Your neighborhood is the kind where the parents gather to hang out in the driveway while their kids run around in the yard. On Tuesdays, you can hear the sound of Little League cheers coming from the baseball diamond a block away, and everyone brags about how great the schools are here.
If this sounds like you, there’s good news: Your house in this amazing family neighborhood is a hot commodity and should be easy to sell. Millennials right now make up the largest generation of homebuyers while older millennials are also the most likely demographic to have children under the age of 18 at home at 69%. Bottom line is the trends are in your favor as millennials age and start to look for a house just like yours.
So, flaunt it if you got it. You absolutely should promote to the max everything your community has to offer in your home listing and marketing plan (we’ve got some great pointers from a real estate expert on how to do that). But you also need to veer away from language or missteps that could cross into Fair Housing violation territory. We’ll cover your bases there, too. Let’s get into it!
Focus on the family neighborhood features of your locale
For sellers who’ve raised their own kids in the area, coming up with locale-focused info to feature in a family-friendly listing may seem simple. Just write down all the things your family loves about the neighborhood, right?
True, but don’t stop there. There may be plenty of other family-friendly features nearby that your kids outgrew, weren’t interested in, or never got around to doing. So it pays to do a little research on your area’s family appeal so you don’t overlook any big draw attractions.
If you’ve never had children in the house, or it’s simply been too long ago to remember what raising kids in your area is like, it’ll take a little extra legwork to research the assets that make yours a great family neighborhood.
“Many families are looking for that Mayberry-ish neighborhood, with a tree-lined street or at the end of a cul-de-sac,” says Aaron West, a top-selling Modesto, California, real estate agent and first-time homebuyer specialist.
“Those things appeal to the majority of families because most are searching for a safe place to raise their kids and for a place that feels like home. And so the better we are noting those family-friendly features in our listing, the more appealing it is to families.”
Picture white picket fences, soda shops, fishing holes, and streets so tame there’s only one stoplight.
If your neighborhood doesn’t have any of that vintage, yesteryear charm, don’t worry. Most neighborhoods have assets that will appeal to families—it’s just a matter of identifying them.
1. Assess your streets
Playing outside is a favorite pastime for families, so they’ll be on the lookout for homes where they can enjoy the outdoors in safety and comfort.
So take a walk along your street and note everything that makes playing outside easier:
- “No thru street” and “local access only”
These signs signal low traffic, which means you live on safer, quieter street
- On a cul-de-sac
Talk about quiet, these streets see only a handful of drivers
- Wide, even sidewalks
Taking family walks and teaching kids to ride bikes is a lot easier and safer on well-maintained sidewalks
- Tree-lined street
Summer days bike-riding on sidewalks, or bike lanes is a lot more comfortable on shady, tree-lined streets
2. Identify educational assets
Parents want their children to have the best of everything, especially a quality education. That’s why house hunters with children almost always ask their agents this question first: “Is it in a good school district?”
Mentioning the closest public schools, or the school district’s rating, is a top priority, but that may not be the only educational asset worth mentioning in your family neighborhood.
- Public schools
Unless you’ve got kids in school, you may not know if you live in a good district or not. Luckily, your agent will. And you can always look it up online at sites like SchoolDigger, or Niche.
- Charter & private school
Not all parents plan to send their kids to public schools, so give them options by noting any nearby charter or private schools. It’s even worth mentioning if these schools participate in school choice programs.
Education beyond the classroom is a huge priority for many parents—particularly homeschoolers—so point out local kid-friendly museums, science centers, stage theatres, art galleries, and historical sites.
- Community events
Maybe your town isn’t Star’s Hollow, with dance-a-thons, bid-a-basket picnics, and Firelight Festivals, but buyers will be very interested to know if your community consistently offers family-friendly events.
3. Point out places to play
Families that play together stay together, or so the saying goes. So make sure to mention in your listing if your neighborhood has venues and attractions designed for family fun:
- Waterplay places
If you live near a water park, a lake, or your HOA maintains a splash pad and a community pool, say so. Especially if you live in the hot desert of southern climes where people use pools year-round.
