Tips on Selling Your House When You Have Kids

When the coroner gets to "cause of death" on my death certificate, I'm most certain he will put "tried to sell house while kids lived there." [Like this quote? Tweet it!]

This is the first time I’ve ever tried to sell a house. I envisioned it to be a fairly neat process: Spend a few weeks readying the house, put it on the market and watch as potential buyers soak up the bright, sparkly gleam of the hardwood floors.

Clearly, I am stupid.

Selling a house while kids live in it is one of the most difficult challenges you will face as a parent, ranking right up there with Potty Training and dealing with The Vomit Fairy. Every day is a battle to keep the house tidy. Kids see a clean room as a blank canvas, ripe for making an artistic mess of toys, clothes, milk spills and Cheerio crumbs. They have a radar for vacuumed rugs and break out the muddiest shoes to dance across them. And while it may take you 20 minutes to scrub all the dried pasta sauce and fingerprints off your glass dinning room table (I mean, seriously, how do they get hand marks underneath the middle of the table?), it only takes them one second to apply a sticker that’s impossible to remove.

Thanks to the misery of trying to sell our house with three kids under the age of six roaming the halls, I’ve developed five tips to help make life easier on all parents (with young kids) who are crazy enough to try and sell their house. Here they are.

1. Contain the kids in one room.

Kids are going to make a mess no matter where they are, so it’s best to keep them all quarantined in one room—preferably at grandma’s house.

2. Have a bag of snacks prepared at all times.

The most common hours people want to look at your house are lunchtime, dinner time and naptime. If my kids aren’t fed and rested at their normal times, they turn from adorable little angels into fire-breathing demons who don’t listen, don’t behave and don’t want to listen to sports-talk radio (UNTHINKABLE!). Having an emergency bag filled with pretzels, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and other tasty treats tends to go a long way in lulling the demons into a mild roar.

(And before someone in the crowd says, “Why don’t you just go out to eat?” know that we tried that—but eating at a restaurant every time someone wants to look at your house will cost you more than your next house.)

3. Keep the trunk of your minivan cleared out.

There’s no real rhyme or reason as to when someone will schedule a showing. They could give you 24 hours notice. They could give you 2 hours. Once we received a notice of 15 minutes. FIFTEEN MINUTES! We can't even get the kids from the couch to the car in 15 minutes. It's impossible to sweep all your mess under the bed (trust me, I’ve tried). The next best thing is to quickly swoop everything up and throw it in the trunk of your car. If you look in our van at any given time, you’ll find at least three laundry baskets, a bag of unopened mail, a box of toys and a sand bucket and shovel (in case I ever decide to take an impromptu trip to the beach). 

4. Make your kids help clean up the mess.

Take as much time as you need to laugh at that statement.

5. Accept that your house isn’t going to be perfect.

As you rush around in those final 15 minutes doing everything you can to make the house immaculate (while still, somehow, finding time to get yelled at by your wife for not giving your babysitter the bottle of sunscreen that you were asked to give her 3 weeks ago), know that you will probably forget something. It’s likely something small that no one will notice, like a Lego on the bedroom floor or a sippy cup on the kitchen counter. Cut yourself some slack. Trying to sell a house is hard. Trying to sell it while children live there is near impossible. At least, that’s what I’ve learned.

I’ve also learned that children like to forget to flush the toilet after pooping. Pray that’s not the “something” you forgot before rushing out of your house.

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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