So, you’ve been thinking about selling your house - and then you realized that YOU HAVE KIDS! How is that going to work without losing your mind?
Well, it has been done plenty of times before, so don't worry too much. If you plan out the selling process correctly, it is much easier. Take a deep breath and let's go through this together.
The hardest part of selling a home with kids is that they tend to undo your efforts as soon as you get a room cleaned and ready. You move on to the next room while they follow behind you with a new mess.
Kids don't feel the same sense of urgency that you feel as you are planning out this major life event. This can cause tensions to rise in the household. In this article, I'll explain some simple steps you can take to make the process much smoother and more predictable.
Here are some tried and true tips:
1. Get Organized & Prepared
The very first step is always to organize your thoughts and implement a plan. This will help calm your nerves and give you a sense of control over the situation.
Give yourself some time to organize for a week or so during nap time or while the kids are at school. Go through their closets, dressers, and toys. Find items that you may be able to donate or take to storage. When all of that is said and done, declutter a little more.
Clear the tops of dressers and nightstands, take down personalized items (for the safety of your children), and put away all but 25% of the toys and maybe 1-2 weeks worth of clothing. If your kids are old enough or excited about moving, have them help choose which toys and clothes they use most often and let them box up the rest (packing and marking the box/boxes in a special way can make them feel included).
2. Make a Family Contract
Make a contract with your kids - after all, you are signing lots of papers when you buy and sell your house. Use this as an example. If they are elementary age or older, this can be a great life lesson! Find out what motivates them to help get the home ready for showings - let the “market” be the motivator!
For littles, maybe there is a special toy that they’ve wanted. Print out a picture of the toy and put it somewhere (back of the closet door, pantry door, etc) so they see it daily. A sticker chart can also help encourage them. Maybe it’s a special outing - could you find something that reminds them of why they want to help?
For older kids, if not a special outing, maybe it’s a “paycheck” that you hand them after closing on your home! Whatever the reward, make sure it’s something they are REALLY excited about and be very specific about their chores and when you need them completed. Remember to be age appropriate and realistic. If you work, you’ll need some things done before the kids leave for school.
Put away all toys, gaming stuff, school stuff, clothes, shoes, and jackets. (It’s great to have a laundry basket or tote that either fits under the bed or in the closet to toss toys in quickly.)
3. Make a Daily Clean-Up Checklist for Kids
Making a checklist for all of the chores that your kids are capable of helping with will set their expectations on the right path.
Remind them to make their beds (or do their best to straighten it up), clean off the bathroom counter (toothbrush, toiletry items - find a special place for them to put everything and have cleaning wipes handy), close toilet seats, and hang up towels.
Put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher or hand wash and put them away. Help turn on all lights in the home and open blinds before school. Your home shows better when it’s brighter!
4. Prepare Showing Bags
Pre-made showing bags are a great way to take pressure off of you while you're frantically preparing for your next showing. These bags can hold your kid's favorite treats, drinks, a special toy/book, cozy clothes/blanket. Whatever you do, make these fun (something unique that they only get when there’s a showing - it makes that time exciting!)
Make sure there’s a showing bag for you - include some personal items, just in case you have to run out of the home quickly and forgot to put on deodorant! Once you have them made, just keep them in your car or garage to grab as you leave your house.
5. Pre-Plan Your Routes
Gather some ideas of easy trips for when showings happen. The less planning you have to do in the moment, the easier the process. This may be a good time to go to the park, go on a hike, grab some food, or just walk around the mall.
If your kids are still in the napping stage, do you have friends or family who are willing to let you show up for nap time if needed? Build out a good list of options so that you can easily escape to somewhere pleasant when you are leaving your home for a showing.
6. Make a Personal Checklist
Determine a checklist for yourself. An empty laundry basket is a great help if you need to gather items quickly. You can even throw it in the car if needed!
Have something written down so you don’t miss the important things, then, plan to do a final sweep of the home once the kids are buckled in the car.
7. Set Up Showing Delays
Now that you’re ready to go on the market, ask your agent to give you a 2-hour showing notice for each requested showing of your home. You can ask for more or less time based on your needs. Just make sure you have plenty of time because it's awkward whenever sellers are trying to get out of the home when buyers are showing up.
You'll need enough time for your little one to finish a nap or for your older kiddos to accomplish their contract items. You'll also need time to do a final inspection while leaving your house before the buyers get there. Budget this time wisely so that you don't feel too pressed for time.
8. Try to minimize your workload:
The easier you can make the process, the better. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Cook your meals on the grill or in the oven in a single dish - less clean up if there isn’t a cooktop to wipe down.
- Think about only using two bathrooms - less to clean!
- Have one place for homework and hide ALL kids craft materials - trust me, you’ll thank me for this one!
Have toys/books/games/etc. in ONE room - whether it’s each child’s bedroom or a playroom - leave the main spaces a little less chaotic. Schedule lots of outside play - if weather permits - and have them take their shoes off at the door!
There is a good chance that the person thinking about buying your home has children - or at least has been around children enough to know that families have to live in their home.
Not everything will be perfect, and there will be times when you can’t get to everything on your list! It’s okay. Your kids are going to take their cues from you - remember to breathe!
Selling a home with kids is a challenge, but it can be a fun shared experience with your family if done correctly. The steps above should help you throughout the entire process. Make sure that you choose a great Realtor to work with and not just the first Realtor that you know.
Your Realtor's ability to sell your house fast and keep you informed throughout the process will help decrease your stress dramatically. The Realtor that you hire is a huge part of your success, so choose wisely.
Remember to stay positive, stick to the plan, and make some good memories with your family during this time. You've got this!