Summer is here, but as a parent trying to sell your house while the kids are home from school, you’re not exactly in vacation mode. More like…pick up, clean up, drop off, work a 9-to-5, try not to lose your mind…mode, right?
Yet you’re smart to put out the for-sale sign now, at the start of another seasonally strong home-selling period. According to data from HomeLight, 71% of top real estate agents across America recommend listing your house at the beginning (rather than the end) of summer.
That’s because lots of other parents who might be looking to move to your area need to get settled before the school bells ring again in August, so there could be a surge of demand for your type of property during this particular window. Plus, the nice weather brings out more house hunters, and 80% of people who plan to move in the U.S. do so between April and September.
The moral is: Even if the children running afoot makes you question your decision to sell now vs. wait, don’t second-guess it. Just follow this series of been-there, done-that advice we’ve put together from real estate experts and fellow parents to bring you the best tactics to manage showings, cleanings, and kids with too much time on their hands.
Keep the kids busy and out of the house for showings
When it comes to showing your home, children should be neither seen nor heard, and quite frankly, neither should you. You’ll want to have the kids out of the house during showings, which buyers may book last minute or at unpredictable times.
Don’t overpack your schedule—instead, leave room for flexibility
Some parents might think a packed schedule of day camps, playdates, and summer swim lessons is the best way to maintain a clean and kid-free home.
However, digital parenting coach Shelley Jefsen, who has sold both her family homes in the summer, advises against this tactic.
“While it may seem as though planning a lot of activities during the summer would be a good way to keep your children out of the home, parents actually create more work for themselves,” Jefsen told HomeLight.
Think about the extra laundry you’ll have to wash, lunches you’ll have to pack, and rides you’ll have to coordinate while juggling your showings schedule.
Instead of focusing on an activities schedule for the kids, allow for some flexibility to accommodate those last-minute tours, advises Susan Melnick, a top-selling Dallas agent with over three decades of real estate experience.
“We ask for at least an hour’s notice [for showings] but you just always have to be ready,” Melnick says. “Especially in the summer when people are relocating. They might just be in town for a day or two, and might not have another opportunity to look—they’re just going to move onto the next house.”
Take experiences to-go
Instead of a hard and fast schedule, opt for more flexible options that will get your kids out of the house for an afternoon. A city or community pool pass makes dropping in for an afternoon easy. If the weather takes a turn, consider kids summer movie programming, where tickets can be as cheap as $4 each.
Jefsen also recommends “To-Go” bags or boxes. Have a small box or grocery tote of art supplies in the car reserved for impromptu trips when a last-minute showing arises. Additionally, put together a “To-Go Park Pack” with balls, games, and a picnic blanket for warm weather days when the kids will want to go outside.
When in doubt, there’s always your local library branch. Many offer free drop-in summer programming, as well as resources, computer games, (not to mention plenty of books!) for nonstop kid entertainment.
Make a plan for quick clean-ups
When your home is on the market, it always has to be showing-ready. As a parent you’re up against chronically sticky surfaces, toy dumps, and food messes no matter what time of year (for that HomeLight has a complete guide for staging your house with kids).
But summer brings some unique challenges like sweltering weather and planning for all the meals (even the lunches your kids usually get at school). Here are a few pro tips for managing it all.
Daily diaper duty
Depending on where you live, summers are hot and smelly. Even in the best air-conditioned homes, direct sun and heat are not your friends. If you have little ones in the home, Jefsen recommends being diligent with your diaper pail: “Take your diapers out multiple times a day, every single day.”
When it comes to significant turn-offs during a showing, smell might rank the highest, Melnick says. In her 34 years of experience as an agent, it’s not the errant Legos on the ground or the princess-themed bedroom that turns potential buyers off, “mostly, it’s the smell. If the house doesn’t smell ‘well,’ then we’re going to have a problem.”
No matter the issue, whether it’s pets or mildew, you want to attack any odors from the root cause, not try to cover them up with your lemon air freshener from the gas station.
