Staging your home is universally acknowledged as one of the most important things you can do to make it appeal to potential buyers. And while no one ever goes in thinking it’ll be easy, it doesn’t have to be an insane amount of work, either—which is especially good news for home sellers who have kids. After all, few expect a home occupied by children to be perfect; that said, it should still adhere to some of the basics of staging, by being clean, inviting, and depersonalized.
This may seem like a lot of hassle, especially when buyers probably know you have kids. Won’t they forgive a few minor details? Maybe not, says Mary Hall Mayer, a Realtor® with Warburg Realty in New York City.
“It’s psychological,” Mayer says. “A dirty-feeling house implies nothing is well-maintained—not your appliances, or even the wooden floor concealed by a large area rug.”
So whether you’re selling a house with messy preteens or trying to stage while your toddler throws food across the room, we’ll walk you through the process of transforming your home so it’s seller-ready. Read these tips from the experts that will help you prepare your house (and your children) for a staging success.
Strike a balance
Just like any other room in the house, the kids’ rooms should be tidy and clean. Does this mean playtime is banned while your house is on the market? No. But it does mean you’ll need to get tough about what really needs to stay.
“The first thing I like to remember is that, if I’m showing an occupied unit, it’s occupied by everyone living there,” says New York City–based real estate broker Brian Letendre. “Let’s find out what’s absolutely essential to normalizing the day to day for the children, and get a storage space to put any overflow.”
One of the best ways to make your home inviting (besides keeping it clean) is to depersonalize. We don’t mean transforming it into a sterile space, just a neutral one that could comfortably belong to anyone, even a buyer without kids.
“You always want the prospective buyers to get a glimpse of what life would be like in the unit for them, without too much of the seller’s personality there,” explains Letendre.
That means you’ll be putting your storage unit to work, and filling it with items like old monogrammed baby furniture or those abstract clay art projects made by your kids before they could even walk.
Remove larger toys that might otherwise dominate the room, like play sets, dollhouses, or that 4,000-piece Lego Death Star set.
Corral the small stuff
Once you’ve packed the big items off to storage, it’s time to gain control of the small stuff. You know—all of those half-used crayons and McDonald’s Happy Meals toys that have been accumulating for years.
A good approach is to invest in a collection of baskets or bins. Pick something that adds some style to your space, rather than detracts from it. That means stay away from hideously bright plastic bins; the point is to make your space look like it was organized by a professional.
Kim Jones, a Realtor and owner of Louisville-based L+K Home Organization, sold her home when her twins weren’t even a year old.
“The toys you keep are the ones kids play with every day,” she explains. “Rather than leave them out, get containers and shelving. To maintain organization, it’s important to place the toys back in a manner where it’s easy for the kids to help in the cleanup process.”
If your kids are old enough to help, encourage them to keep their space clean and organized.
“Labeling the containers, baskets, and bins gives the look a finishing touch but makes it easy for everyone to identify where things go back” says Jones. “If your kids are too young to read, use pictures instead.”
When the bins are labeled and ready to go, it’s time to start thinking about all of the little messes that happen with kids—and how to prevent them when you have prospective buyers coming over.
“Now isn’t the time for art projects,” says Danielle Schlesier, a Realtor in Brookline, MA. “Pack up tempting supplies like paint, markers, crayons, and glitter.”
Another good point is to watch what you cook on showing days. Here’s a tip: Skip the waffles and maple syrup for breakfast. In fact, keep any sticky, high-spatter foods off the menu for those days, and plan to have the kids out of the house at least 30 minutes prior to your open house, giving you some time to clean up if necessary.
Do a final sweep
Toys organized, messes cleaned up, kids waiting outside—it looks like you’re ready to go, right? Not just yet.
Despite all of your hard work (and we see you!), there are still a few final places you’ll want to check before heading out.
Mayer, of Warburg Realty, offers up her final checklist. “Clean [off] fingerprints and sticky handles that people may open, like closet doors, appliances, doorknobs, mirrors, and glass.”