Young couples starting a family are usually in love with the idea of seeing their first child born in their own home. They scrape together whatever resources they are able to, and buy a little place. Then, the family begins to grow. It’s then that they begin to realize that while starting family in a home they own is a very nice idea, it isn’t the same thing as raising the family there. It can be hard to stuff any more than one child into a house with two bedrooms and one bathroom.

If you are about to start a family or are planning on more kids, more space should be at the top of your list. Most families looking for homes hope for a finished basement, a garage capable of fitting at least two cars, a lawnmower and a stroller, and a garden, in that order. Gardens, while beautiful, usually do not make it to the top of the list because they take tending, and it can be hard for families to find the time when both spouses work.

As important as such a list is, it tends to be incomplete. The search for the perfect home for a growing family needs to be much more nuanced.

Look for expandability

Whatever rooms, bathrooms or closets a home may have when you go in to look at it, it’s important to understand that you need to look beyond what’s right there. When your family is young, it can be hard to predict what needs might turn up down the line. Expandability, then, is key. Not only do you want to see some additional room in the compound to build out into, you want to make sure that planning permission is likely to be available for any changes that you may need to make.

Spacious attics and basements are important in family homes, too — these spaces can be easily turned into rooms, storage areas, rec rooms, offices or anything else. A backyard can offer useful space, as well, if for nothing else than a little shack for a home business, if you should ever plan on one.

Look for the right floor plan

Information about the number of rooms that a home has and the size that each room is does not by itself tell you how good to live in the house is. Homes tend to be built to all kinds of inconvenient floor plans. There could be a strange elevation running right through the middle of the lobby requiring a little climb each time you wish to walk across the space. There could be lots of space wasted on corridors, landings dining areas, and little space given over to bedrooms, closets and a garage.

The right floor plan isn’t just about convenience. It’s also about expense. Rooms that are unnecessarily large are more expensive to heat. Looking for small, compact, well-defined and closed off floorplans can mean lower heating bills.

Research the location

According to Hamptons (visit Hamptons), the property major, many families tend to look for a “walkable” town. The perfect location for a home for growing family is likely to be an area with excellent schools and preschools close by, public transportation within reach, and plenty of activities no farther than a 10-minute drive away.

One easy way to ensure a family-friendly location would be to look for plenty of other families on the street, with children. It’s easy enough to check — all you need to do is to drive around at six in the evening to see how many children there are playing on the streets. Finding plenty of children that your own children could be friends with, could wonderfully qualify a place.

Research the air quality

While Britain is known for its perfectly maintained environment, many individual towns have been identified by the WHO for violating safe air recommendations. London, Sheffield, Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent and Nottingham have all been named as unsafe for children.

It isn’t easy to tell how safe the city may be by looking for industrial activity or traffic on the streets. Being right on the coast and with few manufacturing enterprises, Southampton would could appear to be clean. The city finds a place on the WHO’s list of most polluted cities, though, because of emissions from the ocean liners that come to the port. If you are going to be buying a home in settling down in a city, it might as well be a place that is safe for your children.

Finally, it’s important to look for the little things that can ruin everything — an unfriendly dog next door, a quarrelsome family across the street and so on. You should talk to your neighbours.

Louis Brown has been selling properties and advising clients for a number of years. He likes to share his insights and ideas on property buying and selling strategies with an online audience and is a regular writer for a number of different websites.