BY: Dana Bull
Radon mitigation systems, window stoppers and anti-scald faucets are rarely at the top of a home buyer’s wish list. There’s nothing sexy about safety features, but for parents of young kids, buying a house with a plan for childproofing is just one part of the house hunting experience. As you scope out your local real estate market, keep in mind these key considerations.
1. Take in the Surroundings
Before having kids, the idea of living on a busy street or near a set of train tracks may have never fazed you. Once small children come into the picture, everything surrounding a potential home is up for scrutiny. Some specific example include:
- Heavy traffic, hidden driveways and sharp bends near a house may be something to think about it if they are going to become a constant source of worry.
- Many families love having an outdoor pool or waterfront property, but these amenities require more monitoring and precautions should be taken.
- Homes that feature unique landscaping, like hills, ledges and drop-offs, can create an impressive backyard, but kids may require extra supervision to play outside safely.
2. Be on the Lookout for Common Safety Issues
When it comes to childproofing the inside of a home, the list can feel endless. Everyday features like stairs, doors, toilets and appliances can pose a risk to curious children. Here are some areas that home buyers often overlook:
A working fireplace is a wonderful perk to have in a home, but it’s also an obvious danger. Not only should fireplaces be closed off with doors, but fireplace hearths with sharp corners should also be addressed. Many parents opt to use gates that block off the entire area around the fireplace.
When childproofing, most people don’t think about the carbon monoxide gases that fires produce. If you’re planning on using a fireplace, it’s a good idea to get the chimney and vents looked at during the home inspection period. Venting issues with fireplaces and other utilities are a leading cause of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Window safety is serious business and taking measures to prevent accidents is an important part of childproofing a home.
When touring properties, get a good look at the windows. Modern versions typically have some child safety features built in. Old models, like double-hung wood windows, may require more attention and budgeting for special locks, guards and stoppers.
When purchasing a house, window treatments are often part of the negotiating process. If the hanging blinds and window coverings have unsafe cords, you’ll want to think about whether including them in the home sale makes sense.
Bathrooms sure get a lot of use when raising children. There are a few things to keep top of mind when assessing bathroom safety for a growing family.
Finding a house with plenty of bathroom storage is not only convenient, it’s key for keeping dangerous household items, like medications, cleaners and razors, tucked away and out of reach. If the house is lacking a linen closet or bathroom cabinetry, try to come up with some creative ways to add storage into the space.
A parent’s worst nightmare is a hair dryer falling into the tub – electricity and water don’t mix well! To help prevent an electrical disaster, be on the lookout for ground fault circuit interrupt (GFCI) outlets, which are an inexpensive solution for minimizing risks around sinks and tubs. GFCIs come standard in most newly constructed homes, but may need to be installed in dated properties.
When shopping for homes, take a quick peek at the faucets, including the ones in the tub. Anti-scald faucets are standard in many homes, but not all. This simple upgrade can protect a young one from accidentally turning the faucet too far in the hot direction.
3. Check for Hazards In and Around the Home
Some potential dangers are easy to spot, while others cannot be seen by the naked eye. When considering homes, particularly if you’re looking at older properties, you’ll want to do some investigative work on potential hazards. It’s best to research issues earlier on in the home inspection period so that you have the opportunity to negotiate should issues arise. The good news is that the risk posed by hazards like lead paint, asbestos and radon can be alleviated with proper planning.
Lead is a highly toxic metal and can cause serious health problems when absorbed in the body. Lead-based paint is still present in millions of older homes across the U.S. If you’re touring a home that was built prior to 1978, it’s important to have a lead professional test the site.
Asbestos-containing materials were prevalent in homes built before 1980 and are still sometimes found in newer homes. Commonly used in old floor tiles, insulation, roof shingles and siding, asbestos can become hazardous when airborne. If you find suspect asbestos materials in a home you are interested in purchasing, it’s best to have a sample sent to a certified lab for analysis.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities. Although odorless and invisible, a test can be performed to assess the levels in a home. Higher-than-average levels of radon can usually be mitigated without spending a fortune.
4. Get the Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors Inspected
In some states, having carbon monoxide and smoke detectors inspected and properly installed is a legal requirement when selling/buying real estate. As a new resident, making sure the alarm systems are up to code and functioning properly is an easy way to protect you, your family and your home.