Finding a rental property can be hard enough, but if you add in extra elements of complication, such as kids and pets, it gets even more challenging. Everyone has specific needs about what to look for in a family home, but the shared concern is for a safe, clean environment in a secure neighbourhood, with the things you need within easy reach of your home base. It’s important to know what you want and be clear about it once you begin searching, but there are also some key priorities that most families will share, so check out our tips and you and your family will be ready in no time to move into your new rental property.
1. Be specific and stick within your search terms
There is more than just you to consider with regard to your next property so it’s important you are clear about everyone in the family’s needs and try not to compromise during the search. It may reduce your options somewhat but there are few things worse than telling yourself something will be ok and then moving in to discover it’s really not. Be clear about general things like number of bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll need, but also consider jotting down a shortlist of suburbs you’d like to live in, whether you’re looking for a house, an apartment or something else and realistically how long you think you’ll need to be there for. If it’s a temporary solution while you’re renovating, or looking to buy, then you don’t need to be as strict with your needs. For your family home where your children will grow up, then there are more things to consider and fewer things you can be flexible about. You should be clear on what your family’s need are for the time period required, then you’ll be able to have a much more focused search and ultimately get the property that is closer to what you need.
2. Choose a location that meets the needs of everyone in the family
Finding a rental in a nice family friendly neighbourhood is useless if one parent spends hours commuting, never actually getting to see their family in daylight. Moving far away from your existing lifestyle can also complicate things if your children intend to continue ballet/soccer/netball/swimming and so on, at the same place they were before. Consider the level of disruption you are willing to cope with as a family when you choose your next location. You’ll need to commit to transitioning to new schools, new jobs, new sporting clubs and communities, or accept that you’ll spend a lot of time in the car driving back to all the things you’re tangled up with in your old location.
Moving to a location that will reduce a killer commute is a really important consideration however, as it delivers significant quality of life - not only to the person commuting but to the whole family. More time at home means shared workloads, more time spent eating meals with the family and enjoying time with each other and ideally an increase in happiness and wellbeing for everyone. The trade-off may be that new clubs closer to home will have to be joined, new friendships forged and more effort required to maintain old ones. Priorities people – family first remember.
3. Make sure you allow enough space for everyone now and in the future
Everybody’s family looks slightly different and no one set of needs are exactly the same. Some people’s kids can share a bedroom while others need space for each child to express their best creative selves. Maybe you have a snorer in the house, or regularly have house guests so you need a spare room, or maybe there’s just you and one small child so you really could share a tiny studio and be blissfully happy. Whatever the needs of you and your family, its important to factor in how long these needs might be in place for; and be sure that the decision you are making now is one that will support the space your family needs today as well as its growth in the coming months or years.
In addition to the inside space, it’s possible your family might need some outside space too. Kids and pets and grown adults all crammed into one small apartment can create unnecessary stress and frustration. If you know your kids need to burn off energy outside, then be sure you have either a backyard, or access to a local park that you’ll be willing to take them to on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be much, but if you know your family well, you will know that relocating loud, energetic children to the garden, or simply sliding open a door on a freezing winter’s night so the dog can go out and pee are essentials you can’t compromise on.
4. Make sure your new location has the services and facilities your family need
The needs of a family are constant so it’s important you have the essential services you need close by. That rural farmhouse may seem idyllic, but if you have to drive 40 minutes in the middle of the night to buy medicine for a screaming newborn baby, the novelty wears off pretty fast. Most families relish the chance to duck out with a child or two and maybe a dog to get milk or the paper around the corner. Having local services nearby that you know and trust makes a big difference in a new neighbourhood. Not only by way of enveloping you into a new community, but also for pure convenience. Who wants to trek back in traffic to your old life to see your hairdresser, when you can stroll to your local and grab a coffee on the way to the salon in your very own main street?
As well as services like pharmacies, doctors, supermarkets and petrol stations, you also need the things your life revolves around – work, school, sports and leisure. Many schools allow students to enrol based on postcode zoning and it’s not uncommon for parents to move to a suburb just to earn their child a place at its local school. If your child is mad for a sport or activity and trains or practices every day, then you need to have the relevant facility nearby or risk spending the rest of your days chained to the steering wheel. Finally, you may not necessarily find work in your local area, but good access to public transport or freeways that will ease your commute, can be just as life changing for those who need to travel into work every day.
5. Go and explore the neighbourhood before you sign the lease
Bad neighbours can ruin lives, just as good neighbours can be the greatest thing that ever happened to your family. It pays to visit a neighbourhood at different times of day if you’re serious about moving there, to get a sense of what it might be like to be part of it. Are there neighbours chatting to each other over the fence? Are curtains drawn and high gates bolted shut, indicating maybe there’s a lot of crime in the area. Do the homes look well cared for and maintained or is it hard to distinguish places people live in from local junk shops?
A family with kids is a great addition to a neighbourhood filled with other families with kids, but not so much to a quite area, filled with professionals and retirees. Take a stroll down the street and look for the classic hallmarks of family homes – shoes on the porch, bikes in the yard, the unmistakable sounds of family life drifting out at you from within. Knowing there are other kids in the area close in age to your own children can be a great relief, especially if you’re moving far from your previous location and know they’ll need to make new friends. Conversely, maybe you’ll hear shouting and abuse, in which case this might not be the kind of family neighbourhood you’re looking for. For those of you with pets, a dog is a great icebreaker and a casual stroll around the neighbourhood well help you strike up conversations with the neighbours in no time.
Just because you’ll be renting, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest the same time and energy in researching your new home as you would if you were buying. If it’s a temporary move then sure, your needs will be a little more relaxed. But if you know you’ll be there for at least 12 months, possibly more – hey, you may even want to buy your rental someday - it’s well worth taking the time to choose your new property carefully, learn a little about the neighbourhood and maybe even meet some neighbours in the process.
DISCLAIMER: The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions.