A lot of parents say the same thing when they are putting their house on the market. They get this defeated look on their faces and try to explain to me that they need as much notice as possible before showings, because they have kids and it’s hard to have the house ready with all of the messes that come along with their little bundles of joy. I get it. I have mini people living in my house too and their messes are something out of my nightmares, but they are also well-trained in how to spring into action when there’s an unexpected knock at the door.
I try as hard as I can to give sellers no less than 24 hours of notice for showing appointments, but in today’s world of instant gratification, people lose interest in things quickly, and we have to be able to occasionally make exceptions to the 24 hour rule. Sometimes people are in your neighborhood visiting and they drive past your house, see the For Sale sign and decide that they really want to see it before hopping on an airplane and going back to wherever they came from. Other times it’s just an impulsive type of buyer who likes to make decisions quickly and they have cash in hand that they want to sink into some Real Estate. Whatever the reason, there may be instances when it’s in everyone’s best interest to bend a bit.
Here is what I have learned about how to clean up at lightning speed. The most important thing is to be prepared in advance for the dreaded last minute call. First, if you have a two-story home and your kids are constantly leaving toys, books, and electronics laying around, it’s enough to turn you into a scary version of yourself when it has to be cleaned up in a hurry. Invest in “stuff buckets”, or baskets, or bins. Get something that can sit at the top or bottom of the stairs, or even on the side of the steps and put each family member’s name on one. Grab their stuff, throw it in the bucket and make them take it to their rooms.
In my house, paper clutter is a real problem. Although I have become quite an expert at stacking it like Jenga, it’s not ideal for buyers to see. You want them to walk through your house and think there will be no clutter, because you don’t have clutter, because you are superhuman and so they will be also once they buy your house. Plastic storage totes are the way to go for this kind of mess. Grab a tote, throw any magazines, papers, etc into the tote and throw it in the trunk of your car until the showing is over. After that, feel free to go through it and throw out half of it. You’re welcome.
Now that we’ve covered paper clutter and toy clutter, we come to the thorn in every busy parent’s side. Laundry! I wish more than anything that I had a really easy solution here, but unfortunately your best bet is to just make a vow to stay on top of it while your house is on the market. However, if you fall behind like I almost always do, you have to get clever. Folded laundry in a laundry basket isn’t as bad as dirty laundry on the floor, so take all that clean laundry that you haven’t yet put away and stack it neatly in laundry baskets on top of the dryer. If you have a mountain of laundry, hide it! Find a place to hide it, and if worse comes to worse, take it with you while you leave for the showing, in your car, to the Laundromat. Again, you’re welcome. It’s okay to hate me for helping you. It comes with the territory.
While you are hiding, stacking and doing your most clever work with the laundry situation, delegate that someone makes all of the beds, flushes and closes all of the toilets, straightens couch cushions, makes window treatments look neat, and folds throw blankets. If there are dirty dishes, they have to be dealt with because they smell bad and bad smells are the kiss of death. Smelly equals no-selly. (Yes, I said that.) Take the garbage with you when you leave and your house should show pretty well!
The last thing you should invest in is a dry-erase board, or any other place you can post the checklist of all of these things. Eventually it will become a habit but until then, it just helps you stay calm in the quick-clean crisis. Just don’t forget to hide the list before the buyers come, because you want them to feel like you just live this way because you are superhuman, remember?
Always ask for showing feedback, and ask agents to be honest. If you get feedback that you don’t like, take a moment to look at it as constructive criticism and do something about it. Obviously you can’t put your house in a different location, but you can do the small things that will stop the next buyer from having a negative experience. Remember that you are not just selling a building. You are selling a lifestyle.