Home Buyers Give Weight to Needs of Kids, Grandparents

Happy Family Silhouette

For today’s parents, purchasing a home has become a family affair. Baby Boomers may have been concerned about careers and the convenience of commutes when house-hunting, but for Generation X and Millennial parents, the needs of their children and even grandparents are a part of the homebuying process. According to a study from Coldwell Banker Real Estate, the shift is measurable. The survey, conducted among 2,800 parents from three generations, suggests that today’s children may be elevated to the position of “chief purchasing officers” of the family. It found that 79 percent of Millennial parents (ages 18-34) and 70 percent of Gen X parents (ages 35-49) said most of their major purchasing decisions, including home purchases, revolve around their children. Only about 50 percent of the Boomer parents said this was true when they were raising their families.

When shopping for a home, families are focused on schools, square footage, and lifestyle amenities such as parks and bike paths. But they want more. In Arizona, where people often relocate from other states, many are seriously searching for that sometimes elusive quality in a neighborhood: a sense of community and connectivity. Like the sitcom “Cheers,” today’s parents want to live in a place where everyone not only knows their name — but the names of their kids and cats as well. Judy Mullins lives and lists homes in Verrado, a master-planned community in Buckeye. She has seen firsthand how kids affect home buying. “I’ve never seen a market where kids play such a strong role in the decision-making process,” said Mullins, a Realtor for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.”It’s much different from the Baby Boomer generation.”

Mullins says the streets of Verrado are filled with children riding their bikes and playing. Public events such as the annual Christmas tree lighting and simple ice-cream socials draw friends from outside the community, who return home and hound their parents to buy a home there, she said. “The other children want to be a part of it because it makes them feel like they belong to a community,” Mullins said. Buyers are also making the needs of their own parents a priority when making a move, and grandparents are considering their children when planning for retirement. Many buyers also understand that grandparents can add to the quality of life of their own children in practical and intangible ways. Longer life spans lead to more long-term decisions. According to Malcolm Mac­Ewen, the higher concentration of neighborhoods with families are in the southwest and southeast Valley. In addition to Verrado, master-planned communities in the West Valley include Estrella and Vistancia. In the southeast Valley, family-focused areas can be found in Chandler, Mesa, and Gilbert. Eastmark is a new master-planned community in Mesa.

In Verrado, a four-bedroom, 3.5-bath home with nearly 3,300 square feet can sell for as low as $300,000. At that price, children can have their own room and the family can enjoy lots of living space. “If you look at new construction, you’ll see that it is very affordable,” said Mac­Ewen, the president and chief operating officer of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage of Arizona.”That is very attractive to people with kids.” The pressure is also on for families to settle in before kids are established in schools. “Moving your children later and uprooting them from school is a very big deal,” Mac­Ewen said.

In Arcadia and the Camelback Corridor, parents pay a premium to be in what some consider to be a kids’ paradise. Every Fourth of July, the children in the Arcadia neighborhood in Phoenix decorate their bikes, their dogs, and themselves and march proudly through the neighborhood, passing homes with green lawns and lush landscapes. “Children and family are really important to people that are looking for homes in this area,” said Kelly Knapp, a Realtor with HomeSmart Elite Group who has sold homes in the neighborhood for more than 20 years.

Arcadia is in the area from 44th to 68th streets, between Camelback and Thomas roads. An average four-bedroom home with 2,600 square feet runs between $650,000 and $850,000. Arcadia “light,” which is a bit beyond those boundaries, is a little less expensive. The homes are in or near the Scottsdale Unified School District and numerous private and charter schools. “It (Arcadia) really does feel like a neighborhood. Everyone has chairs out on their front patio and you can see that they really live to the front of their homes,” she said. “Everyone wants to know everyone. It really is nirvana for kids. It’s like Mayberry in a big city.”

Originally written by Dolores Tropiano, Special for The Republic, August 4, 2014