Selling While Still Living in Home? Cleanup Becomes a Family Affair

coffee cupAsk any real estate agent: Moving out of a house before trying to sell it is the optimal arrangement, both for aesthetic reasons (you can clean and even “stage” it) and for your own convenience during open houses and showings.

But that arrangement isn’t always possible. Particularly if you need to get the money out of your current house before moving on to a new one, you may need to juggle living in your home with presenting it as a commodity for sale.

That creates a challenge: How do you make your house look its best while you’re still having to cook, get ready for work every day, let the kids and pets play inside and outside, and so on?

It can be done. Dare we say, it should be done, because home buyers will be more interested, and therefore potentially pay more, for a house that looks like their dream future rather than like the aftermath of the tornado of everyday life. It’s no coincidence that one of the first things a home stager will recommend is to declutter. No matter what furniture, art, and elegant touches your home contains (or will contain, when the stager is done with it), all of that becomes irrelevant if buried under mounds of toys and dirty laundry.

So, let’s say you’ve cleaned your house, packed up the extras in prep for selling/moving, and perhaps even hired a stager to make it look fabulous. How do you maintain it day to day?

As real estate agent Leslie Sargent Eskildsen reminds us in her blog titled, “If you’re selling your home, you need to hide this ‘evidence’,” “you need to have a plan for handling normal, everyday occurrences.” And as she further explains, that often requires getting the whole family on board, and even assigning tasks.

With regard to pets, for instance, she says, “Who’s on back yard poop pick up? Who’s on kitty litter box rotation? Who’s cleaning the fish tank?”. By deciding on and handling such issues in advance, you’ll avoid last-minute panics when a real estate calls and says, “Can I bring my clients by in five minutes?”

There are, after all, many tasks that simply can’t be done with a mere few minutes’ warning. In fact, Leslie delivers some advice that might be hard for some to take: No garlic cooking in the kitchen until the house is sold. None. (But you can bake all the chocolate chip cookies you want, she says. I’ll be apple pie would pass muster, too.)

For more information on getting your home ready to attract buyers, see Selling Your House: Nolo’s Essential Guide.