Let me begin by saying, I am not a child psychologist. I am a Realtor and a mom though. In my experience, both as an agent and as someone that has moved with children, the idea of keeping a house clean while it is on the market and packing for a move can make anyone feel a little anxious. In a nutshell, there is an element of stress when it comes to moving followed by the excitement of a new house. Adults have the ability to weigh pros and cons to wrap their minds around the moving process, children however, are often along for the ride.
When we moved, my kids were 4 and 2. Every time we had a showing, I would run through the house throwing toys and dirty dishes where (I hoped) prospective buyers wouldn’t look. In fact, I remember shoving an entire laundry basket in the oven…I panicked. The fact of the matter is keeping your house “show ready” when you have kids is similar to brushing your teeth while eating Oreos, it’s almost impossible. So how do people do it?
Just like everything else with children, planning is key. Prior to putting your house on the market, sit your littles down and lay out the entire process. What this means for them, what they can expect along the way, and everything in between. I remember my son asking me what we were bringing with us. It started with him asking about his toys, then his bed, then his lamp, then he asked if we were bringing his door knob! Never underestimate how their little minds work, no fear is too small. So here is a timeline to help plan your move and ways that you can get your kids involved along the way.
2 weeks before you go on the market:
-Go room by room to de-clutter. I prefer to start at the bottom and work my way up. If you have a basement it is a great place to get the “purge” ball rolling. Some people will rent a dumpster for the week to make tossing a little easier. Don’t worry about cleaning yet, just go through stuff. You can give your kids each their own trash bag to fill or start their own donate pile. Or if you are like me, a trip to the library for some new movies and a bowl of popcorn is an even bigger help.
-Donate any items that are in good condition, make sure you get a receipt so you can write off the donation amount from your taxes. This is a great time to teach the kids about gratitude for what they have and how donating old toys or clothes benefit those less fortunate.
-Rent a storage unit or a POD to move large furniture pieces, bulky toys, out of season decorations or clothing and any of your “keep” boxes that you will not need in the immediate future. You want your house to flow smoothly so that any potential buyers will notice the features in your home, not your taste in furniture. However, DO NOT move any furniture out the kids’ rooms unless it serves absolutely no function. Keep their spaces comfortable and familiar. As far as everything else, you are moving anyway, why not get a jump on it?
-Put away most of the personal photos. In my opinion, DON’T take them all down though, there is something “homey” about seeing a happy family living in the house.
1 Week before going on the market
-Make sure all projects are done. A good agent will give you a checklist of tasks to accomplish; repair, paint, or pack, etc.
-Do a DEEP clean. Back to brushing your teeth while eating Oreos…cleaning with kids in the house is hard. Trust me, it is so much easier if you schedule a cleaning crew to come in and do the heavy lifting for you. After all, it is much easier to keep a house clean then to do the initial deep clean. If you are trying to save money or find cleaning therapeutic, by all means, have at it. In my experience I have found the pros will get it done a lot faster than I could, and it saved me from turning into the raving lunatic that comes with trying to clean a room while my children simultaneously trash it. The day of your deep clean, spend it doing something fun with the kids. Make a day of it, have them come up with a plan for their day out with you. They will appreciate coming home to a clean house after a long day as much as you do.
-Your agent will bring in a photographer and a stager. My first tip is to find some place else for the kids to go this day. Second, if your agent shows up with nothing but a camera phone, this is not a good sign. You deserve better.
-Make a checklist of any tasks that need to be done prior to showings and who is responsible for what. Depending on their ages, kids can make their beds, pick up toys, run the vacuum. Two important things that get looked over, that you should have on your list: FLUSH the toilets and PUT THE SEATS DOWN.
You are on the Market:
-Request your agent to have at least an hour notice on showings. This is an easy step that agents will add on your home’s MLS listing. This will give you a chance to go through your checklist and prepare your house for a showing.
-Clean your trunk. If you find yourself caught in a crunch, you can always pick up a mess and throw it in your trunk and sort it out after your showing. Also, buyers will seldom open your dresser drawers and oven (keep the oven racks at the bottom, remember a small laundry basket will fit), these can serve as “in a pinch” storage if need be. Although everyone opens the closets, find a new hiding spot.
-Make a list of activities or places you could go with kids during showings. Frequent trips to Target and the movies can get expensive. Throw in some free ideas too like the playground, park, or a play date with friends. Having a plan will keep your budget in check and keep you from going crazy driving around in circles with kids.
-I suggest having families write a Top 10 list about their home and putting it in a 8×10 frame. Ask your kids what they love about your house. Do you have a great play room? Are there lots of families in the neighborhood? What do you love about your school? These are things buyers want to know and their Realtor may not be able to tell them, so why don’t you?
Time to Move!
-When it comes to the move, give your child their own box. Let them color it and make it their own and them let them pack it themselves. Assure them that this will the be first box that gets unloaded, or pack it in your trunk, to the new house so they can start setting up their space. If your children are older, have them put anything that they don’t want mom and dad or the movers to pack. Give them their privacy.
-Pack the things you will need first in boxes with Red packing tape. Toiletries, kitchen needs, towels, and other necessities will be visible in the sea of boxes and help narrow down your search.
If you have any other tips to add to this list, let’s hear them! If you or someone you know is thinking about moving this year, I would love to help. In the meantime, I am going to go pull my laundry out of the oven and have an Oreo.
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