How to choose a home for a growing family
Better health, higher educational achievement and higher net wealth are among the many socio-economic benefits of home ownership, according to studies by Habitat for Humanity*, and they are certainly strong incentives for the thousands of South Africans who buy new homes each year to accommodate their growing families.
“Everyone wants their children to have a healthy and happy place to grow up and to do well at school or university,” says Rudi Botha, CEO of SA’s biggest mortgage originator BetterBond, “but it isn’t always easy to find a home that meets the needs of everyone in the family – or future family – and is also within budget.
“However, it is possible, provided that prospective buyers don’t rush things and are prepared to do some research and preparation before making a purchase.”
The first thing family buyers need to establish, he says, is what they can realistically afford to spend – taking into account the additional expenses involved in raising children and saving for long-term goals such as tertiary education or their own retirement.
“Small children may need day-care, for example, and the cost of schooling for older children can be very high. Then there are things like school field trips and sports tours, extramural classes and family holidays to include in the budget, in addition to the bond repayment, utilities like water and electricity, home maintenance, insurance and security.
“This is why we always suggest that buyers consult a reputable bond originator like BetterBond long before they start looking at homes for sale. The affordability calculator on our website (https://www.betterbond.co.za/calculators/affordability) will help you work out what size bond you can afford given your income and expenses, and our consultants can also assist you to obtain a home loan pre-qualification certificate.
“This will enable you to focus on homes that are within your budget, signal to sellers that you are a serious buyer and give you leverage in price negotiations that could save you even more on the total cost of your home.”
Second, says Botha, family buyers need to think about where they want to buy, with the most important factors in that decision being:
- Safety and security. Children need safe places to play and to meet or visit with their friends. That’s one of the reasons that gated developments and closed-off neighbourhoods are so popular with family homebuyers.
- Good schools close to home. As well as wanting to provide a quality education, most parents with school-going children would like to save time spent travelling to-and-fro for sporting and other extra-mural activities, and thus don’t want to live too far from the school gates.
- Other families. It’s great to live in an area where many of your neighbours are at a similar stage of life and your children can all grow up together.
- Proximity to work. Spending more time with their children and less time commuting to and from work is a major consideration for most parents.
The third thing to consider, he says, is a home that will “grow with you” as your family’s needs change, so that you don’t have to sell and buy again too soon. Some features to look for in that regard are:
- Lots of storage: Having children means having more stuff. Make sure the home you choose has long-term storage like a basement or shed as well as plenty of easy-access storage like closets and cabinets. It is also really useful to have an additional room that can be used as a playroom or as a music and computer room for older children
- The correct floorplan: Some family homes have the master bedroom at the opposite end of the house to the children’s bedrooms, and that may be appealing to the parents of teenagers. However, those with young children will probably feel more secure having all the bedrooms together.
- Family space. You may not be an award-winning chef, but a good kitchen can be a major gathering place for a family. It’s also a good idea to look for a home with a large informal living space that everyone can enjoy together.
- Extra accommodation. Working parents with young children may also need a home with room to accommodate a full-time au-pair or nanny, and those with students still living with them might also prefer that they have their own cottage or “granny flat”.