Honey! I shrunk the house

GROWING families and children take up space. You will notice how your priorities about how and where you live change when little ones arrive.

I should know. With a two boys under the age of five on my hands there came a time when we outgrew our living space. So finding a flat in Hammersmith to accommodate two small ones – as well as the tired married couple! – was the only option.

As an estate agent in Hammersmith for the past 16 years, ‘nesters’ have always proved to be my very best clients. The most common reason why parents choose Hammersmith or Shepherds Bush is the excellent primary schools, such as John Betts, Wendell Park or Greenside.

When buying or renting, living near good schools will increase the price of the home you want, but most parents tell me it is a price worth paying.

And for younger ones, living in buggy-pushing-distance of good nurseries such as Vanessa and Ladybird is worth its weight in gold.

My boys were born in Queen Charlotte’s Hospital and we joined our local NCT group as new parents four years ago.

It wasn’t long before I heard the stories from fellow first-time parents about how the flat they loved as free-and-easy London professionals became a nightmare when the baby arrived.

For those who want a bigger home to buy or rent, do your research and go on your local council’s website to check out nearby schools and children’s centres.

One important tip for first-time buyers is make sure to take advantage of the tax credit waiving Stamp Duty for homes under £250,000. This deal expires on March 24 and I’ve seen plenty of families benefit when they take the leap to owning an ex-council house. They are often large and well-built, and most locally have had extensive renovation work completed in the last few years. Plus, councils are keen to sell.

But with the average price of a home in Hammersmith & Fulham and Chiswick clocking it at an eye-watering £500,000+, the deal may not help everyone, but make sure to take advantage of offers from your energy company for new insulation – which are also due to change soon.

The other bit of good news for new parents is that most children’s centres have changed their rules. If you want your child to attend the centre closest to your work, not your home, you should have no problem.

If you are selling, make sure to stress to prospective buyers how the area has worked for you as a family, pointing out the schools, the parks and the cafes! It can be very reassuring to hear and best coming from you – not the boring estate agent.

The good news is that often sellers with families like to sell to buyers with a family. While there is much less room for sentimentality in today’s West London property market than a decade ago, it can still be a big bonus for buyers to be able to visualise how a property can work as a busy family home.

So for sellers with a family, I always advise them to show off their kids and their bedrooms – including all of their toys! – and urge them not to stress about the family clutter. Just keep it tidy and keep it real. It works.