Selling a house is really hard work. It’s difficult to keep your house in “showing condition” – essentially making prospective buyers feel like they could live there without it looking like YOU live there. Add in trying to sell a house while having children, and that difficult task becomes nearly impossible. With three kids 3 and under, well… good luck.
Today I thought I’d share some of the things that have been helpful to me in trying to sell our home with young people living in it. In full disclosure, my house hasn’t sold yet, so no promises on how successful it will ultimately be. All I can say is here is how I’ve managed to keep my sanity during it all. I can tell you we’ve had multiple offers on it, one above the asking price even, but the timing didn’t work out for closing. With a relocation, timing can be a bigger factor. If anyone thought this post would have a simple formula of do this, don’t do that, and boom- your house is sold, I’m sorry to disappoint 😊
I’m definitely down with crowdsourcing your ideas if you have any tried and true tricks in this arena!
Before I jump in, I should say that if any of you would share this post or the link to the house listing below- I’d greatly appreciate the increased traffic to the house; maybe that will bump it up a bit in the search results since it’s been on the market for a little bit.
The Right Realtor
The first thing that is key to nearly every home sale is having the right realtor. Stepping away from the generalities of having the right realtor that knows the market you’re trying to sell in, has a good network of buyers, has marketing and promotional capabilities that make your home stand out, and can properly choose the right photos and description to showcase your property, there are other considerations when you have young children.
You want a realtor that understands that you have young children and that you inherently aren’t going to have the flexibility of a couple without children or with more grown children. That makes you a KIND of a pain to realtors. Let me play out three simple scenarios.
You get a request for a showing at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. Simple enough, right? Nope. You have toddlers and 2pm falls squarely in the middle of naptime. It’s so in the middle of naptime that you can’t push the nap a little earlier or end it sooner. Do you skip nap? Your kid is a complete wreck if they don’t get their afternoon nap (as much as they’d like to skip it). But you need to sell your house! Begrudgingly, you tell your realtor you’ll make it happen. Afterall, you don’t want to turn down showings and upset your realtor, right? You want them to keep working to bring foot traffic in, and it’s going to be hard to get them to do that if they do the work and you say no to the showing.
A few days later, you get a request mid-day for a 7pm weekday showing. That’s a totally reasonable time, not during dinner, not too late… BUT it’s really right when you start bedtime routine. Plus you have to not just get in, have dinner and clean up after dinner, but then get the kids in the car while pushing bedtime later and get your house to tip top shape while letting the tablets play babysitter for 20 minutes while you try not to scare off a potential buyer with legos, puzzles, random pieces of babydolls, and other child size death traps laid astrew around the house. You get everyone all packed up and head out the door and the prospective buyer cancels 10 minutes before the start time and you want to cry and reach for that bottle of wine, but… you now have to do bedtime routine with overtired kids who just spent 20 minutes in front of a tablet.
This is the hard work of trying to sell your house during the season of life when you have young kids, and it’s scary when you think how long you could possibly do this. And that’s why it is so important to have the right realtor- one that understands your situation and respects the hard work you have to do to continue to show the house during this season without getting upset when you have to occasionally turn down a prospective buyer.
You also want a realtor that has a great photographer and marketing team that can help make your house, which likely looks a little beat up from little people running around in it all day, look most attractive to buyers.
We chose Dave McSwigan with Coldwell Bank and I can tell you, HE GETS IT.
I’ve casually had cleaning services over the last few years on a monthly basis. I have no issues doing a deep clean of my house occasionally, but since I’ve had kids I just simply find that my time is better spent focusing on them since, with 3 kids 3 and under, someone always needs me.
During the season while I’m trying to sell my house, and the overall state of my house is more important than ever, I have cleaners come every ten days. Even though, almost without fail, someone throws some food item on the floor within an hour of the cleaners leaving, the house is in much better shape and therefore more attractive to a potential buyer from regular cleaning and tidying.
I should say that while I appreciate my house being clean, I don’t care as much about messes. I of course prefer that everything be put away and in its proper spot, but it doesn’t keep me up at night because, well, I have a full time + job and 3 kids at an age that they very much need mom to be as present as possible. So sometimes the messes are there and we deal with it. Yes, I know lots of people have 3 kids and lots of people are single moms and their houses and closets and floors are perfectly clean. It is what it is for me and my house – and I don’t make apologies for it.
