When the dining room turns into a play room, you know the kids are in charge

Parents are forgoing back yards and even living rooms to carve out space for the toys

How essential to young families is having a playroom for the kids? Very. And some are giving up another longtime family favorite feature to get them: the sprawling backyard.

“Buyers today — especially millennial buyers — want everyone to have a private space of their own to decompress under one roof, and the bonus room/playroom outweighs a large yard in their buying decision,” said Patty Blackwelder, a buyer’s agent with Twins Selling Real Estate/EXIT Realty Associates in Northern Virginia. “The first item that seems to fall off the list is the large yard.”

It was a formal living room repurposed into a playroom that recently swayed clients of Blackwelder’s to purchase a home in Bristow, Va. Gone were the typical sitting chairs and end tables, replaced by shelving for toys, blackboard paint and a Dr. Seuss quotation on a wall.

While the home has a yard, it’s small. No matter; since moving in, the buyers have been taking their children to a nearby playground anyway, Blackwelder said.

The biggest requirements for families with children, according to the National Association of Realtors, is what you’d expect: 62% of those with kids 18 and under say the quality of the neighborhood is important, while 50% are looking for a good school district and 49% want the home to be convenient to their jobs. Fewer said that lot size or proximity to parks and recreational facilities were a factor in choosing a home. The statistics come from the group’s 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report.

Yet once those top-level needs are met, families start to make more detail-level compromises. And being able to visualize a place for the kids to corral their stuff and play has become a priority, according to Blackwelder and others.

In the San Francisco area, Ann Thompson, regional sales executive at Bank of America Home Loans, is seeing the same thing. Indoor play space was a top desire for buyers in 2015, she said.

“People are happy to have a patio for the kids to play on. The big-yard thing — it’s not necessarily everyone’s grandest dream anymore,” Thompson said. That may be especially true in California, where persistent drought — and restrictions on water usage — influence how much lawn people desire. Many owners also don’t want to spend the time or the money required to keep up a large lawn, she said.

That isn’t to say that a large backyard doesn’t remain a priority — for some buyers, in some locations. In Kansas City, for one, families don’t seem to be interested in downsizing lawns, said Sherri Hines, a real-estate agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Kansas City Homes.

“We are so used to space and land, we don’t have houses right on top of each other; we are very spread out geographically,” she said. “And I don’t see that diminishing.” Housing is also generally more affordable there than, for example, in markets on the coasts, and home buyers may not need to compromise as much as in high-cost areas.

But in the Kansas City area, too, an indoor play area is a priority, Hines said, since parents want a separate space to keep toys from flooding the kitchen and family areas. “The volume of toys we have is much higher [than in generations past],” she observed.

New life for the dining room
Millennials, in particular, are good at repurposing home spaces so that they’re more aligned with life today, said Jill Waage, executive editor for the Better Homes and Gardens brand. The brand includes the print magazine from which it gets its name and also includes its website, social platforms, apps, broadcast programs and licensed products. For years now, formal spaces such as dining rooms have been out of favor with many home buyers.

“They are willing to look at the renaming and reuse of the home,” she said, changing rooms “into something that they get value out of every day and every week.”

Retailers are also suggesting the dual-use room as a trend. On the website for Land of Nod, a Chicago-based retailer of children’s furniture and products, there are tips on how to create a formal dining room and playroom in one.

“Just because at some point in time someone wrote ‘dining room’ over this square plot in your home, doesn’t mean that it can only forever and henceforth be used as a dining room,” it reads, adding that often a formal dining room is used only a few days a year for gatherings. “We say you can have your dining room four days a year, but you can also have a playroom 361 days a year.”

Courtesy of: Amy Hoak – MarketWatch

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