Real Estate

A Full House in New Brunswick

The Ostrander bunch moved to Fredericton with three adult kids, four dogs, three cats and a hamster
Andrea Yu
The Ostrander family pose in front of their home with three of the four family dogs in Douglas Parish on the outskirts of Fredericton, NB, on March 19, 2024. From left: Abigail Lynch, Aidan Ostrander, Kaiya Ostrander, Tracy Ostrander, and Scott Ostrander. (Photograph by Chris Donovan)

The buyers

Tracy Ostrander, a 45-year-old HR director; her husband, Scott, a 48-year-old car salesman; and their kids, Abigail, who’s 27, Kaiya, who’s 20, and Aidan, who’s 18

The budget


The backstory

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

Around the same time, Tracy’s extended family was making slightly bigger moves. Her sister and brother-in-law headed back to New Brunswick—Fredericton, specifically—buying an empty lot across the street from Tracy’s parents, who had returned east years earlier. The Ostranders already spent part of their summers visiting the 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 big thing was: our kids weren’t ready,” Tracy says. “They were still in high school, which is a really difficult time to make a move like that.”

Then, in January of 2023, Abigail lost her equestrian job, forcing her to look for new lodgings. Seeing firsthand how COVID had jacked up the price of local one-bedroom rentals—from $1,500 to $2,500 in some cases—Abigail hit a low point. Generously, her mom and dad welcomed her back home, an arrangement Tracy describes as “bursting at the seams.” Abigail took over their unfinished basement and had to once again share a bathroom with her siblings. (They occasionally spilled over into Tracy and Scott’s ensuite.) Abigail had also acquired a dog and two cats after leaving home, so her return brought the townhome’s total animal count to four dogs, three cats and a hamster. Amid the chaos, Tracy was trying to work from home. “There were endless meeting interruptions—lots of frustrations all around,” she says. “We used to say, ‘There are too many souls in this house!’”

Within two months, New Brunswick started to look pretty good. The Ostranders couldn’t afford a bigger place without leaving Ontario altogether, and Scott, then the manager of a tool and fasteners company, was itching 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 it would take a year or so to feel at home in a new place. Abigail was easy to convince.

The hunt

Based on comparable properties in their neighbourhood, the Ostranders figured they could sell their Rockwood townhome for about $800,000. That would be their budget when they scouted five-bedroom homes around Fredericton, with a room for each family member. They were angling for a house with a bit of land so their many dogs could roam, plus a separate apartment to give the older kids some independence. The plan was they’d pay a bit of rent to Tracy and Scott—but not too much, so they could save for their futures. “Maybe someday, it would be an income suite for someone else,” Tracy says.

By April of 2023, when their search began, homes in and around Fredericton were selling within a matter of days. Tracy and Scott knew it would be tough for them to fly east at a moment’s notice, so they enlisted Tracy’s mother and sister to see houses on their behalf, occasionally Facetiming them into viewings. “My mom, 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 it smells funny, I want no part of it.”

The Ostranders remotely toured 21 homes in total, with Tracy, her sister and their mom keeping track of listings via daily texts and a shared spreadsheet. One was a sprawling nine-bedroom century home with original mouldings, stained glass and a riverside lot listed for $699,999. But there was no land. Another was close to Tracy’s parents house—but it reeked of mildew. Yet another was a six-bedroom bungalow with a barn on 10 acres, but it needed a ton of upgrades. Tracy and Scott passed on all of them.

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In early May, Tracy’s sister spotted a new listing on MLS for a five-bedroom bungalow in Killarney Road, a wooded neighbourhood just outside of Fredericton. The pictures weren’t great, but Tracy was bowled over by the specs: two acres, scads of trees, a large front porch, airy rooms with plenty of windows, and a huge deck with a hot tub. Her mom and sister booked a viewing for the next day.

The home is on the outskirts of Fredericton, in a wooded neighbourhood called Killarney Road

For a family keen on some privacy, one of the biggest draws ended up being the space between the bedrooms. The primary bedroom was at the front of the house, while the other two—which Tracy imagined housing her home office and Aidan—were at the back. “My son plays video games ’til 3:00 a.m. and I don’t need to hear any of that,” Tracy says. A basement apartment was outfitted with a full kitchen, bathroom and living area, plus two bedrooms, perfect for her daughters. It even had a separate entrance through the garage. “My sister said, ‘If you don’t make an offer on this house, I may never talk to you again,’” Tracy says, laughing.

Tracy and Scott worried that making an offer conditional on a home inspection would lower their chances of success in a fast-moving market. Instead, they booked a second viewing and sent Tracy’s brother-in-law, who owns a home renovation business, to do a 90-minute sweep of the home’s well, septic system, electrical and appliances. When he said he’d 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 ultimately agreed to the sellers’ counter-offer of $645,00 (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 listed their Rockwood townhouse for sale; unsurprisingly, it went $50,000 over asking. Two months later, Tracy and Scott took three of the dogs and one cat and drove east in their SUV. The kids took the remaining furry friends in another. Because of the moving company’s schedule, the family’s belongings were set to arrive a week after their arrival in Fredericton, so they booked a week-long stopover at a local Airbnb. “My mother went over earlier in the day and set up some balloons and a big welcome sign on the garage,” Tracy says. “It felt like coming home.” When they finally pulled up to the property, Tracy says she literally wept tears of joy. Kaiya, Tracy’s middle child, said it was the nicest house she’d ever been inside. Not one of them felt claustrophobic.

However drastic, change has been good for the whole family: Scott took a few months off before hunting for a new job, and now works at a Mitsubishi dealership in town. Tracy is enjoying having her folks and sister close again, and they take their pack of dogs for weekly walks up at nearby Killarney Lake. She and Scott have installed a firepit and have plans to build garden beds and a chicken coop this summer.

The family has four dogs: a yellow lab named Hank, an Italian greyhound cross named Scooter, a Yorkshire terrier cross named Mike and a great Pyrenees-Newfoundlander cross named Norman

The kids are adapting well, too. “We gather for family meals most nights, but we definitely see them less,” Tracy says. “They’re dating, creating new social circles and they’ve gotten jobs.” Abigail and Kaiya have yet to invite their parents down for dinner in their apartment. They’ve long since decorated, but, as Tracy says, “they’re more the instant-noodle type of cooks.”