| Real Estate Market

One of the biggest challenges of selling when you have kids is trying to avoid transferring to a new school when the year is already in session. Oof. We all have our fair share of gloomy childhood fitting-in stories, and it would be nice to help our kids avoid them when possible. Don’t get us wrong. We know that meeting new friends helps build resilience. But why make your kids contend with catching up on schoolwork AND trying to make new friends on top of it all?

So, parents, here we share our survival guide to buying and selling during the school year, with tips to try to help miraculously align closing dates so your kids are settled in by the first day of school. You’re welcome!

Do I Buy or Sell First?

This is always a tricky question, kids, or no kids. Let’s look at both options: 

Buying First

This strategy ensures you have a home once you sell. But what if your current home doesn’t sell, or doesn’t sell fast enough? In this case you’ll need to manage paying two mortgages and all the associated expenses, something we’d wager most families can’t afford. Frankly, even if you can afford it, why would you want to? You can always speak to your bank about bridge financing to literally “bridge” the gap between the sale of your current home and the purchase of your new one. This allows you to use your current home’s equity for a far more substantial down payment on your next property while waiting for your current home to sell. More on this below.

Here are a few scenarios when buying first might be necessary:

  • You’re moving to a new town with a start date for a new job
  • There’s really tight supply and houses are limited
  • You’re buying a fixer upper and will need time to renovate

Looking for tips on how to buy in Toronto? Check out some of our related posts below:

Selling First

Selling first works well because you’ll know exactly how much money you have to spend on your next home. However, with kids you might find this approach is a little more stressful, as when your home sells, the closing date is like a ticking time bomb, counting down the hours until you have to hand over the key to the new owners. However, selling first generally works best as you can budget more effectively and avoid being straddled with double mortgages. 

And what about market conditions?

Yes, this is an important question. There’s a basic rule of thumb when it comes to the market and what comes first, buying or selling:

  • Seller’s market: If it’s a seller’s market, it’s best to buy your new home first because inventory is slim, and properties are going fast
  • Buyer’s market: If it’s a buyer’s market you should sell first because it’s likely going to take longer to sell with higher inventory and buyers having the luxury of being picky. This will reduce the risk of carrying two mortgages. You’ll also want more time to shop in a buyer’s market because there will be more homes to choose from. 

Don’t make any rash decisions before setting out a strategy with your real estate agent first. They’ll consider all the specifics and recommend how to proceed to reach your end goal. 

When Do I List?

We’re talking date wise here. Here’s our second pitch to speak to a real estate team before making any decisions. Ideally, you should start speaking to real estate agents no later than March. This is because the housing market picks up in the spring and you also want to be ready to list no later than May. If all goes to plan, you can then have your home sold by early June and start your house hunt to snag a closing date well before September. With any luck, you’ll find a home for sale by parents. Talk about beyond super convenient — both of you want to meet those same closing dates to get the kids moved before the school year begins. Kismet.

This is a lot of ifs, so you want to have enough time to manage all the ins and outs of selling. By speaking to an agent in March, they can give you the scoop on the market and help you navigate everything to help you avoid being backed into a corner where bad decisions are your only options! 

What About School Districts?

Yep. School districts can impact your move in a big way. The highest rated school districts will be in higher demand, which can make it difficult to find a home in your preferred area. So again, speaking to an agent who knows the area is essential. You’re going to be up against some tight competition in these areas, so flexibility is key. Chances are you’re also going to see limited inventory by the time your house hunt arrives, as the market starts to wind down in the summer. So, the more flexible you are, the better chance of getting the stars aligned to find a home suited to your budget, school district preferences and closing date. 

Now, one word of warning on school districts: The highest rated school districts also have the highest prices, so be prepared to fork out a little more to find a home in these neighbourhoods!

We also have this handy guide to help you understand GTA school districts to get a head start on neighbourhood hunts.

Consider Targeting Fellow Parents

When selling, you might also want to consider catering to parents. This could backfire and limit offers, but it can also work heavily in your favour. Remember, those closing dates? Fellow parents will be in the same boat as you which means you might find even ground by catering to families. Some tips to play the parent card include:

Home Staging

We can target families by considering room usage. Focusing on things like a study area in the kitchen, playroom in your finished basement, kid centric bedroom designs, etc. all help create an inviting home where families feel comfortable. Also, paying close attention to finicky details that make your home feel safer such as making repairs to things like window locks, broken fencing, or rusty screen doors will reduce red flags that scare parents away. 


