Tuesday Topic: Buying a House Before Adopting

working on our remodel
working on our pre-remodel project

Today’s Tuesday Topic comes from Cassandra who asks,

We’re in the middle of our first adoption and our agency just told us they expect we have another year before we can travel to bring home our daughter. We would love to buy a forever home rather than renting and possibly moving several times to upgrade the size of our home. Since we now know we have a year to wait (unless God decides to move things along!) my husband and I are seriously praying about buying a house before traveling.

We want a big family (at least four kids, our family will be built entirely through adoption, probably older girls). How do we determine how much house to buy? We have dreams of a big family but only God knows how many children we’ll be able to adopt. Do you have any insight into buying a home before we know the size of our family?

This is a nice practical question that I’m sure many of us can weigh in on. Please share from your experiences, both positive and negative. Does your house work well for your family? If you could change it, what would you change? Have you moved or remodeled in order to make your house work better for the needs of your family?

As you all know, we’ve had significant challenges with our house not meeting our family’s needs. I appreciate that Cassandra and her husband are weighing this out now.

I hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts; I would love to hear from you. Have a great day, friends.

Encourage one another,

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

25 Comments

  1. Angela Arnett Stone
    April 15, 2014

    Much as I would love to have bought a house to accomedate future kids it was more important that we work within our budget. So small with just enough room for 1-2 kids that can share a room was all we could do now. We'd love to know we could stay here forever but we won't. We'll keep pinching our pennies and move as we need more space. On the upside this house will be paid off "quickly" so when the time comes to move up in size financially it will have been a great decision for us.

    Reply
    1. adventisthomemaker
      April 15, 2014

      Angela, thanks for those thoughts! We are trying very hard to find something that fits within our current budget, not stretching for possible future raises. We are paying a lot to rent, so we can buy for what we're paying now. Our choices are limited, but there are options out there. We're just not sure what to look for or if we should wait! I love that your house will be paid off quickly so that you'll be able to get something bigger later.

      Reply
  2. Rebekah
    April 15, 2014

    Personally, I would say no. It is just that there could be a lot of issues post adoption. We are in a terrible financial situation after our foster to adopt situation and even with the financial assistance we get from the state, it is still a struggle. If we owed a mortgage plus try to deal with issues in our house it would be even more difficult. Maybe trying to find a rental in which you love being there and can accommodate your family post adoption. At least until you know you what you are going to be dealing with post adoption.

    Reply
    1. adventisthomemaker
      April 15, 2014

      Rebekah, thank you for your insight. We are trying to keep this in mind – what additional expenses will we have after adoption? Therapy (physical or mental), the basic costs of raising a child, etc. If we do buy, we don't want to pay more for the mortgage than what we are paying for a rental. That way we can afford whatever house we move into.

      Reply
      1. Scoopy
        April 15, 2014

        WAY MORE THERAPY THAN YOU EVER DREAMED. Even some of the best insurance will not cover trauma-savvy therapists for kids, occupational therapy for sensory issues, neuro-feedback, EMDR therapists. Out of pocket visits are $80-$120. I would plan on needing therapy that insurance won't cover. You may not need it, but a whole lot of us do.

        Reply
      2. Rebekah
        April 16, 2014

        So much therapy and the therapy our kids require is not covered by insurance. Luckily we have some state money we can use for that. It is so hard to know. That is why I say, wait. Just a year or two until you can see what your trials are going to be. I know many families that have adopted with no issues. And then there are the ones who have a lot of issues. And it is not only the therapy but the destruction of anything they can destroy. It gets expensive. I do not mean to scare you, just prepare you.

