Living in a home for sale

thisishishouseJuly 16, 2010

What do families do on a day to day basis when their home is for sale and showings could happen at any time? I've seen plenty of homes picture-perfect staged for open houses and photos, but can/do families really live that way the entire time the house is on the market?

I suspect this is difficult if not impossible for busy families with young children. How much 'imperfection' is generally tolerable for a showing? I personally look past the belongings and paint colors and only really 'see' the structure, but I know a lot of people get hung up on the minutiae.

What's your daily routine before leaving home? Do you hide the toys/toothbrushes/dishes/dog bowls, load up the potpurri, freshen the flowers, scrub the sink/tub, sweep the floors, dust the ceilings, alphabetize the towels, and on and on?

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When we sold our house, it was ready for a showing every time we left. It was a PITA, but most of our showings came with little or no notice.

In general, we put everything away that we didn't want people to see. We wiped down the counters and made sure the sinks were clean. We did not sweep and dust daily, but you might need to sweep if you have pets. We made the beds nicely. we put any stinky garbage directly in the outside bin. We made sure the lawn was mowed regularly (twice a week) and made sure to water the flowers/landscape regularly so it stayed looking nice. Basically, we kept it looking as close to the pictures as possible.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 8:59AM
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I have 4 kids (now grown) and when I was selling a home I would do all of the housework in the evening when they were in bed. Then in the mornings all I had to do was breakfast dishes and make beds, wipe down the bathrooms, empty garbage cans and the house was ready to show.

We always had a playroom and toys weren't allowed out of the playroom. If I had notice during the day that there was a showing scheduled, then I'd quickly pick up the playroom and run through the house with a basket to throw any stray shoe or sock or bookbag into it. I'd put the kids and the laundry basket in the car and the house was good to go.

I'd dust probably every other day and vacuum every other day. Sweep wood floors daily, wipe down kitchen and baths daily. I knew the weekends were the busiest time so Thursday nights I'd wash floors and the remainder of the week I'd just spot clean the floors.

If you have to live in your house while showing, then I think making the effort to keep it as neat and clean and decluttered as possible really shows well. But it doesn't have to be perfect. Clutter is your enemy and an unkempt home looks bad. But if you have a chair cushion that's askew or you accidentally leave your shoes by the back door etc. I don't think that would kill a sale. I was a maniac about making sure things were as perfect as possible and still remember the time I left the house in a hurry without making my bed and got a call from the realtor that she wanted to show the house while I was out. I said no...I didn't make the bed!! She said these people really want to see the home, your home is immaculate, one unmade bed isn't going to stop them from buying the home. I reluctantly agreed. That young couple bought my home.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 9:46AM
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I complete agree with cordovamom. I do the same things. We did ask they give us a minimum of 2 hours notice (I have a friend selling that requires 24 hrs notice) and that they have to confirm with me that I received the message for the showing, before they come by.

I use laundry baskets and throw everything that is on counters, floor etc, into them, if I don't have time to put stuff away. Sometimes even dirty laundry and dishes come into the van. Minimum: Beds are made, floors vacuumed, tile cleaned, wood polished, most flat surfaces cleared, all lights on.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 11:17AM
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You learn to adapt when you are living in a home that is for sale.
I've done it multiple times with three kids and six animals in the house. It takes some planning but if you stay on top of things and get EVERYONE in the house to help it can be done successfully.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 12:40PM
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Interestingly enough, keeping our last home ready for sale made me a neater and more organized person as I came to realize how much easier it is to keep order in general if you pick up and clean as you go, instead of allowing things to accumulate.

It also cured me of the cluttered fridge door syndrome..LOL!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 4:07PM
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When my sister was selling her house she just made sure that the place was immaculately, gleamingly CLEAN ... seeing a kid's room with toys out, or laundry waiting to be done in the basement is not an issue for most buyers.

I would be more turned off by indications of poor maintenance, like leaking faucets, scummy tubs, and grungy under cabinets.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 6:08PM
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Since you have to pack everything up anyway to move, pack up extra clutter, kitchen items you don't use often, and toys now. That will make it easier to keep the house neat. People look in cabinets and closets so having the extra there removed will make them look larger.

I really don't think someone will not buy your house if there are toothbrushes out. And be careful with potpourri and scents. Lots of people don't like them and will think you are just trying to cover something up.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 9:41AM
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I agree with what everyone else said.

