• Find a location on a quiet street, if possible.
West advises homebuying clients with grandchildren to think of the kids' safety when considering the street on which they plan to live.
“Most families prefer a quiet street if they have a choice. Not only is that better for children and pets but it also means less noise and stress,” she said.
Protecting children from road hazards is particularly important if the grandparents are providing care for young children or if the kids live with them full-time. As Johnson notes, the number of grandparents who raise children now numbers more than 8 million and is increasing.
• Seek a home with an extra bedroom or suite.
West also encourages homebuyers with large extended families to shop for a property with an extra bedroom, particularly for those with families separated by distance.
“It's much better to put your family up at your home rather than at a hotel. It's way more relaxed that way. And because no one prefers to share a bathroom, it's great to have a guest suite with its own bathroom,” she said.
Even homeowners who live near their grandchildren can benefit from a bedroom the kids can call their own. For instance, West has an extra bedroom with three twin beds and a closet full of toys that her grandsons use during overnight visits.
• Realize that living in a resort area is optional.
Some homebuying grandparents pick a neighborhood with easy access to a recreational venue, such as an ocean beach or an amusement park. Others move near cities with sightseeing opportunities. They hope such lures will prompt their offspring to visit often.
But Thoele said grandparents who plan to move shouldn't select a property based on its tourist attractions. That's because most residential areas offer sufficient leisure activities to keep the kids entertained, and grandparents need to think first about their own lifestyle preferences. In addition, families can create their own fun activities around the house, including crafts and games.
• Don't worry if you live a distance away.
Johnson said many grandparents can't afford to make a long-distance move to be closer to their grandchildren — especially if the kids live in an area with high-cost housing. And there's no guarantee your grown children might not make another move later, should their careers cause them to relocate.
Johnson said there are many ways to stay connected with grandchildren, even if you live a plane ride away and don't have the funds or good health to travel often. Through the book and blog she co-authors, she provides low-cost strategies for staying in close touch.
“There is a multitude of ways to stay connected long distance. You just have to have the right frame of mind and a big heart,” she said.
To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.