The move: Three grown children, four dogs, two cats: The Ostranders moved east to accommodate them all – Macleans.ca

The Ostrander family moved from Ontario to Douglas Parish outside Fredericton, New Brunswick, and it has been good for the whole family (Photograph by Chris Donovan)

The buyers

Tracy Ostrander, a 45-year-old human resources director; her husband, Scott, a 48-year-old car salesman; and her children, Abigail, 27, Kaiya, 20, and Aidan, 18.

Budget

$800,000

The back story

Tracy was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, but moved to London, Ontario, with her family when she was just one year old. After meeting Scott on eHarmony in 2011, the couple settled down to raise their blended family of three children in Guelph, a safe, uncongested city with a small-town feel. Her oldest daughter, Abigail, was the first to leave the nest in 2019, when she took a management job at an equestrian facility, which included room and board. The Ostranders took this as an opportunity to downsize and purchased a three-bedroom, 1,700-square-foot townhouse for $498,000 in Rockwood, a township outside Guelph.

Around the same time, Tracy’s extended family was taking slightly bigger steps. Her sister and brother-in-law returned to New Brunswick, specifically Fredericton, and purchased a vacant lot across the street from Tracy’s parents, who had returned east years earlier. The Ostranders already spent part of their summers visiting grandparents, but Tracy was tempted to make their stay more permanent when she heard about the three-bedroom bungalow her sister was building, at a fraction of the cost of a property in southern Ontario. . “The biggest thing was that our kids weren’t ready,” Tracy says. “They were still in high school, which is a really tough time to make a move like that.”

Then, in January 2023, Abigail lost her equestrian job, forcing her to find new accommodation. Seeing firsthand how COVID had increased the price of local one-bedroom rents (from $1,500 to $2,500 in some cases), Abigail hit a low point. Generously, her mom and dad welcomed her return to their home, an arrangement that Tracy describes as “overflowing.” Abigail took over her unfinished basement and again had to share the bathroom with her siblings. (They occasionally made it to Tracy and Scott’s bathroom.) Abigail had also acquired a dog and two cats after leaving home, so her return brought the total number of animals in the house to four dogs, three cats and a hamster. Amid the chaos, Tracy was trying to work from home. “There were endless interruptions in meetings and a lot of frustrations all around,” she says. “We used to say, ‘There are too many souls in this house!’”

After two months, New Brunswick started to look pretty good. The Ostranders couldn’t afford a larger place without leaving Ontario entirely, and Scott, then a manager at a tool and fastener company, was eager for a career change. Both Aidan and Kaiya had finished high school, with gap years on the horizon, but both found the prospect of leaving their friends daunting. Tracy and Scott reminded them that it would take about a year for them to feel at home in a new place. Abigail was easy to convince.

The hunt

Based on comparable properties in their neighborhood, the Ostranders estimated they could sell their Rockwood townhouse for about $800,000. That would be their budget when they explored five-bedroom homes in Fredericton, with one room for each family member. They were looking for a house with some land for their many dogs to roam, plus a separate apartment to give the older children some independence. The plan was to pay some of the rent to Tracy and Scott, but not too much, so they could save for their future. “Maybe one day it would be a set of income for someone else,” Tracy says.

In April 2023, when he began his search, homes in and around Fredericton were selling in a matter of days. Tracy and Scott knew it would be difficult for them to fly east at any time, so they recruited Tracy’s mother and sister to look at houses on her behalf, occasionally having them look at them on Facetime. “My mom, my sister and I are very close,” Tracy says. “We all have similar tastes and I helped my sister design her new home. She knows that if she smells funny, I don’t want to have anything to do with it.”

The Ostranders remotely toured 21 homes in total, and Tracy, her sister, and her mother kept track of the properties through daily text messages and a shared spreadsheet. One was a sprawling 19th-century house with nine bedrooms, original moldings, stained glass windows and a river lot priced at $699,999. But there was no land. Another was near Tracy’s parents’ house, but it reeked of mold. Another was a six-bedroom bungalow with a barn on 10 acres, but it needed a lot of upgrades. Tracy and Scott abandoned them all.

REGISTER TO READ THE BEST OF MACLEAN’S:
Get our top stories delivered straight to your inbox twice a week

In early May, Tracy’s sister saw a new MLS listing for a five-bedroom bungalow on Killarney Road, a wooded neighborhood on the outskirts of Fredericton. The pictures weren’t great, but Tracy was amazed by the specs: two acres, lots of trees, a big front porch, airy rooms with lots of windows, and a huge deck with a hot tub. Her mother and her sister booked a visit for the next day.

The house is on the outskirts of Fredericton, in a wooded neighborhood called Killarney Road.

For a family interested in some privacy, one of the biggest draws ended up being the space between the bedrooms. The master bedroom was at the front of the house, while the other two, which Tracy imagined would house her and Aidan’s home office, were at the back. “My son plays video games until 3:00 a.m. and I don’t need to listen to any of that,” Tracy says. She equipped herself with a basement apartment with a full kitchen, bathroom and living room, as well as two bedrooms, perfect for her daughters. She even had a separate entrance through the garage. “My sister said, ‘If you don’t make an offer on this house, she may never talk to you again,’” Tracy says, laughing.

Tracy and Scott were concerned that conditioning an offer on a home inspection would reduce their chances of success in a fast-moving market. Instead, they booked a second visit and sent Tracy’s brother-in-law, who owns a home renovation business, to do a 90-minute sweep of the house’s well, septic system, electrical fixtures and appliances. When he said he would buy the house, the Ostranders made their offer: $625,000, including the sellers’ tractor, which they planned to use for snow removal and lawn mowing. They finally accepted the sellers’ counteroffer of $645,000 (including the tractor). “It was terrifying,” Tracy says. “Suddenly we had to move.”

The Ostrander family plays cards at the large wooden table in their new home

In June, the Ostranders put their Rockwood townhouse up for sale; As expected, she spent $50,000 more than requested. Two months later, Tracy and Scott took three of the dogs and a cat and headed east in their SUV. The children carried the remaining furry friends in another. Due to the moving company’s schedule, the family’s belongings were due to arrive a week after their arrival in Fredericton, so they booked a week-long stopover at a local Airbnb. “My mom came over earlier that day and set up some balloons and a big welcome sign in the garage,” Tracy says. “It felt like coming home.” When they finally arrived at the property, Tracy says she literally cried tears of joy. Kaiya, Tracy’s middle daughter, said it was the nicest house she had ever been in. None of them felt claustrophobic.

As drastic as it may be, the change has been good for the whole family: Scott took a few months off before looking for a new job and now works at a Mitsubishi dealership in the city. Tracy enjoys having her parents and sister close to her again, and they take her pack of dogs on weekly walks to nearby Lake Killarney. She and Scott have set up a fire pit and plan to build flower beds and a chicken coop this summer.

The family has four dogs: a yellow Labrador named Hank, an Italian greyhound mix named Scooter, a Yorkshire terrier mix named Mike and a Great Pyrenees-Newfoundland mix named Norman.

The children are also adjusting well. “We get together for family meals most nights, but we definitely see them less,” Tracy says. “They’re going out, creating new social circles and they’ve gotten jobs.” Abigail and Kaiya have yet to invite their parents to dinner at their apartment. They’ve been decorated for a long time, but, as Tracy says, “they’re more of the instant noodle cook type.”


Leave a Comment