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    10 Tips for Selling Your Home When You Have Little Kids

    I was the mom of one sweet newborn baby and three other adorable, active children, all under the age of seven, when my husband came home one autumn day and announced that he had military orders and that we’d be moving—in a matter of months. While a short-notice move isn't rare in military life, this also meant we had very little time to get our house on the market and complete our home sale. (Did I mention we had a newborn?!)

    After a moment of panic—okay, several days of it—I knew that, like most things military-related, there was no getting around it, so we needed a plan of action. We would be living in our house and preparing for an off-season PCS move while being ready to show our house at a moment’s notice. 

    I've gathered some insights from my experience and fellow home sellers who've navigated similar challenges. Whether you're going the FSBO route or working with a real estate agent, being prepared is key when it comes to selling your home. In this post, we'll cover 10 essential tips to help maintain your sanity and keep your home show-ready while juggling the demands of caring for young children.

    10 Tips for Selling Your Home When You Have Little Kids-2

    1) Tackle the clutter and get organized.

    Plan a chunk of time to organize, declutter, and deep clean your entire home. This is the perfect opportunity to purge and donate any excess children's clothing, toys, books, and baby or toddler gear you no longer need.

    Expect to make numerous trips to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or your installation’s thrift store donation to offload some junk. (Psst....also plan for a nap or two. This part's exhausting!)

    Address any necessary home repairs or cosmetic improvements before listing your home for sale. Take a look at these important repairs and updates to make before selling a home.

    2) Store whatever you can live without for the next few months.

    Now that you've weeded through your belongings, set aside some favorite outfits and toys, along with enough kitchen and personal items to get you through the coming weeks or months. Box up items or use vacuum-sealed bags, and plan to store whatever you don't use on a daily basis, including things like extra bedding and seasonal items. Prospective buyers will be more forgiving of a few neatly stacked boxes in the garage than they would be of extra belongings scattered throughout the house and stuffed into closets.

    This is also the time to put away personal items like family photos. While you're still living in the house with your young family, consider keeping bigger toys (e.g., play kitchens, tricycles, etc.) in a shed or garage. 

    3) Time to go neutral!

    Conventional advice for home sellers includes neutralizing your home as much as possible so buyers can envision themselves in the space. Look around your home with a critical buyer's eye and remove any décor that is cartoonish or painted in bright colors. A room decked out in My Little Pony may be difficult for a home buyer to imagine as their home office, so this is the time to paint walls a more neutral color and remove any colorful decals.

    And here's something you might not think about: check for stickers! My little ones had a penchant for placing stickers in all sorts of creatively hidden spots. "Goo Gone" is a wonder for removing sticky items.

    living room with toys and guitarsPhoto from Canva

    4) Simplify daily life with a routine.

    Home shoppers expect to view a clean, clutter-free home. While you don't need to deep clean your house every day, there are simple routines that can make being “show ready” less stressful since you never know which days will be home showing days.

    Some ideas for keeping the clutter and dust of daily living under control: 

    • Make the beds each morning. (Kids can help with this.)
    • Store shampoo, soap, bath toys, and other shower/bath items in a bin under the bathroom sink, and make it a habit to put them there after each bath time.
    • Keep kitchen counters clear of clutter so they’re easily wiped down at the last minute. 
    • Have a drawer free to sweep small items into when you’re in a rush.
    • Keep bathroom wipes on hand for a quick once-over each day.
    • Vacuum/sweep main areas daily.
    • Run a load of laundry daily so it doesn't have a chance to pile up.
    • Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher.

    While this sounds like a lot, simple routines will help keep your stress level down when you get a call that someone wants to look at your home in an hour. And since you have already cleared the clutter, maintaining a level of cleanliness will be that much easier.

    5) Hire cleaning help if you can.

    Especially if you have an infant or many little ones, it may be time for reinforcements. Other parents suggest that, if you can find room in your budget, consider paying for regular help with deeper cleaning to keep the house ready without driving yourself crazy.

    Some items to add to the cleaner's list: wiping down light switches, doorknobs, or other spots where sticky fingerprints might rest, dusting, deep cleaning bathrooms, cleaning windows, and mopping floors. 

    Beautiful brunette woman cleaning a cupboard in the kitchenPhoto from Shutterstock

    6) Enlist on-call help for short-notice showings.

    There may be days or evenings when you need extra help with childcare. If your spouse isn’t available, find at least one friend or a drop-in care situation where your children can safely go on short notice.

    7) Consider locking unused rooms. 

    Do you have a half bathroom, office, or guest bedroom that’s rarely used? Deep clean it and then lock it so it doesn't get dirty again. (Kids have a tendency to forget that they’re not supposed to use a room.)

    Just remember to unlock it before you leave the house for home showings!

    8) Create a checklist for when you need to leave the house quickly.

    Add tasks such as quick clutter pick-up, putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, flushing all the toilets (don’t ask) and closing lids, checking that all beds are made, closing dirty clothes hampers, emptying the trash and diaper bins, and a swift damp mop of the kitchen floor. Whew!

    If you have unfolded laundry or a pile of toys you cannot deal with at the last minute, throw them in a laundry basket kept for this purpose and put them in the back of your car as you leave.

    young boy putting legos into laundry basketPhoto from Canva

    9) Encourage your kids to pitch in.

    If your children are all young like mine were, they may not be much practical help, but let them do what they can. It never failed, of course—the toddler would be in her high chair with food smeared in her hair and my little boys in the midst of a Lego explosion in the living room when we’d get a call for a home showing.

    But even my 3-year-old could understand the reasons why we needed to move quickly and could help put away toys. Let children do what they can, and if they’re too little to help, keep them safely contained in a playpen or high chair while you run through your quick checklist from the above step. 

    10) Set home showing hours if you need to.

    We blocked off time for no showings for a couple of hours in the afternoons during the baby’s nap time or after a certain time in the evenings when our kids went to bed. You may want to do this for whatever is the most chaotic time in your home, such as right after school pick-up or your typical "just getting home from work" hours.

    Knowing there was built-in time to catch up on cleaning or get some rest ourselves helped alleviate some of the home-selling stress. Since we had a newborn, we needed to set some limits so we could all get adequate sleep. If you're working with a real estate agent, let them know your schedule while also being as flexible as reasonably possible since many buyers want to view homes in the evening hours or on weekends.

    young children playing in messy living roomPhoto from Canva

    Our family and others like us survived the chaotic process of putting our house on the market with a brood of little ones. And you can do it, too! While preparation is key, the unpredictability of any day with young children calls for a good dose of humor to navigate it all.

    Have you sold your house with small children at home? Share with other parents what worked for you in the comments or on Facebook.

    Get even more home-selling tips with our free guide below. 

    Guide to Selling Your Home

    Jen McDonald


    Jen McDonald

    Jen McDonald is the Content Editor for MilitaryByOwner Advertising. She's a longtime writer, the author of the books You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse and Milspouse Matters: Sharing Strength Through Our Stories. Jen is also the host of the Milspouse Matters podcast, and has written hundreds of articles and essays which have been published in other books and numerous publications. She was a military spouse for 30 years and is the mom of four, including one son in the military. One of her happiest roles now is being a grandmother. She and her veteran Air Force husband have been stationed all around the world from Europe to the Pacific and won’t count how many houses they’ve lived in because that would be too depressing. Her passion is encouraging young military spouses and regularly sharing about topics like military life, parenting, homeschooling...and now grandparenting! See more from Jen at her site, Jen McDonald and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram , and Pinterest.

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