One of the biggest factors influencing many Chicagoans' real estate choices is their children.
Where to live? What kind of home to live in? How much space? How many bedrooms? Near what schools, parks, playgrounds? And on and on.
These are all important questions to ask to make a very personal decision.
Yet the answers are often less obvious than you might think. What’s right for one family might not be right for another. What was best 20 years ago, might not be best now. And what’s right now, might not be right 2, 5, 10, or 20 years from now.
For this reason, longtime Chicago real estate agent Matt Shrake really prides himself on helping clients pause and examine the issues in full context.
“So many clients have said to me I’m so glad you were our broker because you made us think slowly about places we would have bought,” Shrake said.
Examining difficult child-centered real estate choices is made even more crucial these days as the cost of many housing options continues going up and up. Upsizing. Moving to a better school district. Commuting from the suburbs. All of these real estate changes come with bigger or smaller price tags.
To help fully consider child-motivated real estate moves, let’s break down some of the issues like this:
- Extra Space vs. Extra Time
- At Home vs. Activity
- Short Term vs. Long Term
- Lifestyle Impacts
Extra Space vs. Extra Time
Many new parents, or second-, third-, or fourth-time parents assume that adding an extra little person, or two or three to the home necessitates moving to a bigger space to give their kids more space to play, for toys, or to grow.
That is a perfectly fine decision. It’s right for many people. But it can also be a decision that some people assume is the right one without fully examining potential impacts of upsizing.
Often getting a bigger home isn’t just a financial expense – but can come at the expense of time. Increased time to go to work. Increased time to get to friends and family. Longer trips to stores or activities. Possibly.
This is why it’s important to look at specific locations and options and really break down the pros and cons Benjamin Franklin style.
At Home vs. Activity
Every situation is different. Every child is different. Indeed, some children are “stay-at-home” children. Some children are “activity” children. Some young stay-at-home children grow up quickly into activity children who are never at home. They’re suddenly always off at dance classes, tutoring, music, baseball practice, or just hanging with friends. Chicago’s offerings for youth are endless. Chicago neighborhoods have great parks, with great Chicago Park District program offerings to go along with them. Private businesses with every conceivable offering for children can be found throughout the city and suburbs, and Chicago children are busy.
It’s important to not consider the idealized activities of an imagined childhood, but instead examine what you and your child will actually be doing. Will enough time be spent using all that extra space? Do one or both parents work from home and thus need separation from noisy children? Is an older child on the cusp of having an out-of-the-house, activity-intense life such that sharing the space with the newborn on the way won’t be such a burden? Or will the particular interests of a child necessitate backyard space?
Short Term vs. Long Term
These changing phases of children’s lives need to be fully considered. Otherwise, you may move for a phase that isn’t over and end up shuttling your teenager back to the old neighborhood.
Similarly, it's important to consider whether the child-centered consideration might be manageable and temporary when compared with important long-term location needs of either of the parents – for work, family, social life, or other things.
Speaking from experience, Shrake said, he’s seen families move for additional space but soon wish they were back in the previous location. The takeaway: Sometimes a long-term decision begins to look more short-term when you ask the right questions.
Another child-centered question that often needs to be asked is where to live for school.
But this isn’t the same for everyone, for every kid. Some children need things outside of the school that are better found in other areas of the city. And the fortunes and ratings of schools change over time. Choosing schools is extremely personal.
Shrake related a story of one urban school that had not received high marks a couple decades ago, but recently has seen its respect rise dramatically as more and more parents have made the decision not to move to the suburbs. School moves are great, and often necessary, but asking all the questions and looking at all the possibilities before uprooting for “greener” pastures is imperative. Matt has many resources and clients to connect you within your location and across Chicago and its suburbs to help guide your decision.
Another reason to move for your child could be outdoor activities. Do you live in a city neighborhood near a park? Is it a good place to push a stroller? Does it have a good playground? Are there available activities for pre-teen years? This could be better in some city locations than some suburbs? Or vice versa. Chicago neighborhoods have great parks, with great Chicago Park District program offerings to go along with them.
Sometimes it’s as simple as some parents are city people, and some parents are suburb people.
Moving from the city to the suburb may mean more car usage and less public transportation. For some, this is a plus. The current public transportation options may not be ideal. Or they plan to be driving their kids all the time anyway. Perhaps it comes down to moving someplace where parking and traffic will be less of a problem.
Still, others would prefer to avoid a car-centric life and raise their children the same way.
Again, it’s not that there’s always a right answer, just that all the ramifications are properly thought through. The different lifestyles in the city and the suburbs impact so many of the important other decision points.
Ultimately, it should be a personal decision. There are great parents with great children and great families that make either decision. The conventional wisdom around what’s better has changed over time. So while it’s good to hear from the experiences of others make sure to really look at the fullness of the experience of all areas in both the city and the suburbs.
Get Help Reviewing ALL Your Choices
An important part of reviewing all your options is knowing the multiplicity of real estate choices. For that, you definitely want to check in with Matt Shrake. He can help you find the best options for whatever you decide and possibly find you some options you wouldn’t on your own. And after going through this exact experience with so many parents over nearly 30 years, he just might have a few pearls of wisdom for you to add to your “pros and cons.”
Call him today at 773-294-2667 or email him at [email protected]
You won’t regret it. Your kids won’t either.