While you’re at it, you might consider some scent neutralizers for the diaper pail, or a more robust pail, like the Wirecutter-endorsed Ubbi to avoid having that smell lingering in the air hours after you’ve emptied it out.
Minimize personal items and messes
When staging a home to sell, you’ll want to pack up everything that’s not used daily. Of course, having your children (temporarily) part with items can be traumatic. To ease the pain, get the kids involved; ask them opinions on what they want to hold onto for now, and what can go into storage until the move.
Jefsen recommends allowing your children a limited space to store their toys, such as a wicker basket or container. While you’re at it, avoid messy toys or activities.
“The toys that you allow your children to keep during a time of sale should be easily cleaned up. Large Legos, wooden blocks, or one or two dolls,” Jefsen suggests.
The slime kits, complicated Lego sets, and dolls with many small accessories should be packed away.
Winnow down the kids’ wardrobes
Summer can mean lots of activities and clothes for all occasions, but there’s a good chance many of them will just end up on the floor. Your kids don’t need 5 bathing suits, even if they do swim a lot, reasons Jefsen. When keeping your home and closet staging ready, try not to have more than a week’s worth of clothing on hand. The rest can be boxed up in the basement, or taken to a storage unit.
A good rule of thumb to calculate how much clothing your child might need is to plan for 1.4 outfits each day, then round up.
For example, for seven days, you need 10 outfits (1.4 x 7 = 9.8). Add in some staples like a couple light jackets, one pair of shoes for different activities (flip-flops, sneakers, and something dressier). Calculate how many jammies your kid goes through in a week, whether it’s every other day or every day a new pair, and plan accordingly.
Keep sanity in check with simple solutions
You never know when hunger might strike, but cooking meals for the kids can lead to just another mess you’ve got to clean up—and you don’t need to be getting out the apron for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack time.
- Mac and cheese
- Fish sticks
This way, you don’t have to stress about cleaning up when the gang gets hangry.
Communicate with your real estate agent (and your kids)
Showing your home while it’s on the market is stressful, with or without the kids being home. Make sure you have an agent who can work with you to relieve the stress around selling.
“With my small team, we provide a list of vendors for them. I’ll go pick out paint colors. We make it easy if they need anything,” Melnick assures. “I’ll be there in the morning, and I’ll be there at eight at night because that’s the sort of thing a real estate agent does for their client.”
Wait until the buyer shows up
Don’t let the disruption of showings make your day unmanageable. Jefsen recalls an occasion where she once piled her two small children, the dog, and herself into the family car and waited across the street from their home for a buyer to show up for their appointed time slot. They waited an hour before calling it a no show and putting the kids down for a nap.
It was only then that the prospective buyers decided to show up unannounced.
“Within 10 minutes, strangers were walking through my front door,” said Jefsen. “They had missed their showing time and wanted me to wake the children so they could see the house. I turned them away with no recourse. The house sold within the next few days to a buyer who respected our time.”
Melnick admits buyers won’t always be timely, and sometimes might not show up at all. She suggests sellers get ready to go, but refrain from leaving the home until the buyer shows up, “as opposed to being gone for an hour with the children only to come home and find out the showing was late.”
Make sure your kids are in the loop
If your kids are old enough to notice you packing and preparing the home for sale, it’s understandable for them to become upset or confused. They’re attached to objects you’re packing away, as well as the house.
Instead of hiding the process from the kids, involve them in it. Let them have a choice in what they keep, or ask them to help pack. If you already have a new home, make sure they get time to visit it during the busy sales process.
The challenges (and perks) of a summer sale
Selling your home in the summer is a double-edged sword. It means you have the time to relocate before a new school year and catch the wave of summer house hunters, but it also means kids are out of the classroom and into your kitchen, creating messes daily.
The process will cause some disruption in your child’s life (not to mention yours), the key is controlling what you can. Stay flexible, plan ahead, and talk to your kids about everything.
In moments of chaos, remember the end goal… turning that “for sale” sign into a solid “sold”—and if you’re lucky, finally taking that much-needed vacation of your own.
Header Image Source: (Jeffrey Hamilton/ Unsplash)