That’s because there is a fairly narrow window when you can move kids. By now, school is out, or it soon will be in most of the country. It will start back up after Labor Day -- even earlier in some school districts.
Between now and then, parents have to find and purchase a home that meets certain criteria -- it needs to be the right size, the right distance from work, and in the right school district. With so many parents up against time constraints when it comes to shopping for a home, Zillow found they are prone to making mistakes.
Researchers found parents living with children under 18 are more likely to spend more for a home than they budgeted and make smaller down payments, which increases their mortgage payment.
Longer commutes and smaller houses
Because parents tend to be more selective about school districts, they are more likely to end up with longer commutes and smaller houses than they really need, since homes in better school districts tend to cost more.
As they begin their search during late June and early July, parents go through remarkably similar experiences. They’re more likely than other buyers to see an offer get rejected -- though that’s slightly less common now that inventory levels are rising again.
They’re more likely to have their financing fall through, and they attend more open houses than other buyers. Many parents who buy homes end up making sacrifices to find a home they can afford.
"Having kids is a major destabilizer in life -- their needs are constantly changing and seemingly impossible to anticipate,” said Skylar Olsen, Zillow's director of economic research.
Big decision, short deadline
Olsen says the overriding challenge facing parents in the homebuying process is dealing with a mountain of uncertainty while making a huge financial decision -- and doing it under a fairly inflexible deadline.
The red hot housing market of the last few years has made the job even tougher, but now that the market has cooled a bit, Olsen says it may work to parents’ advantage.
"With interest rates back down, they'll be more able to lock in an affordable monthly payment that will last through college,” she said. “The trick is finding the home that still fills the family's needs as toddlers turn into kids, kids into teenagers, and teenagers into the young adults in your basement.”
The story actually has a hopeful ending. The Zillow researchers asked parents who had recently gone through the homebuying experience how they feel now. An overwhelming majority -- 94.6 percent -- said they love the house they purchased, slightly higher than their peers without children.