My family is really messy. My biggest help was to pack up everything 'extra' and put it in storage. For instance, I packed up all of the plates, cups, etc., so that basically we had enough for everyone to have one with only a couple of extras. I had to wash dishes more often, but at least the kids weren't able to drag out every cup and plate in the house. I did the same with towels and wash clothes. We had the pretty ones for staging and then the ones we actually used. Everything else went into storage. Clothes were whittled down to just a 3-5 days worth. I did a load of laundry every day and put it right away. Any clothes or towels that were used went straight to the washer. I packed away the majority of the toys. I lets the kids keep out a few favorite items and the rest got packed.

Good luck! I hope you get a quick sale.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 12:01PM
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Before we listed we rented a storage unit and cleared out everything that was not essential. Then we bought some Tupperware for things that were essential that we could hide in closets easily for showings. I even got some for the bathrooms to hide all the toothbrushes, etc.

We did not remove the cat litter though. I couldn't think of a clever way to hide it. Just made sure it was always clean.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 3:05AM
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We are working through this process right now. We rented a storage unit and it is about 75% full. Most of the obvious overflow is gone-some to the storage unit and some to charity. We will keep working on packing non-essentials even after we list. The longer it goes on, the more goes to charity instead of the storage unit. lol. I am sure some of the things I have already packed will be sent to charity instead of putting it in the new home, too.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 9:42AM
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The litter box is always a concern so when our house was for sale I bought one of those "hooded" litter boxes. We had a closet with bypass doors in our laundry room so I put down newspaper and put the box in there and left the door open just enough for the cats to go in and out. At least it was out of plain sight.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 10:43AM
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They make cat litter box covers that look like plants and regular tables. You can easily find them on the internet.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 12:07PM
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I just bought a house last year. There was nothing I hated more than when people had a ton of personal effects. i.e. pictures of family everywhere, lots of knick-knacks, lots of decorations and paintings, etc. It was a turn off.

Paint colors I didn't care, those are easy to change, and basic furniture, didn't care.

But I can tell you right now if you have a lot of personal effects around, people will be turned off. One house we looked at, they had kids, an iguana, and a cat. They did a good job of everything being reasonable, though. There wasn't a ton of silly stuff everywhere, everything was uncluttered, etc.

Another house we looked at had all kinds of personal effects and was full of clutter and knick-knacks. No matter how much I liked the house, I couldn't get over it.

If you make it clear to your children that you expect them to 1. not make messes and 2. when they do make messes to clean up after themselves, things will be a lot easier. Any child over 2 should be able to clean up after themselves to some degree.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 5:24PM
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Our house is for sale but is shown by appointment only. But even with that, I try to keep it clean all the time. We have a few family photos out, but not much else in regards to knick knacks.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 3:11PM
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I know when I am doing spring cleaning and have everything but the furniture packed away how much more spacious and calming the rooms are. I always think I'll get rid of the clutter to the senses but it builds back up again. If you are planning on moving out eventually, and you don't 'need' items to live comfortably, packing it and getting it out of there not only helps the house to show better, it is a jump start on your move. It's also a great time to sort through what you really want to move. It makes keeping your house cleaned up a lot easier too.

Really, get down to the barest of essentials and then a bit further. Clutter is a killer for house sales.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 4:23AM
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I agree with calliope. Get rid of the clutter and keep everything clean. For me, that meant getting a storage unit and boxing up a lot of clutter. I have the staged items stored in baskets (fluffy, brand new towels for bathrooms for example) ready to replace the ones used daily. Same goes for kitchen. I dust every other day, because it needs to be, as well as vacuum. Once I got rid of the majority of the clutter, I found it has been easier keeping things tidy. It's not easy living in your house and trying to sell it.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 6:47PM
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Our house is for sale currently and we (our two daughters 7 & 8) are still living in it while it is for sale. One thing I found to be a lifesaver was to pack as much as I could and I moved it out already. This way there are less items that could be pulled out at one time. I also give the kids certain things they have to do in the morning, all clothes where they are supposed to be and beds made. Luckily our eight year old is a bit OCD so she organizes everything for me. I make sure the dishes are all done and everything is picked up. We had a showing today where I had 2 hours notice and it figured it was the one day that I hadn't done anything so I came back home and with some help from family straightened up and took the dog. Our biggest problem has been keeping handprints off the freshly painted walls!!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 1:21AM
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Showing by appointment only with at least 1-2 hours notice.

I have seen more stuff in odd places during showings.

Folks cram dirty dishes in the DW (not arranged on the racks, just piled up), throw stuff in the oven, throw stuff in closets, etc.

These are all places a buyer is likely to take at least a look in if they are serious.

I have sold while living with pets and kids.

You just have to keep everything neat.

I have seen sellers panic over the kids craft project on the kitchen table.

The table is not staying, and neither will the craft mess.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 4:19PM
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