Selling your house is a stressful process no matter how many things are in your favor. In fact, one poll shows that selling a house is more stressful than divorce, bankruptcy and the death of a loved one. While I would completely disagree with that, selling a house is still very stressful, time-consuming and a ton of work…especially when little kids are involved.
I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 15-month old and we recently moved from Arizona to North Carolina. In order to make the move possible, we had to sell our home in AZ. We considered renting it out, but ultimately decided that selling would be in our best interest for two reasons – 1. It would be hard to be a landlord from across the country and 2. We wanted to bank the profit from our house so we could have a large down payment on a house out here.
When we listed our house, my oldest was 2 and my youngest was 8 months. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but some aspects were a lot harder than I imagined. On the flip side, we had an awesome real estate agent who made some things easier, too.
Selling your home with little ones
Clean and declutter as much as possible before listing your house. The less junk you have, the less time you’ll have to spend cleaning and organizing it before showings. Showings can happen fast – like real estate agent calls, house is shown in an hour regardless of where you’re located fast. One time, I was at the mall with a friend who I had given a ride. We had just purchased lunch and sat down in the kids play area to eat and watch my girls play. Ringgggg. Yup, we had a showing in one hour. I was a good 40 minutes from even getting home by the time I got out of the mall and dropped my friend back off. I got home, loaded up the dogs, did a quick run-through of the house and left again. Had our house been full of clutter and “stuff,” that would have been harder.
Always leave with a clean house. On that note, don’t leave your house if it’s a mess. I know, it’s a hassle to clean and organize before going to the grocery store, but if you’re house is for sale – it’s necessary. You never know when someone is going to want to see it. I would spend 20 minutes each night and 20 minutes before I left in the morning cleaning, picking up toys, sweeping the floors and making sure the dishes and laundry were done. Once your in that habit, it’s actually pretty easy and really nice living in a clean house all the time!
Leave for the day on weekends. Usually, houses get a lot of hits within the first two weeks of being listed. This was true for us, but it still took two months for us to sell it. Our real estate agent suggested that we just be gone the entire day both Saturdays and Sundays. Potential buyers may be out with their agents and want to stop in and see your place unannounced. It’s best to just plan on being gone – especially if you have little kids that tend to make big messes. We took a lot of road trips up north, went to some fun kid’s play areas for the girls, walked the mall and visited my parents on multiple occasions. It really wasn’t that bad being gone all day (we would leave around 10 and come back around 5:30). Other than the girls missing their naps, we had fun exploring AZ.
It’s OK if your house isn’t perfect for every single showing. I’ll admit – my house was perfect for every single showing. Candles were lit, the carpet was freshly vacuumed, I made cookies on occasion, the hardwoods were cleaned and all toys were completely out of sight. This did put a good amount of added stress on me, but with my perfectionist-personality, this is the route I had to take. That being said, please realize it’s totally totally OK if your house isn’t spotless for each showing. People realize that they’re buying the floor plan and the house, not the stuff that’s inside (including dishes in the sink). Sure, having a clean house may make it more enticing, but the reality is if someone wants to buy your house, they’re going to buy it regardless of whether or not the carpets have been vacuumed.
Give the kids extra TV-time. This worked great for my 2-year-old. When we got home from the mall for that super-fast showing, the first thing I did was turn on her favorite show before doing a final sweep of my house. Normally, we don’t watch TV at home (with the exception of Frozen once a week or so) but we totally let them watch it when we listed our house. Not only does it keep them busy, it also prevents them from destroying whatever it is you are cleaning.
Loosen the purse strings. I blog about personal finance and there’s nothing more that bothers me than excessively spending money (I cringe at the thought). But…when your house is for sale…it’s OK to spend a little more money that you normally would. We used a good amount of gas driving 2 1/2 hours out of town one-way every weekend, I would go to Starbucks when I had afternoon showings and was alone with the girls, we would purchase lunch out on weekends and honestly during the week we couldn’t really plan on cooking at home because we didn’t know if we’d have a showing. Hopefully, your house will sell fast and the added expenses will be very temporary.