        Reply
  3. Chris
    April 15, 2014

    It is soooo much harder to wait, and then move once your child is home.
    They will grieve, if they are old enough to know what is going on.
    We moved a year after bringing home 2, and 3 years after the 2 before that, and they all GRIEVED mightily.
    It was their FIRST HOME, and leaving it was very hard.
    I would not do that again, it is another loss for your child.
    If at all possible, if you find that RIGHT house, move now. It is so nice to have things in place, simply waiting for that little bundle of energy to step into their new home and start learning about family!
    Blessings

    Reply
    1. adventisthomemaker
      April 15, 2014

      Chris, this is what I am afraid of, a big reason that we are even considering moving now. The girl we're currently adopting is 11 and has spent her entire life in one place. The orphanage (not foster care) is all she has ever known. I'm worried about uprooting her a second time so soon after she is adopted. How long did it take your children to feel at home in the new house?

      Reply
    2. We are in process of moving from our children's FIRST HOME into our FOREVER HOME that we were able to choose so that it meets the need of our four adopted kiddos. If we had moved before we adopted and not known our kids and their unique needs; like the inability to share a room, the need to homeschool and have a space for that, the sexes of our children so we can meet arrangement needs, physical energy needs, meltdown/safety needs, we would be looking to move again to accommodate. Your point in moving being YET ANOTHER LOSS and the children GREAVING is very very valid though! We are working closely with their therapist and doing all sorts of things to smooth the transition as much as possible. We are ADKNOWLEDGEING though that they are experiencing loss and the feeling of chaos and affirming that we as adults feel the same. I know in the long run being able to meet the SPECIFIC NEEDS of my family out weighs the ordeal of moving. It may even teach them some positive coping skills for loss and change.

      Reply
  4. Alyssa
    April 15, 2014

    We started the adoption (from foster care) process as soon as we were able to buy a house. We were renting a 3 bedroom/1 bath duplex with 3 bio kids- ages 9, 11 and 13, homeschooling and Dad worked from home at the time (in a little building in the yard) We were open to adopting siblings who would be a lot younger so we knew we wanted more room.
    We found what has been a very practical house for us for the past 7 years. Our adoption ended up being 3 years ago–a 7 year old boy, but we think we will add at least one more (and a dog soon!)

    The house we found had sat empty for 2 years and the price had come way down. I believe the reason was that the garage had been converted into 2 bedrooms, making a total of 5 bedrooms/2 baths. Not many people want that in our older neighborhood. We were able to move my husband's little office building so we have that and a big attic and a storage shed so we are ok without the garage. There's room to add one on someday. It was built in 1960, so the rooms are small but practical. There is some fixer-up work to do, but many things had been updated.

    Things we looked for and love: Each of our teens/young adults has their own room (our son had a lot of loud tantrums at first and I was glad the could have their space. He has his own room and is a safe place for him to run to when he's having a hard time. Our house is near parks and river trails so we get out in nature daily. It has a big yard and we have a garden. I think these things are important for kids and we will get a small dog this summer. We have room for a big dining room table. Lots of big windows for let light in–helps with Oregon winter depression. I like that there is a living room that can be closed off with doors from the kitchen/dining/family room. Then the kids and friends of different ages can have space for their activities.
    One thing I regret is that we set up our youngest's room right next to the main living room, which has made it hard to keep it quiet as he goes to bed earlier. I would have had him farther away, ideally. But I feel that this house has been a total blessing from God!
    Things to think about the best you can foresee– will either of you ever work from home? Is there play room if you have winter weather? Would you ever homeschool? Where would you have a quiet space for a child having a meltdown? How many bathrooms do you need for a bunch of teen girls to get ready in the morning? ( our kids all have mirrors in their rooms and little baskets so they can carry their toothbrushing stuff to any sink) Is there room to fold/hang a lot of laundry? Can you do any improvements before they move in so you don't have the stress? Is there room for helpers in the kitchen? What can you really afford and not feel financially stressed in the future? Do you want pets or a garden?
    I think this is a great topic!

