If Your Kids Could Have Their Way, Where Would They Move

Young professionals without kids have the freedom to move based on personal preference, financial reasons, and job opportunities. Often, high-paying jobs and seemingly endless amenities for entertainment, dining, and sightseeing draw people to bustling, costly cities on the coast. Parents, however, operate under a different must-have list where high priority is given to finding family-friendly neighborhoods with ample outdoor space.

To define the best areas for kids, Zillow analyzed 100 of the nation’s largest cities, grading them on commute times, child population, and kid-friendly amenities like theme parks and playgrounds. Consider the following four cities that made the top 10 kid-friendly cities list.

Fort Worth

Out of the top 10 cities for kids, Fort Worth holds the highest percentage of youngsters at 16.1% of the total population. In addition, 13.8% of homes listed for sale in Fort Worth include kid-friendly terms such as “playroom” and “custom treehouse,” which helps relocating parents narrow their scope. Fort Worth holds four parks and 0.02 theme parks per 10,000 residents, while the median yard size is a comfortable 5,742 square feet. M/I Homes’ Creekwood community in Saginaw, located just north of the city, is representative of Fort Worth family living. Creekwood holds recreational fields, lake access, and green space. Various amenities, including a duck pond, fishing pond, biking trails, playgrounds, and swimming pools, are fundamental for families with children. Plus, close access to I-35W minimizes driving time to and from work for employed parents.

 San Antonio

At no. 4 on the best kid-friendly cities list, San Antonio kids make up 14.6% of the city’s population. House hunters with kids might have an easier time finding the perfect place given 14.3% of listings depict kid-friendly amenities. What San Antonio lacks in accessible public parks – two per 10,000 people – it makes up in yard size at a median 6,211 square feet. San Antonio also holds one of the higher theme park proportions of the top 10 cities at 0.04 per 10,000 residents. If you’re searching for family-friendly homes near San Antonio, consider the Waterford Park community. Waterford Park includes a community pool, playscape, open space and cabana for both adults and children to enjoy. This Alamo Ranch new construction community is located within the highly-rated Northside Independent School District, which feeds into several distinguished elementary, middle, and high school public facilities.


Charlotte is the sixth best city for child rearing, based on its large kid population (14.3%) and numerous tot-approved listings (8%). With four parks and 0.03 theme parks per 10,000 people, Charlotte doesn’t lack profuse amusement. Still, Charlotte’s distinct attribute is the city’s sizable backyards at a median 10,549 square feet. Avery Park, a new home site in Cornelius, is a prime example of kid-friendly living near Charlotte. Avery Park offers easy access to Lake Norman, parks, playgrounds, a community garden, and dog park. Residents benefit from a convenient location, just 20 minutes north of Uptown Charlotte, facilitating faster commute times throughout the work week.


Dallas comes in no. 10 of the best cities for kids with 15.7% kids and 7.6% of homes listed with kid-friendly terms. Dallas offers three public parks and 0.02 theme parks per 10,000 residents. The median yard size of 7,133 square feet designed to satisfy any energetic toddler proves everything truly is bigger in Texas. Castle Point is a prime community for single-family house hunters. Located in Garland, northeast of downtown Dallas, Castle Point is a few miles away from George Bush Turnpike and minutes from major highways. In addition, Castle Point is within walking distance of Springfield Park and the Rowlett Creek Preserve, while the greater Garland area holds thousands of acres of green space and nature trails.

While kids are destined to enjoy green space and neighborhood amenities, parents are wise to weigh job opportunities, local schools and real estate prices alongside family must-haves. Luckily, many of these major cities fit everybody’s best interest – regardless of age.

**Jennifer Riner writes about rentals, home improvement and design for Zillow Blog.

Popular Places to Move near Houston, Texas

Houston is an attractive relocation spot for many young professionals, families, retirees and individuals in between. With a healthy job market, no state income tax, attractive annual forecast and endless options for home-style barbeque, Houston is a unique metro mixing Texas charm with urban edge. Houston’s real estate market is one of very few in the nation to withstand the Great Recession of 2008, mostly due to the city’s involvement in the energy sector. In 2007, national home values fell 29 percent while Houston home values remained relatively stagnant.

