Selling your home is no easy task, especially when you still live in it. It’s even more difficult if you are the parent of young children. If you are like most people, your current home has to be sold before you move into another home so there isn’t much choice. Luckily, there are ways to make it doable. I have sold two homes over the past several years while living in them with young children. Here are some tips and tricks I used to make it as easy as possible.
Before You List Your Home for Sale
1. Declutter. This will not only make it faster for you to clean up before a showing, but also make your home more appealing to buyers. They like to see a clean slate with minimal “stuff” in each room. This can be a huge task that will likely take a few weeks to finish, or lots of hands to help you do it quickly. My favorite way to declutter before a move is to have a box for donations, a large garbage bag for trash, and another box or two to pack things in as I move from room to room. Then get rid of all the donations and trash and store the rest.
2. Pack anything you don’t need in the next couple of months and store it. Some easy to pack away items that you won’t need for awhile are books, seasonal clothes, and extra blankets, towels, and sheets that are in your linen closet.
3. Organize your closets. Donate clothes that you and your kids don’t wear. It will be easier to pack later and people don’t want to see a closet stuffed with clothes. You don’t want your closet to seem smaller than it is or like it might not fit the potential buyers clothes. As mentioned above, pack in boxes seasonal clothes that are out of season right now to make space.
4. If you’ve got a nice size garage, you can make neat stacks along one wall and store some boxes there or rent a storage space. Buyers will want to see the garage so it should look neat and tidy too. Don’t have the boxes thrown in there and disorganized looking. Also, don’t fill it so full that people can’t walk around in there and get a feel for its size.
5. Pack away all the kids toys except one large plastic tote. Have them save their favorites out that will fit in the large tote. If anything is left out before a showing, quickly toss them into the tote, snap the lid on, and stick it under a bed or in a closet. This will help eliminate the inevitable toys strewn throughout the house look that kids tend to create.
6. Organize and clean your kitchen and bathrooms. People like to open cupboards, the refrigerator, and oven when looking at your home. They also tend to open the shower curtain and check out the bathtub. Make sure all of these are sparkling clean and the stuff in the cupboards is minimized to what you really need. Start using up some of your extra food because you don’t want to pack and move that anyway.
7. Beautify your home inside and out. After deep cleaning and decluttering, beautiful touches can make all the difference. Trim the bushes, keep your porch and walk swept, wash the front door and make sure there’s no cobwebs anywhere, keep the lawn mowed, keep the weeds down, plant some flowers (if it’s spring or summer), and put a pretty wreath on your door. Remember that curb appeal is everything. If they don’t like how it looks on the outside, they may drive by and not even look inside.
8. Depersonalize your rooms so the buyers can picture it as their home. Remove pictures of your kids and family and store them. I bought a couple of generic but pretty nature pics to put on the walls instead of family photos. I also tried to always have fresh flowers on the table. If you have any walls that are painted bright colors, you may want to put a fresh coat of neutral paint on them.
After Your Home is Listed
1. As best as you can, get in the habit of cleaning up right away throughout the day instead of letting things sit for later…don’t leave dishes in the sink, empty and load the dishwasher throughout the day, notice when trash cans are more than half full and empty them, etc.
2. Do a nightly clean up after the kids go to bed. Straighten up the kitchen counters and table (don’t leave any piles of papers out), make sure the bathrooms are clean, pick up toys, do the dishes, etc.
3. Keep your floors clean. One of the first things people see when they walk through your house are the floors. If it has been awhile since you shampooed the carpets, get that done and then be careful to take your shoes off when you walk into the house. Use a large basket or shoe holder to keep the shoes tidy by the door or just be sure not to leave any shoes there before a showing. Keep hard surface floors swept and mopped regularly.
4. Have everything you will need to be out of the house for an hour or two packed in a bag and ready to go. Many times a Realtor will call and say they are “just around the corner” looking at another house and noticed your listing as well and want to stop by. If you have a baby or toddler, keep the diaper bag packed with essentials at all times.
5. Be prepared to spend some money on take out or fast food. Don’t make elaborate dinners that take a long time to make and dirty up a ton of dishes. I can’t tell you how many times I got a call from a Realtor that they had a client looking in the area and would like to stop by right during our dinner time. Of course we wanted to accommodate the buyer, so we had to vacate and go eat fast food instead or eat a later dinner after they were finished.
6. Remember that whatever you are doing, the clean up and go time should be within 20-30 minutes. Make a list of what you need to do during that time and quickly run through the list before you leave. Some items on there might be to empty the trash (if it’s more than 1/4 full), straighten the surfaces in the kitchen (papers on counter, table, etc), have the kids clean up any toys and put them in the toy containers, check that the laundry isn’t overflowing and possibly shove it in the washer or hide the basket in the trunk of the car, grab the diaper bag and other “go bags” and vacate.
It’s no doubt that getting your home ready to sell and living in it while you are selling your home is no easy task. It’s a lot of work, but so worth it when you put a “Sold” sign on your home. Do you have any other tips to share? I’d love to hear them in the comments.