- Parks of all kinds
Spacious public parks with multiple playgrounds, small HOA-maintained courtyards, major and minor government-run parks with hiking trails—note of all the local places where families can appreciate mother nature.
- Family fun centers
Mini-golf fun centers, video arcades, movie theatres, indoor trampoline parks, rock-climbing gyms, even major theme parks deserve a mention to appeal to family buyers.
- Community sports spots
Lots of local parks have basketball courts or a baseball field, but if you live near sports-focused venues like golf courses, swim centers, or tennis clubs, it may pay off to point them out.
4. Play up your locale’s reputation
People love lists, so there’s a plethora of places that publish rankings like greatest movie lines of all time, most popular tourist destinations, and even the best places to raise a family.
So when you’re searching for ways to highlight the family-friendliness of your locale, make sure to check out where it ranks on some of these lists:
- Best states lists
Best states to raise a family lists aren’t mere puff pieces, many of them are based on hard data, like child health statistics, in-state college tuition costs, and standardized reading scores. So, point it out if your state scores high on these lists to attract out-of-state family buyers
- Best cities lists
If you don’t get a lot of out-of-staters in your area, look at where your town falls on Best Cities to Raise Kids lists, which are based on similar, but more specific data.
- Best neighborhoods lists
If you live in a major metropolitan area, it’s probably better to focus where your suburb ranks on “best family neighborhoods” lists. Local newspapers and official city websites often rank these for incoming residents.
5. Highlight your home’s family-friendly features
While it pays to mention the highlights of your family neighborhood, fixating on it exclusively in your listing description sends up a red flag that your house isn’t worth mentioning.
So you’ll be better off if you balance out your family neighborhood focus by touching on why your actual house is family-friendly.
“Typically when a couple is house hunting, one is an emotional buyer and the other is an analytical buyer. So you want to make sure that you’re listing language appeals to both,” explains West.
Along with the factual information that the analytical person wants to hear, like close to schools, you should also include inviting, emotion-evoking language like a cozy fireplace in the spacious family room, to appeal to the emotional buyer.
Let’s take a look that the top family-friendly features you should point out if you’ve got them:
- Number of bedrooms (and…)
Saying how many bedrooms you have is a no-brainer, but also make note if they’re bigger than average, feature kid-friendly built-ins, like a treehouse bunkbed, or conveniently located to the master suite.
- Number of bathrooms
Three or four-bedroom houses are perfect for families…unless they’ve only got one bathroom. So even if all you have is an extra, but tiny half-bath beneath the staircase, mention it.
- Outdoor areas
Families don’t always like to leave home to enjoy the outdoors, so highlight your big backyard, along with any amenities staying with the house, like the swing set, fire pit, gazebo, deck, and swimming pool.
- Spacious kitchen
The kitchen is the hub of the house, which is why families need extra space in the kitchen to maneuver and eat together. So if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Make mention of breakfast nooks, built-in banquettes, eat-in kitchen, kitchen island, extra counter space, and if you’ve got a formal dining room, too.
- Additional living space
When there’s lots of kids and teens underfoot, one small living room may not be enough. So say so if you’ve got a bonus room, a sunroom, a finished basement, playroom, den, or any extra hang out spaces.
6. Incorporate appealing language into the listing description
It’s not just what you say in your listing, it’s how you say it.
Simply listing off every family-friendly feature your house and neighborhood can overwhelm potential buyers, and it also means that none of your most special assets will stand out.
So, you need to treat the verbiage of your listing description like the ad campaign that it is and take special care with the words you choose to describe your best family neighborhood features.
“Use vibrant words that convey a cozy feeling when writing the marketing, so that you’re painting a picture for buyers that the property is a warm, safe place that they can call home,” said West.
“The better we are at using emotion-inspiring verbiage, the more likely they are to come take a look at the house.”
Getting creative with your listing description isn’t easy, as you run the risk of being too wordy, cliché, or even corny.
It all starts with picking the most appealing words for your listing description, and you’ll be happy to learn that there are actually people who track those used most frequently by real estate agents.
Once you’ve got the right words, it’s all about painting a picture of the idyllic life awaiting the family lucky enough to move into your home and neighborhood.