Almost a decade later Houston property prices are still thriving. In the past year, home values in Houston have increased 8.5 percent, and Zillow predicts another 3.4 percent increase in the next year alone. The median home value is currently sitting at $141,300, making the city a relatively affordable spot compared to some of the other major urban dwellings throughout the United States.

If you’re considering a move to Houston to benefit from the strong real estate market but still crave a more suburban vibe, consider the following communities.

Augusta Creek Ridge

Located just 30 miles north of downtown Houston, and only 15 minutes off of I-45, the homes within Augusta Creek Ridge are designed with luxury in mind. Large cul-de-sacs and corner lots provide extra privacy for families or individuals seeking additional ground space. Homes in Augusta Creek come in 3, 4 or 5 bedroom plans, ranging from around 2,300 to 3,800 square feet. The community is conveniently located within the Klein Independent School District for families with school-aged children. The master planned community of Augusta Pines offers a semi-private, 18-hole golf club and a public clubhouse. Residents of Augusta Pines can also spend time relaxing by the community swimming pool, fishing pond and tennis courts. The community park offers a lap pool, splash pool, swimming pool and clubhouse.

Laurel Park

With waterfront views, Laurel Park homes are nothing short of spectacular. The community is located in Spring, TX, just 24 miles of downtown Houston. However, with a quiet surrounding, filled with biking trails, you won’t feel the stress of the city in Laurel Park.  Homes in Laurel Park are constructed on 60, 70 or 80 foot wide lots, and range from 2,263 to 5,509 square feet. Like Augusta Creek Ridge, some Laurel Park homes are also situated on cul-de-sacs for added privacy.

McKenzie Park

Featuring greenbelt trails, three well-stocked and illuminated lakes, a swimming pool with splash pad, Recreation Center, Tres Largos in McKenzie Park is a beautiful, new master-planned community in Spring, TX. Located 1 mile North of the Grand Parkway, 4 miles west of 1-45 and the Hardy Toll Road, and 3 miles south of The Woodlands. McKenzie Park is in the highly acclaimed Klein Independent School District. Families who choose to call this community home.

With waterfront lots available, the gated section of Tres Lagos in McKenzie Park will feature single and two-story homes ranging from 3,885 – 5,509 square feet, and offering sophisticated, smartly designed, open floor plans. These new homes will feature vast entertaining areas along with a variety of options and upgrades suitable for today’s most discerning families.

For all Houston communities, M/I Homes is proud to offer Whole Home energy savings, in-house financing and a 10-year transferable structural warranty. To start your journey to Texas and the greater Houston area, contact M/I Homes for more information.

** Jennifer Riner writes about rentals, home improvement and design for Zillow.


What are New Buyers Looking for in Their Home Purchases?

By Jennifer Riner of Zillow

Are you looking to buy a home in the near future? It might be intimidating, and if you’re young or new to the real estate game, you might be wondering if it’s too soon to search for your first real estate purchase. Whether you’re financially ready or not, it’s never too early to begin researching market trends.

First, consider the shift in home buyer demographics over the past 20 years, and what some buyers are looking for in new construction homes.

New Home Buyer Demographics

Over the years, the typical first-time home buyer has changed slightly, transforming from a younger, married couple, who rents for just a few years, to a slightly older, single person with more experience in being a renter.

According to a Zillow analysis of first-time home buyer characteristics, the average home buyer today is 33-years-old, compared to 30-years-old in the late ’80s. Additionally, first-time buyers are renting 6 years before searching for homes to purchase, compared to just 4.4 years a few decades ago.

One reason today’s buyers might be renting longer is because they need more time to save for larger down payments. Zillow’s research team found that first-time buyers spend 2.6 times their incomes on starter homes, which cost around $140,328 at closing. In the late ’80s, starter homes only cost 1.9 times the median income.

While 52 percent of first-time buyers were married in the late ‘80s, only 40 percent of first-time home buyers are married now. Buying a home on just one income poses more financial risk, but allows more independence in choosing property specifics and makes the house hunting process considerably simpler – just ask any married couple.

M/I Homes Homeowners

National Trends

The tiny home craze is still going strong in its niche market, but many Americans looking for new construction homes still need their space. In fact, the average new home has increased in size by 24 percent over the past 15 years. New construction homes have gone from a median of roughly 2,100 square feet in 1999 to 2,600 square feet at the end of 2014, and they tend to have more bedrooms and bathrooms than their previous models.

