Selling and buying homes can be exhausting and emotional, even overwhelming. This level of stress can rise when children are involved as parents also “run interference” to a degree to help make the transition smooth for their kids. Another added stresser is relocation to a new community far away.
What can parents and their real estate agents do to help the youngest members of the family to move as peacefully and contentedly as possible?
Communication about the moving process is key
Few of us like surprises that come on a big scale and change the way our lives are lived on a day-to-day basis. This is also true for our offspring, for whom routine can be a comfort. Just as you wouldn’t begin a vacation without explaining to your three year old that it’s only a trip and that you will later return home, so too it helps to explain to your child that the family is staying together, the toys, furniture and pets are coming along, but that the house or condo will be “new”. Providing a sense of security and reassurance first can enable the process to be possibly even fun. (Young kids will think that the furniture and toys go with the house so will likely vocalize their preference for a new place with the most fun stuff unless they understand that their toys will move with them.)
Selling your kids on a relocation
If your move includes a relocation to a totally new community, it will be helpful to discuss (and better, show) your little one the benefits of moving there – the new park and playground, the children’s museum, being closer to the beach or whatever pluses are a part of the new area. If you’re moving up, explaining that your toddler will now get his or her own room (“like a big kid”) or to your teen that the new house will have a pool or whatever new feature may help also. Here in Silicon Valley, there are a lot of fun things to do with children so it will be easy to discuss the benefits of living here, especially with older kids who will appreciate how kid-friendly the San Jose area is. Coming from an area with a lot of snow? Tell them about our weather! Yes, relocation often involves doing a “sales job” with your kids – most of the time they won’t be interested in budging, particularly if they are teenagers or in high school.
Please note: school scores are extremely important for many reasons, including home values. Please take a look at my blog post on understanding school scores in Santa Clara County at my Move2SiliconValley blog.
Selling a home in Silicon Valley with kids
Planning to sell your house or townhouse and have children at home with you? This will require some extra time, effort and planning. As with any other home sale, decluttering is key, but it’s more challenging if you have little people! It is also important to do the fixes and improvements which will give you the best return on investment, of course, and finally to stage the home for sale – and try to keep it “perfect looking” for showings. It is sometimes tempting for exhausted parents to skip the “sale prep” but don’t do it – there are ways to make it easier but not eliminate it.
Get help: there are people who are professional organizers who can be hired to help you decide what to file, toss and keep. I know services which can be hired to do the handyman type jobs, cleaners which can be brought in to tackle everything from the usual housekeeping to the deep cleaning which may be required in places such as the window tracks (often ignored but can gross out home buyers if there are years of grease and dirt built up!). Don’t go it alone – when you have kids, it’s enough to pack and help them move without also trying to do every bit of physical labor too.
Depending on the family situation, sometimes it is easiest to complete the move to the new home first and then sell the original one (whether vacant or fully staged is another issue) since it may be nearly impossible and far too stressful to have the intrusion of showings and the constant effort in keeping one’s home in show-ready condition. (If the showing schedule is too restrictive, you will likely have much more trouble both selling and in getting your best price. Making it easy to see improves your odds all around.)
If you cannot move first, it is possible to schedule showings so that your home life is invaded as minimally as possible, but understand that the more you restrict showings, the harder it will be to sell your place and to get top dollar. Not every home buyer can see your property on the weekends (especially in winter, when many young buyers are off skiing at Tahoe). They can’t all view homes before 3 or 5pm because many have a commute and cannot get there until 6 or 7pm. My advice, if you need to keep showings down, is to provide at least a couple of evenings a week when buyers can see your home until 7:30 or 8pm plus at least the afternoons on the weekend. Plan to take your family out for the afternoon or evening so that home buyers can see your residence without feeling pressured to hurry through. (For religious reasons, some will not view homes on Saturdays and others will not view them on Sundays. So provide both.)
If you are juggling both selling one home and buying another, please read my article on this situation: How to Sell One Home and Buy Another Without Losing Your Mind.
Home buying in Silicon Valley with children
Want to purchase a townhome, condo or house but not sure if you should bring your kids along as you look at properties in the San Jose, Los Gatos and Saratoga areas? Often it is much easier for parents if they can get a family member, friend or sitter to stay home (or go out) with babies, toddlers and small children. As you go through furnished abodes, many will not be child-proofed, may have delicate and even expensive things on display or have unsafe conditions for little people. Most parents are so focused on their children (not getting hurt and not hurting anything) that it can be a challenge to concentrate on viewing the listings. This is especially true for first-time home buyers. (The opposite can also happen, distracted parents cannot always supervise their fast moving kids well.)
With older kids and teens, having them join you as you house-hunt may help with their buying in to the process. They may learn a lot and spot things which you might miss, so can be allies to you. In some cases, though, your children or teens may be so opposed to moving that having them accompany you may backfire. You’ll have to decide on that.
If your younger family members do join you, please make sure you stay together as you view the homes for sale. The home owners and agents cannot keep an eye on either your kids or the belongings of the house if everyone splits up. Additionally there may be information your Realtor will share with you, and often everyone will want to hear it, so it behooves everyone to stay together.
Each family situation will be different, but in most cases kids can do very well with a move when they understand what’s happening and why and there’s a degree of predictability to the process. Communication is key, as is helping them to appreciate the positive aspects of the upcoming move. Once you have moved, it can be helpful in the transition if they can continue to keep in touch with friends from their old area or school. Play dates, when possible, can smooth some of the emotional bumps that they may have. Making new friends through school, recreation opportunities (clubs, summer programs, etc.), and centers of worship can help them to integrate into their new surroundings too.