How do you keep a house ready to show at any time while still living in it – with five children ages seven and under? I’ve now experienced that dilemma myself, but thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as I expected and it was actually quite nice to live in a model home for a week!
Here are some of the strategies we used to keep our house show-ready with as little stress as possible:
1. Lock any rooms that you can do without.
The best way to keep a room show-ready is to just not use it. This is pretty easy for adults, but kids have a hard time remembering that they are not allowed to use the hall bath. We locked the door on our upstairs hall bath so that all we had to do to get it ready for a showing was unlock it, and it was already pristine. (But please do remember to unlock it before you leave!)
2. Skip the cookies but make it smell good.
Having fresh-baked cookies ready for potential buyers seems like a great idea, but it’s very rare that they’ll actually get eaten. Jeremy tells me that his clients rarely eat them, and they definitely didn’t eat the cookies that I left during showings! So, it probably shouldn’t be too high on the priority list, but making the house smell good should be.
I like simmering a small pot of water with some lemon slices (or lemon extract) and vanilla extract right before a showing. It’s a nice, natural fragrance that doesn’t say “we are trying to hide a bad smell with this scented candle”.
3. Stay on top of the laundry.
Do your best to keep Mt. Laundry hidden from view of potential buyers, but that’s really hard to do when you have five loads ready to wash or be put away. This is a good time to see if doing one load of laundry every day can be a habit that works for you – it makes showing your house so much easier when you only have one load of laundry to hide.
4. Pack more of your stuff than you ever thought possible.
We started packing our stuff about six months before we were ready to list our house, and put a vanload of boxes in storage so that they were out of the way and not a distraction to us or potential buyers.
As I packed, I tried to get rid of anything that I couldn’t see wanting to unpack in the next 6-9 months (because if you aren’t going to use it 6-9 months from now, odds are you don’t really need to keep it around). I packed some of our toys, many books, keepsakes, craft supplies – anything that I knew we weren’t going to need or have time to use while we were selling our house.
And then, I kept packing for six months. As our “on the market” date got closer, I packed more toys, kitchen stuff that I could live without, home decor, extra shoes, out-of-season clothing… As I packed, I realized how much easier it was to keep the house picked up when we had minimal stuff, and that was key to keeping the house ready for showings. (Not to mention, it was overall less cluttered, too!)
5. Plan to leave the house every day.
It’s easier to be ready for showings if you plan on having one. Maybe some days you won’t, but for the first week or two, it’s a good idea to plan to leave the house every day. Even if you don’t have a specific place planned to go every day, it’s easier to do if you are mentally planning to leave every day.
6. Have easy meals ready to eat, and plan on eating late.
Sometimes showing windows don’t end until 6 or 6:30, which often pushes mealtime later than you’re used to. And in summer, you might get a showing for a bit later than that, so plan on having meals that are easy to prepare and clean up. I did a large batch of freezer cooking before we listed our home so that I wouldn’t be stressed about getting supper on the table when we couldn’t go back to the house until 6:30.
Also, keep in mind that you may get a request for a showing at 3 or 4 PM from someone that wants to see your house the same day, so don’t get too much of a head start on fixing supper just in case you get interrupted halfway through preparation.
7. Make the beds first thing in the morning.
Making beds – especially our kids’ beds – is not a super-high priority for me on a daily basis, but since they obviously needed to be made if we had a showing, we made sure to make the beds and do a general tidying of the house first thing every morning. With five kids, things always needed to be straightened up before a showing, but getting things like making the beds done first thing gave us a huge jump start when we got the call that we had a showing.
Ultimate goal? Have your house on the market for as little time as possible!
Even if you’ve done everything possible to make getting ready for a showing as easy as possible, let’s face it: most people don’t really enjoy having to make their house look like a model home with a two-hour notice for days upon end.
The good news is that the harder you work to get your home ready and make it show well, the faster it will sell. And, we want it to sell just as quickly as you do, so we’ll be working just as hard on our end!