Although sizes have increased, new builders have become savvier with exterior square footage. The median lot size declined 10 percent since the late 1990s, from 9,600 square feet in 1999 to 8,600 square feet in at the end of 2014. Although builders began increasing the ratio of structure to lot area – or putting larger structures on smaller lots – of homes in the years prior to the recession, new construction slowed slightly when the housing market crashed. However, since the real estate market bounced back, the trend of building bigger dwellings on smaller properties accelerated rapidly in recent years.

In the early 2000s, the average new construction home had three feet of yard space per one foot of finished interior space. By the end of 2014, the average new construction home had less than two feet of yard space for ever one foot of finished interior space. However, some builders are also their priorities toward condominiums and townhomes, which could also cause an inherent increase in compactness of yard space for the standard new construction property.

Whether you’re the typical new buyer, or you’re a one-of-a-kind house hunter who broke the mold, making the decision to invest in real estate is a life-changing decision with considerable investment opportunity for the future.


**Jennifer Riner writes about rentals, home improvement and design for Zillow Blog.

Moving Near Tampa: These Popular Neighborhoods May Suit You

If you’re considering relocating near the Tampa, FL area you’re likely wondering about your housing options. Luckily, in Tampa you’ll find prices lower than the U.S. median cost for both renting and buying. Across the country, renters can expect to pay $1,386 each month, while in Tampa they pay slightly less, $1,285. National home values are currently at $182,500 while in Tampa that value drops to $148,600. So, the first housing decision in relocating is to choose whether renting or buying is right for you.

Tampa Home Sales

In Tampa, it only takes 1.5 years for the costs of buying a home to break even with the costs of renting. So, if your move is scheduled to last at least 1 year and 7 months, then buying a home is financially a better option.

The next step is to decide where you plan to buy. Consider these two new constructions communities, both packed with amenities.

Starkey Ranch

At the convergence of Hillsborough County, Pinellas County and Pasco County you’ll find single family homes and townhomes within the community. The Starkey Ranch development will include retail shops, a park, pool and recreational facility with baseball, softball and soccer fields. The location provides quick access to Tampa Bay beaches, professional sports stadiums, theme parks and zoos. Plus, it’s within close proximity to major Tampa employers.

Eventually, Starkey Ranch will have 5,000 homes ranging in style. Some models include large front porches while others boast private backyards. These homes range in price based on the features you select to build out your personalized home, but they start at $257,990 or $331,990 depending on style.

The cost of these homes is a little more than the median home values in each of the three counties it resides in. However, all three counties are expecting upwards of 6 percent annual home value appreciation with forecasted lift throughout 2016. Therefore, the Starkey Ranch community could be a foot in the door, while costs are low, and a solid investment plan for valuable returns at resale.Tampa Model Home


Alternatively, in north Pasco County you may find a more affordable and suitable lifestyle fit at the Talavera community. The development includes a slightly farther commute but saves you about $50,000 on that final price tag. Homes in Talavera start at $199,990 and include 11 different floor plan options.

The community will have fewer homes than Starkey Ranch with just 750 homes, but includes excellent amenities such as a pool, playground and tennis courts.

Plus, if an eco-friendly home is of interest to you, Talavera may be your ideal neighborhood. Homes are built with M/I Homes’ Whole Home program, ensuring top-of-the-line energy efficiencies and use of local materials whenever possible.

Additionally, Talavera homes include a 15-year transferable structure warranty which is one and half times your average warranty. Such warranties allow buyers to sell their properties while still covered – a great benefit at resale. In this community, you should feel financially secure. Home values in Pasco County are rising at a rate of 6.3 percent year-over-year and are expected to appreciate at a more sustainable rate of 1.8 percent throughout 2016.

Tampa Model

Both Starkey Ranch and Talavera offer excellent community atmospheres for your new life near Tampa. Plus, buying a new construction home reduces the stress of purchasing an older property with unexpected, costly maintenance issues. Explore your options for both a comfortable daily lifestyle within your means while considering the financial reliability of the overall investment.

Written by: Tali Wee.  Tali Wee writes about finances, home improvement and interior design for Zillow and other partners.


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