Selling your house is a big, fat scary undertaking that comes with a fair amount of exhilaration when potential buyers line up to take a gander at your home. Before that happens, though, you have to prep your humble abode for sale -- and that means keeping it in tiptop shape for showings.
If you have young kids, you're probably laughing or having an anxiety attack at this notion. After all, how on Earth can you get hundreds of Lego bricks, piles of dirty laundry, and the remains of that morning's breakfast out of sight before you hustle everyone out of the house every single day? Any parent who has shared living space with a toddler will tell you that's asking a lot.
But don't stress; we have some tips and tricks from the experts that will help you list and sell your home while working around your littlest residents.
Get kids to help you declutter
"Older kids are usually good about keeping their rooms clean, but offering more allowance money or special privileges can motivate them," Sheehan suggests. "Younger kids are a little tougher to convince. I find that the reward chart system works really well. Give your kids a sticker each time they pick up toys or help clean their room. Once they've filled their chart, let them choose a special toy or treat as a reward so the process becomes less stressful and more fun."
(Need some reward charts to get started? The " Supernanny" has you covered. You're welcome.)
Let them pack their own items
Another way to engage your children's help is to sit down with them and make a list of their toys, books, clothes, and games, then assign them certain items to pick up and pack away, says Kevin Curtis, a Realtor in Minneapolis, MN. Curtis also suggests letting your kids label and decorate moving boxes for extra measure. (What kid doesn't love to go to town on cardboard boxes with a box of crayons or markers?!)
"Ask your kids to pick their favorite toys so they can keep playing with them, and have them store the rest away," Curtis says.
And buyers understand that your entire life isn't on hold for showings, Curtis says. Try to put toys away, make the beds, and keep the surfaces neat, but don't obsess over the details in these rooms.
"It's OK to let kids be kids; buyers aren't going to judge the whole house based on your kid's bedroom," Curtis says.
Buyers coming over? Field trip!
After your home hits the market, you'll need to think about what to do with your brood when buyers come to scope out your place. That's where a little preparation and planning go a long way, Curtis says.
"Selling can be very disruptive to a family's schedule, but try to make showing times fun so your kids get excited about showings instead of dreading them," Curtis says. "Take them out to eat, go for ice cream, visit a relative or friend, go to the park, or stop by the library."
Although you can't always anticipate when buyers will view your home, most showings happen over the weekend. Sheehan suggests working with your Realtor to schedule showings in long morning or afternoon blocks to make it easier on your kids. And don't forget to keep a small stockpile of activities, snacks, and drinks ready for those one-off showings where you need to grab and go, Sheehan says.
Once your house finally sells, grab an adult beverage and congratulate yourself profusely on making it through the listing process with your sanity (and your kids!) intact.
Thinking of buying? Read more tips from Curtis and Sheehan about house hunting with young kids.