Living with kids is rarely a recipe for an open home-ready house. But with these easy ideas and clever tips, you’ll be able to prepare and market your real estate- and get a great sale- just as well as if you were a single, lightly-treading, non-smudge-making ghost of a resident.
Start with a DECLUTTER
Having a really good sort out is essential when listing any property for sale, but in a home with kids attached this part of the process becomes even more crucial. The more items children have access to, the more likely they are to create and leave mess, and having to tidy up after kids before every open home or real estate agent appointment can get exhausting very quickly. Packing up and storing away excess books, toys, games and keepsakes will not only improve the look of our interior spaces, it will also ease the tidying burden at those crucial viewing times.
Engage in a really deep CLEAN
If you’ve been living in your home with kids for a while, it’s likely you’ll have nooks and crannies which haven’t seen a cleaning cloth or mop in quite some time. Even the most diligent cleaner can fall behind when little people begin to occupy every spare moment in the day. As kids grow, their ability to generate dirt in places you’re blissfully unaware of grows exponentially with them. Consider height, for a start. At adult stature, your deep cleans involve obvious places like light switches, door handles, the tops of skirtings and hard-to-reach areas above your head. But where do those sticky little unwashed hands trail? That’s right, along the walls, anywhere from knee to chin height. When preparing your house to sell, make sure one of the first things you do is a very thorough clean, keeping the smallest members of the household topmost in mind.
Get some clever TOY TIDYING solutions
Potential buyers of your property will forgive the lived-in nature of children’s bedrooms and play spaces if your home is multi-roomed and appropriate for families - they may even have families themselves, so they get it. But a veritable bomb site worth of toys is very hard for any viewer to see past, and will give a subtle impression there’s insufficient space in the room.
🚂 Be selective about very large toys in residence such as train tracks, doll houses or play kitchens. You might be better to store these temporarily to give a better impression of space.
🚂 Bitsy toys like Lego, cars, or play sets can be stored neatly in containers, bins or boxes - they don’t need to be fancy, just as long as they’re fit for purpose and keep everything tidy.
🚂 Dolls or stuffed toy collections are best kept out of sight in wardrobes or cupboards rather than displayed on beds or windowsills. Buyers want to picture their own items in the room, and that’s hard to do when there’s a visual symphony of another child’s toys in the way.
🚂 Keep wall adornments like posters, blackboards or pictures to a minimum - a clean, clear space is preferable.
Get the kids INVOLVED
If your kids are excited by the prospect of selling the house, get them involved. Give them small tasks to help with so they feel part of the process. And keep ahead of any likelihood of pushback from reluctant kids by dangling the carrot of a new, exciting space to move into where they can recreate their environment as they want to, once you move. Children may be struggling with this interim reinvention of their own space, so make sure they understand what you’re doing and why you’re selling the house. You could use a family whiteboard or notebook as a vision board, inviting children to create pictures of a new room they would love. If that looks just the same as they one they’re needing to change for the sake of selling the house, no problem. But the process should help them feel better about their sacrifice in the meantime, and getting involved together will reduce everyone’s stress levels about the sale.
Streamline WORK STATIONS
Older children and teenagers will, with any luck, be more reasonable about the selling process, although there’s no guarantee they’ll be any more helpful when it comes to keeping things neat and tidy. As with toys, take a good look at desks or work stations and see if you can streamline. Tidy away or store any books, papers or stationery not immediately in use, and create storage for everything else. Consider incentivising teenagers to keep their spaces tidy- a simple idea like some screen time after each open home or their choice of a fun family activity after the house sells may be enough to keep them helpful.
If your teens seem completely unwilling and unhelpful during the selling process, try not to give in to your frustrations. Selling a home is stressful not only for the adults involved. It’s a big change for children too, especially if they’ve lived all their lives in one home, or if this one residence is attached to most of their memories. Acting out or being unhelpful during the process could be their way of expressing unhappiness at the situation - one which they’ll feel very powerless over. Communication is the key to helping them through, as is recognising the importance of the home you’re preparing to sell. Perhaps you could create a ritual around recording favourite memories in each room, take photos to make a keepsake book about the house, or share a special family occasion to celebrate the best things you all felt about living there. This could help children of all ages feel heard and understood as they adjust to the change in their living arrangements.
Give things a good SNIFF
The inherent odours in a home can be a really off-putting factor for a potential buyer, and unfortunately children rarely help on this front either. At the very young end of the scale, you may be dealing with infant nappies, milk spills or the lived-in smell of a newborn arrival. At the teenage end, hormone-induced body odour or sweaty sports uniforms could be a problem. Try to encourage kids to use laundry hampers or heated towel rails if you have them, and keep clothes washing on a good rotation to avoid any stagnant odours. You can purchase charcoal air purifiers which are unobtrusive and effective for dealing with smells, or essential oil diffusers can help lift odours. If weather allows, the best way to alleviate smells is a blast of fresh air. Baking cookies or brewing coffee are also clever techniques to mask any unpleasant odours.
Splish, splash… clean up the BATHROOM
There’s no getting around it in your bathroom, toilet and shower spaces, you’re going to need to clean them before viewings or open homes. Messy sinks and dirty rings in the bath are a major turn off for potential buyers, and your kids are likely to contribute to this bathroom mess in a big way. Try to restrict baths to evening times so you can give the space a clean after they’re in bed and have less to do in the morning. Make a ‘one sink only’ rule for teeth cleaning; the same if you have more than one toilet if you can, to reduce the cleaning burden. Keep any bath toys stowed out of sight or in a container, and make a ‘go box’ for all the toothbrushes, hair brushes, shampoos etc that can’t be easily stored away in bathroom cabinets. Throw that stuff in the back of the car when you head off and leave the real estate agent to work their magic during open homes or viewings.
Be thoughtful about OUTDOOR PLAY
A family home may appeal to an existing family like yours, but it may also appeal to a young couple with far-off plans for starting a family, empty nesters who still want a bit of space, or investors. If your outdoor spaces are almost exclusively devoted to kids' play equipment or outdoor toys, it’s going to be hard for other types of buyers to envisage themselves enjoying the outdoors in another way. Aim for a good balance of child-appropriate outdoor living to other elements like seating or dining spaces, veggie or flower beds, outdoor storage or lawn, and make sure the play stuff is clean, tidy and in good working order.
Don’t forget about your FUR BABIES
Pets can be as messy as kids, so don’t neglect the impact they may have on your home when you prepare the property for sale and go through the viewing process. You might not notice overflowing food or water bowls, litter trays or chewed-up pet toys while you’re lavishing your fur baby with affection, but potential new buyers might. Likely you will take your pet with you, or otherwise keep them out of range when viewings are going on, so clearing away the evidence of their involvement in family life is also the best idea to ensure you don’t prejudice any pet-averse buyers while they view your home.