Selling a home is stressful no matter who you are. Add kids to this mix and it can feel like an impossible task. Even the neatest kids are unlikely to understand how to keep a home clean for showings. And what about the little surprises they leave around the house (unflushed toilets anyone?) that can leave a bad impression for buyers. We won’t promise a pain-free experience, but we can help you reduce the stress with these tips for selling with kids.
This is the time to put in the hard work. The more you do to significantly reduce the amount of stuff in your home, update paint, floors, and fixtures, and spend time staging and getting great photos will pay off so that your window for showings/time on the market will be shorter. You are also likely to get higher offers if your house is spruced up and show ready. Houses that sit longer tend to get lower offers over time. So what can you do to get it ready?
Keep some toys for Showings and put the rest in Storage
Your kids can handle it, we promise. You know your kids best, so choose toys that are likely to keep their interest. When we moved in 2018 we let our kids keep a few dolls/stuffies, an assortment of books, a small basket of coloring supplies and two small baskets of easy to clean up toys that were kept in their bedrooms. Our older daughter got to keep her lego table but it was stored in her closet during showings (which thankfully was only for one weekend because we worked HARD to make our house appealing to buyers). We took big toys (toy kitchen, big block sets) to storage because they make a townhouse feel cramped. We left NO toys in the main living areas because you want buyers to imagine themselves living there. All of these stayed in storage until we moved, but parents with younger kids might want to get things back out once the house is under contract. A word to the wise – don’t let things get too out of control until after the home inspection and appraisal, you always want to present your home in the best light possible anytime the buyer or an appraiser is walking through your home.
Let Your Kids Have a Say
If your children are old enough to have an opinion you might ask them what 3-5 things are “Must Haves” while the house is on the market. I always tell my clients to get your kids involved and excited about the good things about moving – the adventure, the new house with a new room to decorate, etc to help them be willing to do the hard part. You may have to have some hard conversations about storing away larger items (Barbie houses, indoor trampolines or climbing toys) and help your child process saying goodbye to those things for a short time. Our girls were around when we were packing up because we didn’t have anyone who could take them that day. It was hard for them to see their beloved things put in boxes, and negotiations ensued. Overall, we reassured them that they would see their stuff again, and even took them to the storage facility to see where it all was. After the initial disappointment wore off they were fine, which is usually the case with most kids.
Send the Kids to a Friends House When Possible
That said, pack as much as you can without the kids around. Any parent knows that if your kid sees you clean up the blocks they haven’t touched in two months, it will now become their treasured item. The more you can do without them around, the better and pain-free for everyone. Imagine their joy when they re-open those boxes of toys down the road! (And Pro tip – if you have toys you want to pass on, now is the perfect time to store them away to see if they’re missed. If not, move that box to Goodwill, etc rather than into your new home).
Keeping the house clean for showings when selling with kids is no walk in the park. Try not to limit showing times because that can impact how many buyers come through and how quickly your home will sell. Understandably, if you have an infant and need to do a hard and fast bedtime, by all means, limit evening showings. Consider car naps for daytime showings when needed. Having a plan for how you will manage this time will get you through. Here are some ideas:
- Go out of town the first weekend. A show ready home (clean, updated, staged) that is priced right could get a contract the first weekend. If you can swing it, simply removing yourself and your kids from the home will greatly reduce your stress. You’re likely to have numerous showings the first weekend and you don’t want to have to either constantly clean up every crumb, dish, and toy or find places to go ALL DAY LONG.
- If leaving town isn’t an option, ask a friend if you can have an extended play date. Better yet, if you have a neighbor who is willing to take you in, make a plan with them to drop in as needed. We had a neighbor years ago who did this with us when they were selling and we were more than happy to host them at the drop of a hat.
- Prep grab-and-go snacks/meals so you aren’t making a big mess in the kitchen and you aren’t constantly eating out.
- Plan fun activities for your kids so they’re distracted from the disruptions of showings. We didn’t do this well when our house was on the market and Sarah was worn out by day 3 of quickly exiting with the kids without a plan. In retrospect, she wishes she had just planned to take them to one of the local play or climbing places for the afternoon.
If you don’t get the right offer the first weekend don’t fret. Showings will continue but often not at the same intensity as the first weekend. Ask your realtor for advanced notice for showings – probably no more than an hour, but that means no surprise showings. Keep a plan in place and use this checklist to make sure these items are taken care of before you leave for showings.
- Wipe all counters
- Empty trash (into main trash)
- Remove any smelly trash to the outside trash can
- Clean all floors and store everything in its proper place (clothes, shoes, toys, etc)
- Make sure toilets are flushed and seats down/wiped
- Place all toiletries under the sink
- Dishes in the dishwasher
- Sweep/Vacuum as needed
- Make beds
- Turn lights on
- Spray air freshener to get rid of any odd odors
- Do one last spot check once kids are snapped in the car or wrangled to one area
At Closing/Moving Day
Ideally, you’ve been helping your child(ren) say goodbye to this home for the last 1-2 months. We asked our girls what they wanted to remember and helped them take pictures so we could make a book of memories from our house. We got them this Bearstain Bears book and read it to them throughout the last month. On our very last walk through we went slowly through the house and helped them say goodbye to each room, taking pictures if needed. They handled it well, but we were also only moving a few miles away.
If you have any family or saintly friends who are willing to take your children on moving day, DO IT. We scheduled to move on a weekday so the kids would be at school and not underfoot. Well, as luck would have it, school was canceled that day. One of our amazing friends reached out and offered to take our girls because she knew we were moving the day. We are forever grateful for the kindness! Having kids underfoot and bored when you’re trying to direct movers and make sure things are cleared out is a recipe for meltdowns for everyone in the family. Do your best to avoid it!
Don’t forget to take care of yourself!
Lastly, make a plan for how to help yourself de-stress. Can the kids go to a friend’s for an hour while you get a workout in? Stock up on your favorite bottle of wine or beers and pour yourself a tall one on the hard days. You will get through this and it will be worth it in the end!
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