Melanie Hearse - 3 May, 2021

From flat to family home – buying your first house

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Considering taking the plunge and moving your family from a flat to a house? Here is what you need to know.

As the size of your family grows, moving from a flat to a family home is a logical step. While newborns don’t require a lot of extra room, getting them from cot to car can quickly become reason enough to make the move if stairs are involved. For some, the upgrade in size may be part of a bigger change again; shifting away from busier inner-city areas or main roads to suburban streets. Areas with access to parks, larger shopping centres and day care are popular with families for good reason.

Whatever your circumstances, there are some core considerations to make when moving from a flat to a family home to help choose a home that will suit your family’s needs.  

It is likely to be a long-term purchase?

There is a big difference between packing up and moving to a new house pre and post children. While packing and moving is certainly manageable with a little babysitting and planning, preparing a house for sale, holding home opens and keeping it in tip-top shape is a more daunting process worthy of avoiding. For this reason, whether you initially plan to stay for a long time or not, it is worth considering each property as if you are going to keep your future options open.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Size and shape matter. What works for a family with babies, toddlers or young children may not as they hit their older years. Look for a house with a flexible layout, the possibility to extend or expand for a range of ages and stages. Also, consider if your family is complete. If you are considering having more children or adding pets to your line-up, it is important to look for a home that works for a range of scenarios or can be adapted to suit (for example, families find one bedroom per child a necessity as they get older.) If your budget allows, look for a home with separate entertaining spaces for adults and children for when they become old enough to bring home their friends.
  • School zones are important. Your state or territory education department can provide information about school zones, as well as metrics and details about the schools within your potential catchment zone. Public schools allot places by proximity to the school, so if you want to apply for a popular one and are outside the boundary, you may not secure a spot. This may make it worth your while to find a home within them.
  • Can you walk to school? Even if you choose to go private, think about whether you would like to be able to be within walking distance of the local school. That ten-to-fifteen-minute walk twice per day, five days a week has a bigger impact on your life than you can predict! If you’re planning on enrolling your children in schools away from the house, look at public transport routes for when your children are older.

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How family-friendly is your chosen home?

As well as being prepared to stick in for the long haul should you decide to, you should look at potential homes with an eye for how family-friendly they are – or are not. What to look out for?  

  • Are any gardens and other outdoor spaces secure for the street and easy for you to eyeball from indoors if need be?
  • Are there water features, spas or pools that could present a danger? If you wish to remove or fence them, do you have the budget to do this before you move in?
  • Does the layout of the house mean you are able to easily reach the room of young children who wake frequently in the night? This can be assessed as a temporary measure – if, for example, there is a master suite far away, but a spare room you could move into until they start to sleep through the night.
  • Are you able to gate off risky features such as staircases, and will this become irritating to deal with?   
  • Does it have ample laundry and storage space? Children mean plenty of laundry and loads of things to store. Having enough space for both means living with far less mess.
  • Open-plan kitchens are generally highly valued. They allow parents to multitask (and kids love to cook, so there is a good reason kitchen are a high traffic area for families!)
  • Do you have space for your children to play and run? This will save many a run to a park or activity centre when you least feel like it!
  • While far from essential, bathtubs are worth their weight for young families. Realistically this is the type of renovation you won’t want to undertake while your children are small, so it is a bonus if the house already has one. 
  • Does it need work? While value-adding with improvements over the years is a great idea, be realistic about how much you want to tackle in the short term to be able to safely live there. Multiple repairs can also chew into your budget, at a time many families can least afford unwelcome financial surprises.

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family at local park

Will you value space or a short commute time?

While space to play and run indoors and out are great choices for families, the length of your commute can impact family life too. Consider how much time you are willing to spend getting to and from work and look at your options for homes in this region. Do factor in about how likely you are to remain working near your current location or if working from home arrangements may come into play, but it is best to make your decision on how you know life will be rather than considering maybes. Public transport may be able to help cut this time, so explore these options as well.

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Can you afford the rate hikes?

We are experiencing historically low interest rates right now. While they are likely to be in place for the near future, it always pays to plan for the worst-case and ensure you can still afford to service your loan should they increase. Our handy mortgage calculator can show you how rate increases could affect your repayments.

father and son playing in the backyard of their home

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Prepare for added expenses

Houses generally cost more to run in terms of power and gas, rates and water (as do families again with more people to feed and clean.) Head to your utility provider websites for a range of tips and tricks to save on your bills. These can be as simple as energy efficient appliances, to bill smoothing options to pay smaller amounts more frequently.

When it comes to moving from a unit to a family home there are some big changes to consider. However, with some thought and planning, you’ll be kicking back, enjoying and making lasting memories for years to come.

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Words by Melanie Hearse


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