Families were added as a protected class to the Civil Rights Act in 1988, after government studies uncovered widespread housing discrimination against families with children. There's an exception: The law allows residential communities and institutions catering to residents ages 55 and older to exclude children when offering certain services for older people. Even in these communities, though, kids may be guests and stay for brief visits.

"It is a somewhat sensitive subject for us as real-estate agents," says Jason Fien, director of leasing for Platinum Properties, a residential sales and rentals company representing 70 to 80 residential buildings in Manhattan. "We stay away from it completely."

Besides, he says, "I'm sure no one wants to come off like a Cruella de Vil-type kid hater."

Should a client ask, "What type of people live in this building?" Fien will reply: "Walk around the neighborhood, stand outside the building, see who comes out and draw your own conclusions."

Search for a tribe
The best way to find the neighborhood you want, Fien says, is to frame your search in terms of the specifics you're looking for: a hopping nightlife, great restaurants, no garden or yard to maintain and a one-bedroom apartment, for example.

That's what Scott did last summer. She searched for "a place that's thriving, vibrant and socially has a lot of things going on, that's not child-centric."

She found it on Tampa's Harbour Island, where she purchased a condo in a 140-unit high-rise that is itself a thriving community, with yoga classes, wine tastings, progressive dinners, parties, cook-offs and endless group outings to restaurants, bars and concerts. She enjoys the mix of families – singles, retired and child-free.

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Her guide to Harbour Island was Tampa Realtor Matthew Silverman. He and his partner, Mark Silverman, moved there after their own search for paradise, or Shangri-La, seven years ago. The attraction: Families were vastly outnumbered and everyone was ready for fun at the drop of a hat.

"We have a cafe down the street," Silverman says. "Well, really it's a wine and champagne store, but everyone socializes there. And there's an Italian restaurant with a jazz band on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. You never see children there. There's Cafe Dufrain — all organic, local food and customized toward people with that same lifestyle. Across the bridge — it's a five-minute walk — there's the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the busiest concert venue in the world and home to the hockey team Tampa Bay Lightning."

Small wonder that his childless clientele has grown from 5% to 20% of his business in the past five years.

Previously, the Silvermans lived in Tampa's stately, historic Hyde Park neighborhood. They loved the area, their neighbors and the neighbors' children. Still, they were fish out of water.

"It wasn't that we couldn't be ourselves there," Silverman says. "It's just that everyone seemed to feel sorry for us. We had fun with the kids but everyone looked at you with these sad eyes, like, 'You poor thing, look what you're missing.'"