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Living near family low on home search wish lists, poll finds

Steve Debenport | E+ | Getty Images

Comedian George Burns once said happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family—in another city.

So even though living close to relatives may mean more support and child care options for parents, maybe the findings of a recent survey aren't that unexpected.

When asked what factors, other than the price, would be most important when searching for a new home, only 33 percent of people with children cited the home's proximity to family, according to an online survey conducted this summer by the real estate website Trulia.com. More than 2,000 adults took part in the poll.

Parents were only slightly more interested in living near relatives than non-parents, 29 percent of whom said having a home close to family was important.

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The results aren't particularly surprising, said Amy Blackstone, chair of the department of sociology at the University of Maine.

"Geographic proximity is one measure of closeness and support, but type and quality of contact are others," Blackstone told TODAY Moms. "Support and closeness may be expressed in other ways, such as through calls, visits, letters or financial support."

Just because proximity to external family ranked relatively low on the list of factors respondents considered in finding a home doesn't mean they are not close to their extended family, she noted.

"Families are changing but that doesn't mean that they are weakening," Blackstone said.

And of course many parents have to move because of a job relocation and other reasons, so it's often not possible to be near relatives. But in instances where they have the option to live close to family, some couples may worry about meddling or find too much closeness stressful.

(Read more: Housing recovery radar: Where are the next hot spots?)

"Family members want intimacy at a distance," Deborah Carr, professor of sociology at Rutgers University, told MarketWatch.com. "They want love and support from their kin, but they also want to maintain their independence and autonomy."

So what factors, other than price, are most important in a house hunt? Items that topped the list for people with and without kids in the Trulia.com survey were size of the home and neighborhood crime rates.

(Read more: Here's who's really living with Mom and Dad)

The only category with a very significant difference between parents and non-parents was the quality of schools: 63 percent of parents cited neighborhood school districts as a key factor in their new-home search, while only 20 percent of people without children found it important.

—By A. Pawlowski, TODAY contributor.

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