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With school letting out for summer, the scramble is on for many families seeking to buy their first home or move into a larger one before the bell rings again in September.

Shopping for and buying a home is a daunting process for anyone, but Zillow research shows that, for parents, the stresses are magnified. To get into their new home, parents living with children under 18 are more likely to go over budget and make smaller down payments. They’re also more likely to end up with longer commutes and smaller homes than they wanted.

“Having kids is a major destabilizer in life – their needs are constantly changing and seemingly impossible to anticipate,” said Skylar Olsen, Zillow’s director of economic research. “Combine all that uncertainty with a massive financial decision that inevitably requires tough tradeoffs among a limited set of options and has to be wrapped up in time to move before school starts and you’ve got one of the biggest challenges around.”

The perfect-home wish list starts out longer for buyers who are parents. While those without kids might begin their search in the more walkable, trendy parts of town, parents’ neighborhood needs weigh more heavily on safety, enrichment and community. They also place a higher importance on having the preferred number of bedrooms and bathrooms, private outdoor space and community amenities.

To find a home with the right features in the right place, they face an arduous search process. They are more likely to experience an offer or mortgage financing falling through and they attend more open houses.

Despite the extra effort, two-thirds of these buyers with children say they ultimately made sacrifices to stay within their initial budget.

Of them, about a third each sacrificed a shorter commute, a larger home or their desired finishes, according to a nationwide survey of recent home buyers.

The good news? When all is said and done at the end of the long journey, 94.6 percent of parents who recently bought a home say they love it – slightly higher than those without kids. 

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