    Reply
    1. adventisthomemaker
      April 15, 2014

      Thank you SO much for all of these thoughts! Your home sounds wonderful! We're in Washington so I hear you on the winter depression… 🙂 My husband currently works from home and has no plans to move into an office building or get a new job. We plan to homeschool unless our daughter requires the structure of formal education. We currently live in a small townhome with no extra space living space, only the small living room. I would LOVE to find a home with an extra great room/family room in addition to the living room. Hmmm… many things to consider. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Emily B
    April 15, 2014

    This is a really great question. We went into our sibling group adoption in a 3-bedroom house. We figured that we could put the new boy in with our son, and the new girl in with our daughter. That was a great thought…until we ended up adopting a sib group of three girls. We ended up putting all four of our girls in the master bedroom, which was huge. It worked for a while, especially since we hung curtains on the bunk beds that the girls could close for privacy. But it was not a long-term solution. Four little girls close in age have a lot of conflict. And when one girl would wake up everyone when she wet her bed, or another girl didn't want to be the only one awake at 5:00 a.m., or another girl would scream through her nightmares, it created great difficulty for everyone.

    Once we finalized the adoption and could allow our little son to share a room with his littler sister, we began swapping rooms around, trying to find the best fit of which kids should share rooms. This worked until two of the older girls (who couldn't share a room) hit puberty. Now we have new struggles to deal with. Oh…and add in the impending arrival of SURPRISE daughter #5 and we're out of options. It has been extremely challenging at best. Nobody has personal space. Everyone is on top of each other. We have a smallish house with only one main living space. Matt and I have had to give up the privacy/sanctuary of our room to allow the kids to have a place where they can decompress. We're now on the house hunt ourselves, and having had a large family crowded into a smaller house, we know exactly what we want and what we need. We need a house that has enough rooms for daughter #4 to have her own room. Our son needs his own room. Daughters #1 & #5 can share a room easily, and daughters #2 & #3 can share a room easily. At minimum, we need 5 bedrooms. 6 bedrooms would be even better. We need two living spaces so we can divide and spread out when necessary. With special needs, emotional struggles, and the ordinary issues of a pack of pubescent girls, we just need space.

    If you're wanting to have four girls–especially older girls–you're going to need to make sure you allow enough room in your new house to give them privacy and personal space. If the bedrooms are good and big, there are ways to partition a big shared room to give them privacy. Individual bedrooms are wonderful if you can afford to buy a big house. I think finding a home with two living spaces–a living room and family room, or a larger playroom and living room–is important, too. There just needs to be room to allow people to spread out and have space.

    I've found that while a larger house was definitely a luxury when we just had biological kiddos, it is far more of a necessity when you have kids from hard places in your family. If you don't want to move multiple times, make sure you purchase a home that will allow personal space for everyone. That's my two cents' worth!

    Reply
  6. Jennifer
    April 15, 2014

    You will definitely want to get details from your agency because a move will change your home study. In my state for foster adopt I know you have to be in your currant residency at least a year before placement (there are special things to do if you were already placed with a child for adoption and had to move for work or such). Because there are also requirements of size per number of children you do want to think a head though and make sure you have enough room to accept a placement if you are interested in a sibling group.
    We are two months away from moving into our forever home that we started building when we completed the adoption of our third and fourth child and have decided we are done. We are so excited to rebuilding a home that “fits our family”. This is something we couldn’t of done if we had built prior to finishing ALL our adoptions. We would of made different decisions in what we needed and wanted in a home because we didn’t know the needs our kiddos would have. Also we had only “planned” of three kiddos, but experienced a surprise blessing when our oldest’s birth Mama delivered him a little brother.
    The wait has been hard! Lots of rearranging of rooms and making do. It has been an eight year journey which while waiting seemed never ending. Now though we are over the moon having our four forever kiddos and this new house that fits our family is the icing on the cake!

    Reply
  7. joanna
    April 15, 2014

    Well, consider that if you move in the middle of your process, you may have to re-do the home-study and immigration approval, so be sure to talk that over with our agency. If you're going to do remodeling, do it before the child comes home. (Everything costs more than you'd expect and takes a lot longer than you're told., so overestimate in your budgets and really consider if that is what you want to do with your cash.) You'll want to spend all of your time and energy on bonding as a new family. We also originally wanted 3-4 kinds, but we'll be adopting all of our children, and at this point, the reality is that we'd be lucky to parent 2 children (based on how long the adoptions take, our age, and the emotional toll). Now we're thinking the house we bought and remodeled right before bringing our child home (massive remodel has been going on for years) is probably too big…and not in a diverse enough area….so we're playing with the idea of moving. So, no advice on how many bedrooms, etc, but I hope I helped in someway.

