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Selling with Kids

Selling a home for ANYONE is a difficult, complicated, time-consuming and often very emotional process. Adding kids, especially young or school-aged kids, can add an even more stress-producing factor (for you AND them!).

After years of seeing people do it right, and do it wrong, here are a few tips to getting through the process with the fewest tears and yelling!

Photo by HiveBoxx on Unsplash

Stage Appropriately 

You have kids, but not everyone does. Knowing your target audience is EVERYTHING with home staging, with or without adding kids in. For the average home buyer, they either have kids or are thinking of having kids in the future. Unless you have a condo or are catering to older audiences, its not a bad thing to show off the fact you have kids. Continuing to have a play room or toy storage in the family room can be a positive thing - it shows that there is room for those things that people may be planning for. (But don't repurpose rooms. If you turned your dining room into a playroom, its time to turn it back in a home for table and chairs)

However, like all staging, you are't showing off how your home currently works. People like to view homes with the vision of how they wish they could live!
Even if the entire finished basement is a play area, it doesn't need be swamped with toys! You want buyers to not just see "Oh, here's a place to put tons of toys". You want them to see "Wow, if we lived here, the kids would be confined to that corner and their toys would be orderly organized over there and we would be so happy!"

If you don't know how and where is too much, bring in a professional stager or ask a well-informed-agent!

Organization is Everything 

But what do you do with all of that stuff?!
Take the time to edit, edit, edit.
If your 5 year old still has baby toys, winter clothes and about 1400 books in their room, its a safe bet that you can put those in a tupperware storage, or donation box, and put in storage, the new house, or nicely organized in your basement/attic. Take a really, hard look at what your child needs/plays with right now and over the next 3 months. Anything else can get packed up! (Probably smart to do the packing when they aren't looking though...)

Organizing the rest of the house is even more important. Making sure the kitchen counters aren't covered with kid cups and bottle driers and keeping toy storage in the living room to a covered box/cabinet, is key for making your home look not just well staged, but organized and clean.

Also, making sure EVERYTHING has a home (homework, papers, coloring materials, loose toys, etc) will make it easier to clean up for showings. If you have toys around the house you were hoping you could just throw in a closet, cleaning up before showings will prove annoying and difficult every time. If your toys/stuff has an organized "home", you can take the time to straighten up at the end of every day in an efficient manner.

Get them Involved 

Regardless of age, whether your kids are 2 or 12, they know something big is about to happen and it will take an emotional toll. Begin talking with them well in advance of listing your home about the possibility of finding a new home and moving.
Buy little ones books to help discuss the topic.
Focus on the positive aspects of a move, like getting to pick out and decorate a new room (or not share a room with a sibling!). If you are moving closer to family, talk about all the fun stuff you'll get to do.
Ideally, take time to look at new homes with your kids in advance of listing so they get the physical experience of feeling a new space.

To keep the last-minute clean-up arguments at a minimum, plan in advance to deal with their "stuff". First, if you are planning to sell in the future, try organizing in advance and getting kids used to putting their stuff away in its new "home" before its part of the big showing/sale change.

When it comes time to list, make them an involved party in the sale. If appropriate, ask them to make a list of the things they love about the house that they want to share with the next owner (could be fun marketing in a kid-filled neighborhood). That makes them feel like an involved "seller" and proud of the process. Further, get young kids to sign off on an agreement, if this fits with their current development, to clean up, help put toys away, etc (and you sign one too!) so they are an active participant in the house sale.

Finally, of course, tell them in advance how things might work in terms of showings, agent visits, packing, moving, etc. The less of a shock or last-minute change something is, the easier it will go!

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Plan for Timing 

When you get a showing request, it can be stressful. Does the house look clean? What do I do with the dog? Wait, isn't that during nap time? 

If you have kids at home (which is probably the case right now!), plan for chunks of time that you want to block off OR get yourself a plan B. The most common issue is kids' naps and bedtime. Often, bedtime is a deal-breaker. If your kids go to sleep at 7, its hard to allow people into your home after that. Of course, that might cut down on your buyer pool a bit. While most buyers are flexible, you might face an issue where you have no choice but to open your home at bedtime. 

A few tips on planning around those issues: 
- If you are in a sellers market with a likely-to-sell product, try to plan for a getaway weekend. List your home on a Friday and go away Friday-Monday and allow showings all 4 days. Perhaps you're so hot that you can ask for highest and best offers by Tuesday morning and never have to plan around nap times or argue with your kids about cleaning! (Not an uncommon situation in today's market!) 
- If you continue with showings after this period, either block off all showing requests during nap time/bedtime or have a strict contingency period if you can't negotiate another time frame. 
- If you can do car naps with kids, perfect! If they transition from car to bed relatively easily, even better for bedtime. 
- Ask for 24 hour advance notice. You don't need to demand it, but suggesting it helps people understand you need time to plan. 
- Have your plan B ready to go. If you need to run to the park for showings, or sleep in the car, have the car ready and packed at all times! Extra toys, snacks, jammies, etc are easy to grab and go or have in the car waiting. 

Address the Emotional 

Of course, all the planning and prepping in the world can't help a kid who is losing his or her house, bedroom, yard, neighborhood or school friends, etc. Its an emotional process for adults. For kids, who feel like they have no choice in the matter, it can be much harder. 

Again, prepping well in advance, getting them excited for whats to come, focusing on the positive and making them a proud "seller" will help. But ultimately, you need to prepare for tears, anger, and general sadness. You will have those feelings too so address them in your child with respect. 

You may have more sleepless nights than normal, you will likely have to make more frequent time than usual for emotional check-ins (hard when you are already stressed with the move and daily cleanups!), younger kids may act out (as may teenagers!), etc. Just be ready for any of it and take the time to check in and validate whatever they are feeling. Allowing them to feel in some control over the situation and that their emotions are validated will make the transition easier. 


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