They were a newly blended family with a grand total of seven kids, four from his first marriage and three from hers. After the wedding, they headed out to hunt for a house spacious enough to hold them all.
"They knew it would be really tough for everybody to learn to live together under the same roof. So they searched for as much space as they could afford while still insisting on a neighborhood with good schools," says Sid Davis, the family's real estate broker.
In most parts of the country, families are no bigger than a decade ago. But in some areas -- such as Utah, where Davis owns an independent real estate firm -- many families are larger than the national average.
Davis, author of "A Survival Guide for Buying a Home," says his clients often face challenging trade-offs when selecting a property to house all their kids.
"Very few big families can afford everything they need and want in a house," Davis says.
The parents in the seven-kid family talked for hours about their priorities. In the end, they agreed that having enough bathrooms was their top goal, followed closely by enough bedrooms.
"If absolutely necessary, kids can double-bunk in bedrooms. But having people wait in line for a bathroom causes lots of friction in a household," Davis says.
After a lengthy search, the family found a sprawling one-level house with 3,600 square feet of living space, three bathrooms and six bedrooms.
"To get that big a house, they had to give up plans for an extra-large yard, as well as a formal dining room. But they refused to give up a good school system," Davis says.
Are you a home-buying family with lots of kids? If so, these pointers could prove helpful:
-- Don't judge neighborhood schools solely on test scores.
Few large families have the means to pursue a private- school education for their offspring. That's why finding the best available public schools is a key element in housing selection.
"Schools are a very big deal for families," says Dorcas Helfant, a real estate broker and former president of the National Association of Realtors (www.realtor.org).
Though it's easy to compare schools on the basis of standardized test scores, which can typically be found online, Helfant urges parents to visit neighborhood schools before judging them.
"The quality of instruction and the atmosphere matter even more than test scores. To learn more about the intangibles, talk to teachers and administrators." She also suggests talking to local residents about the schools.
-- Consider reducing your expectations on yard size.
Helfant says some parents, nostalgic about the capacious yards of their childhoods, automatically think their kids need the same sort of setting to thrive. But she suggests they rethink that notion.
"Kids today have an awful lot of structured time. They go to sports, dance, judo and piano lessons. There's not a lot of time left over for free play in the backyard," Helfant says.
She believes neighborhoods where yards are relatively small can be friendlier than those with much bigger lots, especially if the houses have front porches and sidewalks that encourage interaction.
-- Select a floor plan that serves your family's lifestyle.
When homebuyers think of a formal dining room, they think of Thanksgiving and other rare times when relatives gather for a feast. But Davis says for most large families, it's more important to find a house with ample space for casual living.
"If you have to make trade-offs, and most people do, let go of both a formal dining room and living room. Instead, shop for that eat-in country kitchen that flows directly into a large family room," he says.
For time-starved families with working parents, the advantage of this combination space is that it encourages family members to spend time together, while the parents are cooking and the kids are doing homework or playing games on the computer.
-- Seek a property with as many bedrooms as you can afford.
Second only to plenty of bathrooms, current homebuyers with kids want as many bedrooms as they can afford, and builders are now acknowledging this wish in their floor plans, Helfant says.
Children naturally prefer their own bedrooms. But if necessary, Helfant says that most kids will either wedge themselves into a small room or agree to share a room. Still, it's wise to make sure that parents have a spacious suite of their own with a private bathroom.
"In big families, parents need a private retreat --particularly once their children become teenagers. It's only good design for parents to have their own space," Helfant says.
-- Don't rule out a house with two or more stories.
Many contemporary homebuyers seek a one-level home. Middle-aged buyers with increasingly arthritic knees dislike stairs. And many seniors have ailments that make it hard, if not impossible, to climb stairs.
Even so, Helfant says it's sensible for big families with young children to consider the advantages of living on two levels. That's because it's easier to contain the noise and mess generated by the kids if their bedrooms are separated from the family's common areas.
With a two-story house, parents can entertain guests on the first floor while the kids sleep on the second floor.
"The reality is that lots of folks like to send their kids to bed upstairs so they can enjoy a little solace at the end of a long day," Helfant says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)