Choosing the right family home is important not just for you but for the children you have or plan to have (or both). In addition to the standard considerations involved in buying any property, there are some extra points to consider.
Is your family already complete?
If your family is already as big as you want it to be, then you will know how much space you will need to accommodate them. You may, however, still want to have a little extra space (if budget allows) so that you can have at least one set of parents move in with you at a later date if need be (or just so as to have a place for guests).
If your family is not complete then you will need to take a decision regarding the economics of buying a smaller house to begin with, versus spending money upfront on buying a house you can grow into. When making these calculations, remember to factor in moving costs and the fact that if you buy your next-but-one home before you have sold your next home, then you will have to pay the stamp-duty surcharge and then recoup it.
What is the area like as a whole?
Here is a cold, hard fact some parents may find hard to swallow. Paying the inevitable premium for a house which is (currently) in the catchment area for a good school will probably increase the odds of your child being accepted for the school, but is unlikely to guarantee that they will get a place in it.
There are many reasons for this, starting with the fact that good schools can be heavily oversubscribed meaning that some parents are going to be disappointed. Similarly catchment areas can change and it is far from out of the question that the entire “catchment” system could be overhauled, especially in cities. That being so, you might want to consider how much the neighbourhood (and the neighbours themselves) would appeal to you even without the school.
If you would be happy to live there in any case and the price is right, then the home may still be a good purchase, but if your main reason for being interested in the home is the school, then you may want to look elsewhere. If a school is a safe and supportive environment then it may still be a good place to send your child even if it does not have an outstanding academic track record, especially since houses in the vicinity of a less-desirable school tend to be more affordable so you could potentially use some of the money you save to arrange for private tuition in your child’s key subjects.
Get your children’s seal of approval on any potential purchase
Once you have found a house with which you are happy with, bring your children along to view it and see how they react to it. If they seem less than enthusiastic about the house itself (rather than just the prospect of moving) then try to find out what specifically they dislike and see if it can be amended. If not, then you may want to think about continuing your search rather than moving your children into a property about which they have negative feelings and just hoping that matters will improve.