    Reply
  8. Alyssa
    April 15, 2014

    I would also consider what kind of physical needs (like wheelchair). And supervision is a big thing when kids come from an abusive or traumatic past. I think it would be hard to keep an eye on lots of kids when you have a 2 story house.

    Reply
  9. Jennifer
    April 15, 2014

    The house we were in when we adopted definitely did not fit our needs post-adoption. Our kids shared rooms in that house and we really needed to find a way for one of our children to have his own room to protect his brother from his high impact targeting kinds of behaviors as well as building in a cool-down place for our son. We ended up selling our small house and renting a larger house with more bedrooms – one we could not have afforded to buy but which meets our needs so well at a rent that we can afford. Having more bedrooms has allowed us to adjust as our kids needs change. I also appreciate the comment above about how to supervise traumatized kids in a larger house. We do have a family rule that our kids don't play in each other's bedrooms (playing is done in main rooms and outside) and younger kids don't play downstairs in the family room unless there are at least three people there – never two kids alone – this is really a very general rule that is designed to help us know one particular child isn't bullying or teasing younger siblings. We've also used baby monitors in the past. Being very aware of sibling dynamics and behaviors and risks among traumatized kids and how it relates to the layout of our home is a big priority around here.

    Reply
  10. Lori
    April 15, 2014

    We were in a rental during the waiting period of our first adoption (sibling girls). The reason we were renting is because we had sold our house (for personal reasons, not related to adoption) and were waiting for our new house to be completed. We had no idea at what point the girls would come to us in the process. We talked it all over with our social worker and agency. They were very encouraging and helpful and it was not a big deal although we did have to do an update for our home study. It turned out that we were moved in and settled for about six months before the girls came home. It would have been VERY difficult to move while in the early adjustment period with the girls. We were so glad that we were moved and settled when they came. That is just our personal experience.

    Reply
  11. Lisa Qualls
    April 15, 2014

    This comment was left by Jessica on my One Thankful Mom Facebook page.

    "Hi Cassandra! I am a real estate agent and adoptive mom of two. We lived in a small townhouse while startinf the adoption process. While waiting, we had our home for sale, hoping to sell it and move into a larger home. We didn't check with our agency–but, low and behold, it turns out your agency needs to be in the loop! We got our referral much earlier than expected and in trying to figure our logistics of travel I asked our social worker if we should take our house off the market. She told me that for international adoption you should NOT move during the process–it changes your financial picture too much, and your dozzier and homestudy have to be re-done and resubmitted–financial statements and all.

    All this is to say, you may want to wait until this adoption is over, and find your forever home once you are all settled in. (For what it is worth, we are still in our tiny townhome, but have learned to embrace its small stature–and have decided not to adopt again at this time)."

    Reply
  12. daysofwonderandgrace
    April 15, 2014

    Cassandra, Just a couple of thoughts as I read the other replies. First, I agree that every adoption may change the family dynamics enough that you may find yourself wishing you had a different house so it may be very hard to guess if you've found a house you can stay in until you are finished. (That has been our experience, parents of 4, 3 adopted.) Second, try to make a choice that keeps your schooling options open. Like home schooling is wonderful when it works but if it doesn't, you want to be in a neighborhood with some good options for other schools (educationally sound, racially and economically diverse). Third, as an adoptive family you will need a strong support network of IRL people so don't let a seemingly 'perfect' house draw you too far away either from a community where you have roots or you know strong support is waiting for you. Fourth, this first daughter you are now adopting is old enough that, if you stay where you are now, when it comes time to choose a new home, she should be very much able to actively participate in the process, which will be something you would be doing as a family. That type of move has the potential to be a very different kind of move than she's ever made before in her entire life, possibly even a very positive, empowering way if you approach it with much prayer and counseling. Fifth: completely practical suggestion. bathrooms with a long enough counter space to have (or be fitted out with) more than one sink hugely improve bathroom-sharing abilities of my older girls. One girl/one sink is a little luxury God gave us in this house and it make having to share the shower and tub and toilet much more doable than our previous one sink per bathroom house.

