By Katherine Fawcett

The Quealeys look like a typical busy Canadian family. Tom, 8, can’t get enough hockey, Maya, 10, is obsessed with Harry Potter and Ruthie, 4, loves anything to do with ponies or puppies. Kirsten packs a lot of lunches and Pat has become a pro at taking training wheels off kids’ bikes.

Not so typical is the Quealeys’ expertise on the subject of moving. A military family, they’ve relocated four times in the past four years – one move for every year of little Ruthie’s life.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” says Kirsten, recalling her most recent transitions. “We had Ruthie in St. Albert, near Edmonton. From there we moved to Victoria, then to Kansas, then Ottawa. And now back to Victoria.”

In each new location, she and Pat chose not to live in military housing – rather, they purchased and sold homes in each city (except Kansas). She admits they were lucky to take advantage of favourable market conditions and were able to get slightly ahead financially with each move.

When Pat was assigned a new location, and after some Internet research of her own, Kirsten would generally start by cold-calling a real estate office. She would explain their priorities – resale, a family-friendly neighbourhood, four bedrooms and a good-sized fenced-in yard for the dog. She’d also explain their time-line; generally the military provides a one-week house-hunting trip for families who must relocate. Over the years, Kirsten has been frustrated by some Realtors and she’s been overwhelmed with gratitude for others. Here is some of the advice she’s gathered on what works, what doesn’t and what totally backfires.

42-17177651Don’t waste time: “Please block the week for us. I think we’re fairly easy clients for the right Realtor. We have to choose the house and seal the deal, and we have a limited time to do it. One thing we like to do in advance is choose some properties online. It’s so helpful when our Realtor previews those homes before we arrive, just to rule out those that aren’t quite what they seem on the Internet. I don’t want to see what the Realtor considers the ‘sweet deals’ if they don’t fall within our parameters.

Organization: Have our house-hunting days well-planned, mapped out, organized. Have a GPS that works, and plug all the properties in. We’ve been with Realtors where we have to navigate from property to property, in a city we don’t even know. Also, sometimes lunch can be tricky –we’re all going to have to eat, but please choose something quick, not high-end, and not too noisy to have a conversation. I was grateful to the Realtor who left me and Pat alone to eat lunch, so we could discuss some things in private, especially on the third day of our trip.

Viewing: Respect our space. The best Realtors are helpful but not intrusive. Let us view on our own, without hovering over us, but be available when we have questions. Personally, I don’t really care how you would decorate the house. Also, keep inappropriate comments to yourself. I’ve heard racist remarks and criticism of the owner’s housekeeping and decorating. It’s not necessary and it makes you sound rude and judgemental. Not the kind of person I want selling my house when it comes time.

Kids: On some of the house-hunting trips we’ve had to bring our kids along. It’s not ideal for any of us, but we make the best of it, keeping in mind that it’s their move too. We’ve let Realtors know in advance about the kids coming, and the good ones will help us by arranging babysitting/day care. If that doesn’t work out, at least pretend to like kids. I was so impressed by the Realtor who brought out some drinks and snacks and a colouring book for them. Even better, the Realtor could offer to take the kids into the yard and play on the swings or something so we can look at the house in peace.

Work with others: I respect a Realtor who has other experts to help them out. Have a home inspector at your fingertips. Have an assistant who can provide a list of community services for the area. Get to know the local moving companies. I was really pleased when my selling Realtor arranged a third-party “presenter” to come in and not only recommend ways the house would show better, but helped get it done – rearranged the pictures on the walls, decluttered the shelves and put the flowers in the best places.

Follow-up: Moving day is especially stressful. It was even more frustrating when the renters who had been in our new place weren’t out when we showed up with our stuff. A good Realtor will do a walk-through for us and make sure the place is ready for to move into. In St. Albert, the Realtor gave us a list of the service companies we were going to need: utilities, power, the garbage/recycling, cable/Internet company. It made getting settled so much easier. 

That litter extra: You’ve just made a good chunk of change on the sale. We know its standard to give a little housewarming gift to your client, but we appreciate it when it’s not a “standard” gift. The best Realtors make it personal. A gift certificate to the local craft store or yoga studio, a dinner out for me and Pat, a basket of local produce, or even something thoughtful like a donation for Habitat for Humanity. Show that you have been paying attention to who we are; it makes us feel welcome in our newest home.

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