Your marketing can also be tailored to families drawing attention to things like parks, school ratings, transportation, low traffic on your street, five-minute walk to schools, neighbourhood family events, etc. Online 3D tours work well as busy parents like to shop online instead of having to go to multiple open houses. 

These strategies won’t necessarily take away from other potential buyers as long as we pay attention to key areas important to singles and couples such as the kitchen, outdoor entertainment space, master suite, inviting bathroom, etc. We’ve got this and will ensure you appeal to the right kind of buyer. 

Want more advice to help make the most of your home sale? You’ll find plenty of tips in the posts below:

What if Timing is Off?

There’s no need to panic if the timing is off. There are too many moving parts to hope to control them all and have the three parties (you, the buyer for your home and the seller for your new home) all being 100% on the same page. So, you have to plan for the worst and hope for the best. There is always a way to manage dates that don’t quite line up and the focus should always be on finding the right home without too many compromises, not to mention the best price when you sell. 

Moving out before your home is available 

  • Check out local storage spaces to store your stuff until moving day. A storage service that delivers the shipping container, moves it to a storage facility and then delivers it to your new home is the best option. 
  • Speak to loved ones who live within a reasonable distance from your new school to see if there is a way to live with them temporarily. You have a firm date when you’ll be leaving, so it’s clear you won’t become squatters! 
  • Consider a short-term lease close to your kid’s new school so you can get them to school on time without too much of a hassle. 
  • You also want to consider after school plans, so again, enlisting family and friends to help might be necessary since you won’t know anyone at the school yet. 

Your new home is available sooner

  • This tends to be less of a stressful situation as you have more control. You can decide to move early, or better yet, take time to prepare your home such as hiring cleaners, replacing floors, painting, etc. 
  • If the school year has started, then you’ll want to move so the kids can get to school without a hassle. 
  • Keep in mind when moving before the closing date, you’re on the hook for any damage to your old home. So be prepared to check in on the home often, or have a neighbour keep an eye on the place for you.

And What About Bridge Financing?

A bridge loan comes in handy if you buy first and your home doesn’t sell. Honestly, and not to plug our services again, but you can usually avoid the need for bridge financing by working with an experienced real estate agent who times everything close enough to avoid financial strain. However, when you’ve bought a new home and its closing date is before your current home closes, this short-term loan is your saviour for three reasons:

  1. It leverages equity in the home you’re selling, 
  2. You don’t have to make regular loan payments, and 
  3. You only pay the loan off once you sell your home. 

The only downside is that the interest rates are higher than your basic mortgage rates since they’re short-term and the lender needs to make some money off the borrower. Sorry banks, just saying. 

The loan is calculated based on the final sale price of your home less your outstanding mortgage balance and costs such as legal fees, mortgage penalties and realtor’s commission. Your lender will also consider things like your credit score to determine how much they’ll lend you and the interest rate they offer. 

So, although this scenario is scary, bridge financing provides more time to sell so you avoid being negotiated into a corner to accept lowball offers.

Wait – Don’t Have the Exact Closing Dates for Both Homes

Whoa? Isn’t this the whole point of this blog, lining up the dates? Yes, but not on the exact same day. Think about it. How are you going to manage all the kerfuffle that happens on closing day for two properties? Visits to the lawyer, getting the key, checking out the house, and maybe even managing moving day is a lot. By slightly staggering your dates, you can manage all these things with less pressure and stress, so nothing is missed, and you don’t end up stress-eating a carton of Ben and Jerry’s. But again, it’s all about planning and figuring out how to juggle it all without breaking a sweat so you make things easier for yourself and your kids. 

The Bottom Line

Life is messy and you can’t always control everything that happens. It’s important to keep this in mind so you don’t see catastrophe at every turn. With the right real estate team to guide you, your strategy will be based on your current situation and what the market is telling us. Your decisions will help influence more positive outcomes, so your kids experience as little stress as possible. 

It doesn’t have to be March to give us a call! We’re here whenever you need us. So, call The Christine Cowern Team at 416.291.7372 or email us at hello@christinecowern.com with any questions or to set up a call. We’d love to work with you!