    Reply
  13. Scoopy
    April 15, 2014

    We both added onto our house to add a room before we adopted two more children, finishing their space a few weeks before they were to join our family, and then on the year anniversary of their arrival, we moved to a new house. The move to "THEE HOUSE" wasn't on our radar for a few more years, we didn't plan to change homes so soon after they'd come to our family, but the children were all very involved in the process. They were very excited about the new house and had lots of time to debrief. The new home involved a lifestyle change for them (moving from a postage stamp backyard to acres and acres so we could do a mini farm and get animals, and have woods to play in, so it wasn't a hard sell.) That being said, the first two weeks in the new house on the traumaversary of the move was hard on the kids. We were lucky it went as well as it did. It's so hard to know what things in life will come your way. If you found a dream house with a little room to grow before kids arrive, I say go for it as long as your savings are not wiped out by it. You want to start a therapy fund, in case you need it.

    Reply
  14. Mary
    April 17, 2014

    So many great ideas here. I agree with daysofwonderandgrace that it is hard to predict what kind of home you will need. We thought we moved into our forever home 9 years ago. It was big and had lots of space for the children we didn't have yet. But in the end, after the kids started coming we moved into a smaller home so we could be much closer to my husband's job and in a more racially diverse neighborhood/town. It was a hit financially (in hindsight, I wish we had rented those first years or gotten something tiny and paid it way down or off). But it was the best decision we made. If you have the option of living close to work, do it. Even if you sacrifice space. Time with your family and time with your husband and the ability for him to get home in a jiffy if necessary trumps space. Living with less space has forced me to pare down belongings and get organized. That's been a good thing for us. I thought I could predict how many kids we would have and how much space we would need and I couldn't :). It seemed like it would be less expensive to choose the forever home early but it ended up more costly and I was way off my estimation on what I thought we would need. I would say make a decision based on proximity to work and to the community where you have your church and most support and then try to pick the option that makes you the most financially free. Then whatever lies down the road, you are braced for. Best wishes and adoption is a blessed, blessed road!!!

    Reply
  15. adventisthomemaker
    April 22, 2014

    We had a rush of adoption activity last week and I wasn't able to finish replying to comments. I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who offered advice and thoughts. We're praying about our decision and talking about it – a lot. 🙂 🙂 Thanks again and thank you Lisa for posting my question!

    Reply
  16. Townhomes
    July 23, 2014

    I think it would be best to buy a home first before adopting. Personally I think it would be best to settle down first and prepare a home before the kids move in, this way a child's adjustment on their new environment would be much easier than moving from one location to another, in that case the adjustment period of the child would be difficult. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  17. K. Hill
    November 5, 2014

    I just came across this post and know it was written quite some time ago, but felt I should share our experience anyway. We adopted 5 out of foster care ages 3, 5, 7. 9. and 10….we have 3 bio children ages 10, 12, 14. We are in the process of building a home. In order to try to "save" money, we moved into a tiny home on the property we're building. We went from 2200 sq ft. to 1200 sq ft. I wouldn't necessarily advise that move. The kids have been with us for a year, but our adoption year will be in December. They were finally settling in when we moved. As we packed up for the move, 2 of them said, "Mom, this is the first time we've ever moved and not left a family." Let's just say the past several months have been hard, very hard…coupled with less space. While all 8 get along beautifully and play well together, we do have issues. We recently took a weeks vacation thinking that would help, but only intensified our 5 year olds behavior. My first advice would be to seek God's guidance….then decide. My opinion would be to decide to settle in for a couple of years with your new children before you move again.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 6, 2014

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience – it's very helpful.

      Reply

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