Avoid unappealing language (and words that violate the Fair Housing Act)
Use the wrong words, and you might confuse buyers or turn them off entirely. And some might just be illegal.
1. Right word, wrong usage
Some words that are great for describing one feature, paints the wrong picture when associated with another asset.
Let’s say you call the fireplace in the family room “cozy.” That works, because you create an image of curling up by the fire with a cup of cocoa on chilly winter nights.
Now think about the picture “cozy” paints when you pair it with “kitchen,” or “bedroom.” Suddenly cozy evokes images of a too-tiny kitchen, or a bedroom no bigger than a small walk-in closet.
2. Wrong words…sometimes
There are other words that don’t belong in listing descriptions because they’re tainted with negativity. And what they are might surprise you.
For instance, in some places, highlighting the fact that your family neighborhood is a low-crime area is a home run sales strategy. But that’s not true everywhere.
“In my area, you don’t ever want to use verbiage like ‘low crime,’ because that insinuates that there is crime,” advises West.
Others are less obvious, like “clean” and “new paint”. These seem like they’d be worth mentioning, but what they really say is that your house is so unremarkable, that this is all you can come up with to say.
3. Illegal language
Thanks to the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the renting or sale of housing nationwide, there’s some verbiage that could land your agent in hot water.
“The fair housing laws in California are fairly specific about things you shouldn’t say in a listing when you’re talking about a great, family-friendly neighborhood,” advises West.
“When you’re highlighting amenities, like a nearby park or close to a great school, you need to use the right verbiage in your marketing that appeals to a young family without saying specific things that would exclude other people. For instance, ‘within walking distance’ excludes someone who can’t walk, and saying it’s close to a specific church excludes buyers of other faiths.”
In a nutshell, this means that your listing description cannot use any language that could be interpreted as discriminatory against any of the seven protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, or familial status.
While there’s no official HUD list of banned words, most agents keep tabs on which wording is likely to violate the Fair Housing Act.
As do local real estate associations, like the Realtors Association of Northern Wisconsin, who created this list of no-no words:
It’s important to know what your regional Fair Housing Act language standards are, because they may vary from state to state.
While it’s acceptable to say “great for family” in Northern Wisconsin, other regions similar phrases like “family-oriented” are verboten.
While you may not be allowed to say “family neighborhood” in your listing description, you can play up features that appeal to families.
“You can mention family-friendly facts like the school district you’re in, or that the house has a family room, or playground equipment, or a nanny’s room. Those are features you can mention that are appealing to families but not at the exclusion of others,” says West.
Also, since you can’t explicitly say that you’re targeting families as your buyer pool demographic, you may want to consider not trying to market to families.
After all, as the seller, what you really want is the buyer who brings you the best offer—whether it’s a family or a confirmed bachelor buying your family-friendly home.
Instead, simply focus on featuring the best assets found in your home and neighborhood, and let them do the talking for you. If yours is a family-friendly locale, those features will naturally stand out.
Include photos that say family-friendly…without actually saying it
Spelling out in writing that yours is a family-friendly house in a family neighborhood may be out of the question, but you know what they say about pictures…
When focusing on family features is your goal, you can capture a thousand words-worth of marketing copy simply by staging your home with kids in mind.
Here’s just a few ideas of photos that can showcase family appeal:
- Bedrooms staged with cartoon-character bedding
- Playroom with toys set up
- Spread out a board game on the coffee table in the bonus room
- Include shots of the backyard tire swing or sandbox
- Add a few “around the neighborhood” images featuring parks, children’s theatres, and other family neighborhood attractions
A fine place for families
By now you’re probably overwhelmed with all the ways you can advertise that you’re selling a family-friendly house in a family neighborhood.
For starters, the listing description is only a paragraph long, not a novel—so you won’t be able to fit all of this into one little description.
Plus, if you’ve hired a fantastic, experienced agent, they’ll likely take care of writing the family neighborhood listing description for you.
What you can do though, is gather all of the data that makes your house and neighborhood a great place for families and put it all in a letter or a flyer for potential buyers to take home after the showing.
That way they’ll have a visual reminder of how fabulous your house and family neighborhood would be as their future home.