Last month I got to sit down with my friends at Northwood Realty for a Think Tank session on moving with children. To be honest with you, it’s something I haven’t done yet–partially because our current housing situation is affordable, and partially because Holy Overwhelm.
I have moved a lot, though, in my pre-kid life. It was great to sit down with a bunch of other moms who had been through the ringer, and real estate agents who had done it themselves as parents and helped their clients through the process more than a few times.
I feel a lot better about the whole thing now, and better prepared for next year when we take the plunge.
What we came up with was a treasure trove of knowledge gained from first-hand experience. Here’s some of the best of it:
Smart Prepping for a Frugal Move with Children
We’ve been saying we’re going to move “next year” for a couple of years now. But this time we mean it.
How do I know?
We’ve actually started going through our stuff. Doing so early means we won’t have to move as much–which will save us money. It also means that we’re able to list and sell all our extra stuff before the big day.
It’s a smart move, too, because it means as the seasons roll around, we’ll be able to pack progressively. Once those winter coats are off for the last time, they’ll get packed up. That’s one less box we’ll have to worry about come late Spring.
I picked up some additional tips about moving prep from the fine mothers and real estate agents at our Think Tank, too:
- If you don’t know where to donate something, especially kids’ toys, clothing or gear, think Women’s Shelters. They often have women and children rotating in and out and always have a need.
- Pack smaller boxes so everyone can help with the move. I always packed larger boxes and went into beast mode on moving day so it wouldn’t take as long, but now that we’ll have kiddos along for the ride I see the value in going small.
- Get free boxes at the grocery store or other retailer that frequently receives shipments. They’re typically really strong and most places just break them down at the end of the night. You might have to come after close, but usually if you ask a manger if you can take some off their hands they’ll be more than happy to help.
- Label and color code. It’s smart to label each box according to which room it will go into. That way, if you have friends coming to help, they won’t be guessing as to which room “Johnny’s Trophies” should end up in. But if you have preliterate children, using colored tape to coordinate with each room can be super helpful, too.
Buying a Home with Children
One thing that really surprised me was that, at least in the South Western PA market, it doesn’t really matter financially when you move. The price difference in housing is negligible, so you should do it whenever works best for your family.
Helping Kids Transition
If you want to move in the summer, though, it was advised that you start looking early. And if you want to move in the summer to help your kids transition, there were some great tips to make things run more smoothly:
- Enroll your children in sports in their new district–and do it early. This helps them get to know people so they have some friendly faces on their first day.
- Involve your kids in the house hunt. This can help them feel involved–and also alert you to safety hazards you may not have noticed. I will note that when my parents did this, they picked what I thought was the wrong house. And I still hold it against them. Kidding! Kind of.
- Hire a sitter to come with you on the house hunt. This way the kids can stay involved, but the show can go on if there’s a meltdown. Pay the babysitter per house–it’s more motivating for them to stay on that way!
- Get the children’s bedrooms set up first. It will help make their new surroundings more comforting.
Get Your Money Straight
Many of these tips go for any house hunting endeavor–it’s important to have your budget straight. When you’re figuring out how much you need to have saved before buying a home, don’t forget to look beyond the down payment and monthly mortgage payments. You’ll also need money for:
- Closing costs
- Home inspection
- Any applicable HOA fees
- Hand money
It’s important to be honest with your real estate agent about your financial situation, too. Many of the agents at the Think Tank said this is hard for people, because money and pride go hand-in-hand. But your agent is there to help you, and has a fiduciary duty to act in your best interests. If you’re not completely forthcoming, it will all come out anyways–potentially messing up a deal or resulting in lost time looking at houses you can’t truly afford.
SPECIAL NOTE FOR PA BUYERS: You cannot receive gifts to cover costs in the home buying process in the state of Pennsylvania. If you live in another state, be sure to check your local laws before banking on any gift money.
You’ll also want to get pre-qualified before shopping. In markets like the one we have in Pittsburgh, sellers won’t even look at your offer if you want a contingency clause added while you try to find financing.
Selling a Home With Children
Keeping your house ready for last-minute tours is stressful. Keeping it clean and ready with kids? That’s panic-mode stressful.
Here are some top-notch tips I gleaned for prepping your house to move:
- Keep all the toys in one room. And make sure it isn’t on the ground floor if at all possible. While in reality your children may have taken over the house, no one wants to buy that reality–even if they have kids themselves. Let them fantasize.
- Get some laundry baskets ready. Got a call from your agent saying that someone wants to come see the house in an hour? As in one hour? As in sixty minutes from NOW? If you have a couple of laundry baskets ready to go, you can round up all the toys, books and other odds and ends your kids have taken out of that dedicated room, throw them in the basket, and then throw them in the trunk of your car as you get ready to leave.
Last-minute showings can be inconvenient, but staying flexible is key in helping your home sell quickly.
- Don’t worry about seasonality. At least in our local housing market, there is no best time of year to sell. In fact, the agents we spoke with said the holidays were one of their favorite times to sell because the houses were done up so beautifully for the festivities. (January is also when a ton of companies do relocations, so there are generally plenty of buyers.)
- Animals are more of a distraction than children. If you have pets, you may want to temporarily house them somewhere else. If the buyer isn’t a dog person, they may have a hard time overlooking your German Shepard while they’re trying to fall in love with your house. Or the litter your cat spilled outside the box after you meticulously cleaned it up before loading your laundry baskets into the car.
Temporarily housing with a friend or family member is also less stressful for your furry friend, too. Strangers can be scary–especially when your pet doesn’t fully understand what’s going on.
Again: strangers can be scary. While you hope the buyer’s agent is looking out for you, you simply don’t know who is going to be in your home. Be sure to lock up any:
- Credit cards/Banking information
- Anything else of value or potential harm
Ready to List!
Ready to list? Here’s some things you can do to help get your house off the market quickly:
- Have an open house immediately after you list. This helps create pressure.
- If you can coordinate listing with your vacation, you’ve got an ideal situation. You clean your house before you leave and have nobody to mess it up for a week–or however long you’re gone. The realtors cited many examples where the home sold before the family was even back in town!
- Continue promoting even if you have a contract. Because, unfortunately, contracts do sometimes fall through.
Have you moved with children?
Would love to hear about your experiences in the comments!
*I have been compensated for my time at this event and the writing of this post. Regardless, all opinions are 100% my own and 100% honest.*