Monday, March 12, 2007

Househunting with a toddler

Househunting is tedious enough without having to drag a crumb-covered urchin in and out of a carseat 1,400 times in one day. Here are some tips from our experience this weekend that may help you get through the experience relatively unscathed:
  • Tell your real estate agent in advance if there are any qualities in a house that are definite "musts" or definite "avoids." For example, if you are absolutely unwilling to buy a house that has an inground pool, make sure your real estate agent knows that. And if the house absolutely has to have four bedrooms, don't even bother getting out of the car for a 3-bedroom house, no matter how nice the photos look online.
  • Time your house hunt for your toddler's best time of day. In our case, she's usually pretty flexible in the mornings, but is an absolute horror in the afternoon. So we looked at houses from 10-1, and she fell asleep in the car seat for the last few houses.
  • If your child has a hard time adjusting to new people, make sure you let the realtor know to keep her distance. Nothing gets the day off to a worse start than some stranger swooping in to try to kiss a kid who takes time to warm up to new people. Can you say, "instant meltdown?"
  • Explain to your toddler what you're doing, even if you think they're too young to understand. Ours isn't even two yet, but we told her we were going to look at lots of houses to see if we would like to live there. She couldn't touch anything inside the houses, and she had to be extra careful on stairs. And every time we went inside a house, we'd ask her, "Do we touch anything in this house?" and she'd yell, "NO! NO TOUCH!" and run around pointing at things she couldn't touch. Your results may vary :)
  • Try to look at vacant properties first, and take the kid inside with you to run around. With most vacant properties, you only have to worry about keeping the kid away from stairways, not stairs and breakables and choking hazards and the owners' kids' toys. This gives you more time to focus on the house, and more time for the kid to burn off some energy. We put Liza in charge of testing the "danceability" of each of the rooms. She's a champion at that.
  • Take lots of snacks, preferably ones that don't leave nasty messes behind them. Chocolate? Not a good idea. Pretzel sticks? Better choice. And stick with colorless juice or water in the sippy cup, so you don't have to worry about staining somebody's carpet the first time your attention is elsewhere.
  • When the kid starts to get testy, take them outside asap. We managed to get through two houses with Liza in tow the first day before she wigged out, but the second day she made it through about six before she lost it. When she did lose it, one of us sat in the car with her while the other one checked out the house. If that person liked the house, we switched and the other person got to check it out.
  • Three words: "Personal DVD Player" Stick the testy toddler in a carseat, set up the dvd player, and throw a Barney video in. That will get you at least another couple of houses before the meltdown resumes.
  • And if you think your child is REALLY going to hate the whole process and you can't find anyone to watch them for you, take two cars so that one of you can leave with the banshee while the other one looks at houses. Anything that person really likes, the other parent can view at a later time.


Anonymous said...

Wise words! I am sure many parents need to read this particular column. K's mom

Anonymous said...

I agree with K's mom.

Then again, it is generally wise to always agree with K's mom.