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 7 when my husband came home one autumn day and announced that he had military orders and we’d be moving. In a matter of months. This 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, ok, several days of it, I knew that like most things military related, there was no getting around it and so we needed a plan of action. We still needed to live in our house and prepare for an off-season PCS move, while being ready to show our house at a moment’s notice.
Keep Your Sanity and Your Home Show-Ready: 10 Tips for Selling Your Home When You Have Little Kids
1) Do a major clutter purge before you even put your house on the market.
Give yourself several weeks to do a deep clean and organize. This is also the time to make any needed repairs or cosmetic fixes. Plan on making numerous trips to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or your installation’s thrift store donation to offload some junk! (Psst....also plan for a nap. This part's exhausting!)
Get more details: 12 Repairs to Make Before Selling Your Home.
2) Store whatever you can live without for the next few months.
Now that you've weeded out your belongings, sort out some favorite outfits and toys and store the rest. Box up extra bedding and seasonal items. Pull out enough kitchen items to get you through the coming months and store everything else. This is also the time to put away personal items like family photos. While you still have to live in your house with your young family, consider keeping bigger toys (i.e., play kitchens, tricycles, etc.) in a shed or garage. Prospective home buyers will mind a few boxes in the garage much less than extra belongings in the home.
3) Time to go neutral.
Look around your home with a critical buyer's eye and remove any decor that is cartoonish or bright. A hot pink "princess" room will be difficult for a home buyer to envision as a home office, so this is the time to paint walls a more neutral color. Remove huge cartoon decals or paint over murals. And check for stickers! My little ones had a penchant for placing stickers everywhere. ("Goo Gone" is a wonder for this!)
4) Simplify your life with a daily routine.
Prospective home buyers want to view a clean, clutter-free home. You don’t have to do a deep clean of your house every day, but there are simple routines that can make being “show ready” less stressful, because you never know which days will be home showing days! Some tips to keep the clutter and dust of daily living under control:
- Make the beds each morning. (Enlist your kids' help in this!)
- Store shampoo, soap, and bath toys 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 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 each day.
- 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 a couple of hours! And maintaining a level of cleanliness is much easier when your house is free of all the items you just donated and stored.
5) Consider hiring someone to help with cleaning.
Especially if you have a baby or many little ones, it may be time for reinforcements. If you can find room in your budget, this is the ideal time to pay for some weekly or bi-weekly 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, deep cleaning bathrooms, and mopping floors.
6) Enlist a friend for on-call help with short notice showings.
There may be days you need extra help with childcare. If your spouse isn’t available, find at least one friend who's willing to watch children on short notice.
7) Consider locking unused rooms.
Have a half bathroom, office, or guest bedroom that’s rarely used? Deep clean it and then keep it locked. (Kids have this tendency to forget that they’re not supposed to use a room...) Just remember to unlock it when you leave the house!
8) Make a checklist for when you need to leave the house quickly.
Add tasks such as: quick clutter pick-up, put dirty dishes in the dishwasher, flush all the toilets (don’t ask) and close lids, check all beds, empty the trash and diaper bins, do a quick damp mop of the kitchen floor. Whew! If you have a basket of unfolded laundry or another mess that you cannot deal with quickly, throw it in the back of your car on your way out!
9) Let your kids pitch in.
If you have all little ones like I did, they may not be much practical help, but let them do what they can. It never failed—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. Even my 3-year-old could understand the reasons why we needed to move quickly and help put away toys. Let children do what they can, and if they’re too little to help, keep them safely contained in a walker or high chair while you do a quick pickup.
10) Set home showing hours if you need to.
I had to stipulate no showings during the baby’s nap time in the afternoons or after a certain time each evening when the kids went to bed or I would have lost my mind. Knowing there was a time each day to catch up on cleaning or simply get some rest myself kept me sane! Since we had a newborn, we did have to set some limits so we could all get adequate sleep. If you're working with an agent, let them know your schedule and be as flexible as reasonably possible, since may buyers will want to view homes in the evening hours.