A wealthy couple in their mid-60s -- an artist married to an IT consultant -- recently reset their priorities to emphasize relationships with family. Hence, they made the firm decision to buy a place near their 3-year-old granddaughter.
“Money is not a problem for this couple, who’ve set a $2 million ceiling on their purchase. But they’re particular on the type of home they buy. They want a big one-level place within a half-hour drive from their granddaughter,” says Victoria Ray Henderson, the independent real estate broker who’s assisting the couple in their search.
There are now more than 70 million baby boomers in the United States, and Henderson says many in this aging population cohort feel an urgency about living near grandchildren, even if that means making a long-distance move.
“There’s a certain poignancy as we get older. Unless you’re just railroading through time and space, you sense the preciousness of time and important ties,” says Henderson, a boomer herself.
In business since 2010, Henderson has worked with a number of clients anxious to buy a home near grandkids. Though some can’t afford to move, many others are finding a way to fulfill the dream while their grandkids still have the time and inclination to see them often.
“To be sure you’re on the same page as the grandkids’ family, I strongly recommend you have a talk about expectations before you make a move. Are you agreeing to do a lot of child care? Remember, that can be exhausting for older people,” she says.
Here are a few other pointers for those planning to buy a home near grandchildren:
-- Determine if your extended family has time to see you often.
Joan McLellan Tayler, a veteran realty company owner, notes that some relocation dreams prove disappointing as they play out. Sometimes living close to grandchildren isn’t enough to create the strong bonds older people desire.
Of course, there are relocation plans that work well for extended families who wish to see each other frequently. For example, Tayler says she’s had clients who’ve sold a big family home in favor of a smaller one located in a faraway state near their offspring, and everyone involved finds the situation fulfilling.
“This is much easier in a rural or semirural area where life is less hectic,” Tayler says.
If you’re not now close to your grown children, it can be tough to make up for lost time.
“Not all family relationships are as harmonious as we’d like. It’s possible you’d be better off buying in the same community where you already have friends and know the shopkeepers rather than moving near grandchildren. Then you could travel to see the children occasionally rather than structuring your days around them,” Tayler says.
-- Realize you don’t need a huge yard to accommodate the kids.
Tayler spends as much time as possible with her nine grandchildren, most of whom live in her immediate area. Although the apartment she owns has only a small patio with a few flowerbeds, the youngest children always seem to enjoy visiting there.
Of course, as toddlers grow into school-age children they range more widely with their play activities. Even so, that doesn’t mean you’ll need a large yard to keep them happy. One good substitute is to buy a place within walking distance of a neighborhood park.
-- Seek a house on a quiet street, if possible.
Tom Early, a longtime real estate broker who works exclusively with homebuyers, advises clients seeking to purchase a place near grandchildren to think about the kids’ safety when pondering the street on which to live.
“Consider buying on a cul-de-sac or dead-end street. If that’s not possible, pick a low-traffic street with few cars passing through,” says Early, a past president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (naeba.org).
-- Find out if a community you’re considering allows for extended visits.
Do you and your spouse plan to retire to an area far from your grandkids’ home? In that case, Lee Tews, a Texas real estate broker, says you’ll want to be sure the community you choose allows for extended guest visits.
“Many new condo and townhouse communities, along with new detached home neighborhoods, limit the length of guest stays. And this can put a dent in family visits,” he says.
Of course, it’s always possible that the written rules governing guest visits won’t be enforced. But that could change if the residents’ association gets new leaders who insist you follow the rules to the letter.
“It’s not unusual for all the restrictions to run 200 pages long. But before you buy into a community, you’ll probably want to scan them for provisions that could hinder your lifestyle,” Tews says.
-- Try to find a property with an extra bedroom.
If your grown children live several states away, you likely aspire to as many lengthy and meaningful visits as possible with them. But will you have the accommodations to make them feel comfortable in the home you buy?
“For this purpose, it’s wonderful to buy a house with an extra master suite that has its own private bathroom,” Early says.
Perhaps you can’t afford a home with guest quarters. But it would still be good to choose a place with an extra bedroom for family visits.
“If your grown children and their kids are staying in a hotel, that means they won’t integrate as well when the family gathers,” Early says. “It’s only natural that all the family members will want to stay close together -- not to have to go back to the hotel early for the children’s bedtime.”
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at email@example.com.)