The increased frequency of the housekeeping makes it much more likely that I can respond affirmatively to the requests for showings, whether with short notice or planned a few days in advance. And when the goal is selling the house, you need people to come in and see it.
While my kids and I are usually on the go, particularly on the weekends, I have created a go plan with a bunch of last minute activities that we can do on short notice or to kill just a short amount of time (perfect for those 7pm showing requests). This usually includes a trip to Target, the grocery store, or a restaurant. Of course it’s wintertime in Southwestern Pennsylvania, so parks aren’t really an option, although that would be my go to plan if it was later in the spring, summer or even the fall. I try to have a few things to do that could take an hour’s worth of time and get us back to the house in order to continue whatever we were otherwise doing.
Of course, again, with it being winter, it’s also flu season. Which means I’m also trying to avoid unnecessary trips to public places. So it’s a fun balance between doing what you need to do, want to do, and trying to stay sane. A good backup here is simply to take a long ride in the car, even if you’re going nowhere. I’ve done that more lately and, with the exception of when the baby needs fed, it works alright. A plan definitely helps so you don’t have to deal with this last minute.
While I don’t necessarily think Open Houses have a great close rate as far as bringing in buyers goes (anyone else enjoy being a nosy neighbor when another house goes up for sale in the neighborhood?), it certainly is a great way to have a bunch of showings at once, saving you precious time, energy and resources in what would otherwise be a bunch of one off showings.
Unfortunately, they don’t usually result in a sale. But it’s hard to argue with the logic of getting people in the door all at once.
Beyond open houses, if you’re getting requests for multiple showings on the same day or weekend, you might be able to arrange to have them back to back to back versus spread out, making the inconvenience on you a little bit easier.
Minimize the Extras
Before we listed our house, we did an exercise of getting rid of (okay, storing in the garage) anything that we thought we absolutely could live without for a period of time. That means extra toys, decorations, photos, kitchenware (do we really use the waffle maker often enough that we can’t live without it for awhile?), etc…. Reducing the amount of “stuff” that could be out makes getting ready for showings easier.
I won’t say by any means that I’ve succeeded at this entirely; in fact I know I could have put a lot more in storage. But there’s a balance that I wanted to strike- I have a 7 month old that needs things to help her sit up and learn to crawl and walk and toys to manipulate in her hands (and put in her mouth, because… infants!). So while I could have went a lot further, I wanted to make it so that I didn’t make my life more miserable because my kid didn’t have a safe way to sit up in the five minutes she allows me to put her down every day 🙂
One and Done Entertainment for Kids
For the toddlers, I hit the dollar store every other week or so and pick up things that they could play with that I don’t mind getting thrown away after a single use or two. This past weekend I picked up two new coloring books with crayons (I take a four crayon at a time philosophy- use four crayons on one day and then throw them away- no one wants crayon pieces randomly around the house, especially because they can write on walls!). I figure if 4 crayons is enough for a kid in a restaurant, 4 is enough for a random Tuesday afternoon when they need something to do. I also picked up two sets of bumblebee wings- the kids will put those on and run around the basement and burn off lots of energy on a cold day this week. Perfect! I grabbed a hot wheels sized RV and tow for Nico and a ladybug headband for Gabi (she loves ladybugs). And then I grabbed one of my favorite go tos- glow sticks!
These one and done tricks keep things fresh and allow me to have most of everything else put away (of course the coloring books and crayons, being that there’s lots of pages in them and I only do 4 at a time, last for multiple uses).
While I’ve not sold my house yet, I haven’t lost my sanity during this crazy time either. I hope these tips help any of you that might be in this position now or at some point in the future.
I hope to update you at some point soon that we’ve been successful in the sale of our home. I’ve already started writing a post about saying goodbye to the home- so many memories, good and bad. I look forward to sharing that with you sometime later this year.
Below you can find the link to the Zillow listing of my home. Please consider sharing with anyone looking! It’s a beautiful home, just 3 years old, that has been good to my family. The neighborhood is under a decade old and the community is wonderful. We’re just steps from the stunning community private pool and a short 5 minute walk to Richland Park and the new splash pad!