How to Navigate Real Estate when Blending Families

How to Navigate Real Estate when Blending Families

When things are going well in a relationship, the desire to cohabitate is nearly inevitable. However, when you each have kids from previous relationships, and separate homes and finances, it’s easy to get cold feet. With blended families representing one out of every eight two-parent families in Canada, clearly love finds ways! Read on for some tips on navigating this transition.

Know your Rights and Options

One of the biggest questions is invariably “Where will we live?” There are a number of potential real estate scenarios, each with their benefits and challenges. In every case, it is important to get independent legal advice about the financial and legal aspects of cohabitation. Getting a pre-approval for mortgage financing together is also critical. It will allow you and your Realtor to house-hunt within a budget that’s realistic and comfortable for you.

Choosing Between Two Properties

The easiest real estate situation to navigate financially and legally is if you both rent, and wish to buy together for the first time. However typically, one or both partners own property. Some couples choose to move into one house, and rent out the other. While this may provide legal and financial security during a transitional period, renting out a home comes with its share of complications, risks and obligations.

With the right legal support, selling one home and moving into the other can simplify things logistically and financially, and may amount to less disruption overall. However, there are emotional factors to consider in this scenario. Children may feel awkward moving into a space their step-siblings have long called home, and who may, in turn, feel invaded. Sharing the space of a former spouse may also be uncomfortable for the incoming partner. Assess everyone’s comfort with this option by keeping an open dialogue with your partner, and with each of your children.

Starting Fresh

Selling both homes and starting fresh in a new-to-everyone home may be the scenario that feels most equitable to everyone involved. However, this is also the most complicated to pull off, as it involves three real estate transactions, the timing of which you can’t always plan or predict. A solid team consisting of an experienced Realtor, a mortgage broker and separate independent legal counsel will help you navigate your way to the best outcome.

A good rule of thumb is to sell one home firm before contemplating making an offer on a new one. Bridge financing often requires that the sellers of the outgoing property and the buyers of the new one are the same, which can pose complications for couples mortgaging together for the first time. Knowing what your financing options are can help you and your team plan the best strategy.

Listing two homes simultaneously may create a lot of collective stress. Choosing one to list first allows your second to be a landing pad during showings, and a safety net during your search for a new home. Your Realtor will help you factor the market demand and value of each house in your planning. Listing a property with uncertain marketability first, while hanging on to a sure-fire hot-market property, may give you the best flexibility and security when it comes time to look for a new home.

Choosing a New Home

In determining your search criteria for a new home, managing the expectations and needs of four or more people can be daunting. Brainstorm with your partner, and separately with your children, about each of your big-picture expectations and concerns. Include children in decision-making by helping them prioritize their wants and needs, and help them focus on the most important ones.

Start by narrowing it down to a neighbourhood that meets your respective short- and long-term needs, such as schools and work commute. But also consider what your new family enjoys doing together, such as hiking, gardening, or building and crafting. Incorporating these interests into your search can help you land in a space that feels inclusive and exciting to everyone.

Every family will have different needs and expectations in terms of bedrooms and bathrooms. Some blended families have the benefit of staggering when the children are in the home together. In cases where the children will often be together, consider a home where there are multiple potential ‘hang-outs’, such as living rooms or rec rooms, to ensure there are different spaces to retreat to.

Keep in mind, kids are adaptable, and grow quickly and move on. What they need most from you and your partner is a good relationship, so do whatever it takes to keep yours strong through this process. As a parent, and as an Ottawa Realtor, I can help you build a team that can navigate this transition with you thoughtfully and effectively. If you are ready to explore your Ottawa Real Estate options as a blended family, please feel free to reach out to discuss your interests and needs.