition of the home prevents you from letting your kid run around. If your kid accidentally leaves some behind, they won't have cost you much, and they'll likely get a laugh from the house hunter who finds them. Toys that roll are especially useful. The kid will have fun playing with balls and cars, which you can also use to test the floors. 
  3. Buy "special shoes." Real estate agents recommend wearing shoes that are easy to slip on and off so that you don't waste valuable time in entryways. To make all the ins and outs even easier, start your real estate adventure by giving your kid new shoes. If you carry your kid from car to house, you can just leave the shoes on. 
  4. Bring balloons. Blow up a new one at each stop. Your kiddo will have fun watching the backseat fill up, and you'll have a good visual reminder of when it's time to stop and take a break. 
  5. Stock your side doors with snacks. Avoid yogurt-covered raisins and other things likely to melt into car seats and floors. But also recognize that a snacking kiddo is a happy kiddo, and vacuuming the back seat when you get home will be well worth your trouble if means you had quiet time to think about your home choices. 
  6. Save electronics for a last resort. If you can, hold onto your phone until dinner. You need time to talk out what you saw and make a huge financial decision, but your kid probably isn't going to bed on schedule. Stock your phone with Sago Mini games and give yourself the quiet time you need to make a smart decision. 
  7. Watch your kid's reaction to the house. I'm not advocating that you purchase a home because your kid likes it. A kid who asks for a red house shouldn't necessarily be accommodated. But you might be surprised at how well your kid can look past paint, flooring, fixtures, granite countertops, and other cosmetic features to show you what life will look like in the house. Watching your kid run around kitchen islands might show you that an open layout is best for you. Finding your kid tucked into a giant closet with a book might encourage you to choose a home with more surprise hideaways. 
  8. Map out parks and playgrounds ahead of time. Bring a snack lunch and take a much needed break from your hunting! 
  9. Use nap time to drive the neighborhood. You'll get time to visit grocery stores, schools, and caffeine sources. 
  10. Treat this as an adventure for you, too! Helping your kid to see your trip as an adventure rather than a chore can help you through this stressful process. 

Perhaps it was my excellent planning (ha!), but D left each house cheering "More Real Estate!" I hope these ten tips can help you make your outings--be they simple errands or out-of-state trips--into adventures.