Set rules with showings. Even though we did have a few really quick showings that I had to scramble for, for the most part I had time to get everything done that I needed to. My real estate agent always let me know as far in advance as she could if there was going to be a showing. I asked if I could have at least one hour to prepare if possible, to which worked great 99 percent of the time. I also insisted no showings after 6 pm. I realize I may have missed a few possibilities, but my girls need to unwind before bed and be able to maintain somewhat of a schedule. Again, if someone really wants to see your house, they will do so on your terms.
Looking back, part of me thinks we were crazy to sell our house and move 2000 miles away with our girls being so young. But, we do really love NC and now was the time to go since our girls haven’t started school yet. This is another reason why I’m OK with renting until we can afford our dream home – selling a house is a LOT of work. Even if my girls were 10 and 11, it’s still quite tedious having to keep your house in pristine condition, go places all day on the weekend and basically put your life on hold. I’m hoping the next house we buy will be one we will be comfortable in for at least 20 years, hopefully the rest of our lives.
Have you ever sold a house? Did you have kids? What was the experience like for you?
Wow the candles and the cookies make me want to come visit your house, too! Haha I have perfectionist tendencies, too, and would probably do the same!
DC @ Young Adult Money saysat
Well we don’t have kids and we currently are a little over 2 years into owning our first home. My wife and I are a bit strange in that we think a lot about when we will sell the home. It’s a fixer-upper for sure and we will slowly over time replace pretty much everything here (bathroom, kitchen, flooring, windows, trim, doors….you name it, it’ll likely be replaced). I think having the mindset of a seller will help us make better decisions on where we invest in our home. Anyway that’s a bit off-topic, but I’ve already thought about what we will need to do when we put the house on the market. We (hopefully) won’t have kids, but we do have two cats and that poses litter issues, people with allergies being turned off, etc., but we will likely have them stay at my parents. I also think we’ll store some of our stuff at a storage unit or – again – at my parents – to help make the closets look bigger and more spacious. Anyway this post REALLY has me thinking so I appreciate it!
Hi!! I’m glad I got you thinking!! 🙂 Are you guys planning on selling your home soon? That’ll be fun to fix it up and change it completely from what it is! It’s smart to have a seller’s mindset. I’ve seen a few houses that are just so out there that I would never buy them, even knowing I could change things (an all-purple house, for example). And yes – keep the cats at your parents!! That’s what we did with our dogs – I’d drop them off on Saturday morning and pick them up Sunday evening.
Hope you are having a good NYE! Happy New Year!!
Paul @ The Frugal Toad saysat
We recently sold a house and had both teenagers and 2 dogs. Keeping a clean and de-cluttered is really important if you want to create a good first impression however, I think most buyers with kids and pets will understand a less than perfect home.
Totally agree!! And honestly I wish I didn’t stress out so much about it. The man who ended up buying our home actually toured it when we were still there. We were leaving as they were coming in, and he insisted I just stay there since I had two kids and two dogs to load up, haha. You’re right though, anyone buying a home will understand that the messy kids and pets don’t come with it!!
We sold our duplex but weren’t actually living in it. That’s cheating, right?;0) We do hope to find or build our dream home in the next few years so you’ve got me thinking about the clutter. More than likely, we would pack up a bunch of stuff to make it look a little more spacious around here!
Melissa @ Sunburnt Saver saysat
Looking back at when my parents sold their house (I was 17), selling a house is a ton of work – keeping it clean, getting out of your agent’s way, the stress… It’s definitely not as terrible as losing a loved one (in my opinion), but I am somewhat dreading selling our house one day. We don’t even have kids! Your tips are so awesome, and I totally second keeping the house decluttered. It saves so much time and energy!