Selling with kids?

Prepping and maintaining your home for sale, especially when you have kids, can be an extremely stressful and seemingly impossible task.

Every day is a battle to keep the house tidy — and days with scheduled showings are the most difficult. 

I recently sold my house with two kids (ages 2 and 4), so I can attest to the difficulty of prepping for showings with kids running around, dumping out toys and spilling juice on the freshly mopped floor.

If you decide to brave the road of selling your home with children in tow, here are some tips for maintaining your sanity: 

Declutter: Before putting your home on the market, go through each room and decide what needs to go. Now is the time to get rid of older toys and outgrown clothes. It might take 10 trips to Goodwill to get this done, but this is an ideal time to purge. My son tends to gather random items (rocks, rope, feathers, craft projects and more) in his room. Unfortunately (for him), the stuff had to go.

Store the big stuff: Now that you’re down to the toys that your kids actually play with and that you won't mind hauling to your new home, it's time to whittle it down further. Decide which toys will get used most often and store the larger items: Push toys, LEGO and train tables, and pop-up tents are a few examples. This opens up space in your home and gives you less to deal with when you have a showing scheduled in less than an hour.

Stage kid spaces for photos: If you have a cool kids' play space or have worked hard to decorate bedrooms, show them off for the real-estate photo shoot. Potential families will enjoy seeing how you used the space. Don’t try to keep initial photo-staging scenes — such as a tea party set up for the stuffed animals — perfect for each showing. You will go insane.

Keep storage totes handy: Before a showing, storage bins can be loaded quickly with small toys and stuffed animals and stored in a closet, the garage or the back of the car.

Create a checklist: Have a list of items or areas that need to be addressed prior to a showing — toilet lids down, floors vacuumed, diaper pail emptied, beds made, etc. This reduces the chance you’ll miss something in those hectic moments before running out the door. I've learned that kids tend to forget to flush at the worst possible times; having a checklist can help eliminate surprises for potential buyers.

Keep your trunk empty: This is a quick, easy place to toss any last-minute clutter when you've run out of time. When we sold our home, the back of our car contained anything from dirty laundry to the dog.

Occupy the kids: It’s hard to make progress when the kids are making messes faster than you can clean! Set aside screen time for the hour before showings so you can clean without interruption. Purchase special toys, activity books and games that you break out only while you’re getting the house ready for a showing. Bring them out in a limited space, such as the dining room table, and make that space the last area you clean.

Stash snacks and have a plan: Showings are commonly scheduled during mealtimes, so having snacks on hand to ward off hunger-induced crabbiness, while you're stuck out of your house, is crucial. Don’t bust your new home budget by eating out during every showing! Have a plan of easy places to go with the kids. We had a spare key to my in-laws' house and would often go hang out there. Head to a park or indoor play space or just walk around the mall. Save your grocery list onto your phone and use the time during showings to shop for essentials and even run errands.

Ask for longer notice: Work with your agent to set a reasonable requirement for notice before showings. Conventional wisdom says that once you list your house for sale, you have to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice or you may miss potential buyers. In actuality, most showings are scheduled many hours in advance and even the prior day. You may be trying to sell your house, but it’s still your house and you need to be able to live there. You can ask your agent to require more than a moment’s notice.

Have the kids clean up! Take as long as you need to laugh at this. But giving the kids a specific task as part of your pre-showing routine can be helpful, especially if they’re used to doing chores at other times. Have them clean their rooms with the bins mentioned above, put them on Swiffer duty or arm them with spray bottles to wipe down tables.

Selling your home is a stressful process — and when you add kids into the mix, it may feel impossible. But if you prepare and follow some of the tips above you can reduce the craziness and get your house sold!

Nate Lansing is a real estate agent who lives with his wife, son and daughter in Minneapolis. He specializes in helping people with kids sell their homes. Learn more at